Have you ever looked into someone’s garden and been envious of the amazing colours and striking blooms? You may see a well-pruned rose bush just bursting with flowers and wonder how they did it! Roses are some of the prettiest and most fragrant plants we can have in our gardens. But, as many gardeners know, they can be really difficult to grow.
What type of soil do you need to plant them in? How much water do they need? And do you need to prune them regularly? These are just some of the problems growers face.
If you’ve been trying (and failing!) to grow a rose bush in your garden, we’ve put together a handy list of tips which tells you exactly how to grow roses. Follow this step by step guide and you will soon see your shrub blossom into beautiful flowers.
9 tips to grow roses
1. They need a lot of sunlight
A rose bush is unlike a lot of other garden perennials in that it needs a lot of sunlight. It is recommended that rose bushes have around six hours of light every day so think about this when you are choosing where to put it. Some types of roses can flourish with less light but no rose plant will do well in a shady area.
2. The soil needs to be well drained
Roses need to be well watered and the recommendation is around one inch of water on the plant every week. A neutral pH of about 5.5-7 is the perfect conditions to grow roses and you should test your soil before planting. To make sure water can get right down to the roots of your rose bush, turn over the soil and aerate it with a garden fork to add in air holes and create the right environment. You can also sprinkle in some compost as you turn the soil over to help improve the level of nutrients.
3. Mulch will help the rose plant grow
Roses can dry out quite quickly so it is best to use mulch to keep moisture in. Cover the soil around your rose bush in around two to three inches of mulch before watering. The mulch will hold moisture and prevent the soil from drying out as well as stopping weeds growing around your plant. Mulch is also a great way to stop diseases that might be present in the soil infecting the leaves on your plant. Ensure there is a one inch space around the base of your rose bush and the mulch as this will hold in moisture but prevent damp getting to the base of the plant itself.
4. A rose plant needs lots of water when first planted
When you first plant out a rose bush, you need to “deep water” the plant which means letting the liquid seep right down deeply into the ground. It might seem like you’re giving them too much water, but by making sure the soil is moist right the way down it encourages the roots to grow longer and healthier. When watering your rose bush routinely, the best tool to use is a soaker hose. This is a system that releases water slowly to let it gradually wet the ground. The important feature with this is that it keeps the leaves dry. Wet rose bush leaves can attract diseases.
5. Pests and diseases – how to spot them
Before planting your roses, check with the local nurseries or garden centres to find out if there are any diseases in the local area and which are the most common. By being prepared before you even start planting, you can learn to look for the signs and get any products or antifungal treatment ready. The most common problems facing rose growers are stem borers, Japanese beetles, aphids, black spot or powdery mildew, spider mites, thrips, rust and even deer. Look for signs of wilting, damage on the leaves which might look like holes or discoloured patches.
6. Dealing with aphids and Japanese beetles
A great tip to deal with these tiny pests in a natural way is to plant garlic and mint around your rose bush. The pungent smell of these plants will repel the insects and keep your rose bush healthy. The added bonus of using these plants is not only will they look great in your garden but you can harvest them to use in the kitchen as well! It is also a great alternative to using harsh, chemical based pesticides which can be harmful to the environment.
7. Stopping mildew
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease which appears on leaves as a white substance. It is very harmful for rose plants as it takes away nutrients. This can slow down your plant’s growth and, if left untreated, it can kill the rose entirely. If you start to see white circles on leaves then it is a clear sign you have a powdery mildew infection. The best and quickest way to deal with it is simply to remove those infected parts of the plants. Just cut away leaves and remove them. But if the infection has spread too far and you find that most of your rose plant has these white spots, then you may have to use a chemical fungicide to deal with the problem.
8. Difference between bare root and container roses
There are two ways you can buy rose plants – bare root or container grown. The bare root roses are usually on sale around early spring and they are just roots packed into a peat moss or other compost which has been soaked with water. They are dormant but sometimes you can see shoots starting to appear as they begin to grow. The other type of rose plant is grown in a container and these are more expensive than bare roots as they are easier to plant. They need to be planted in a hole which is double the size of the pot and then the roots need to be freed from the packed soil so they are spread out in the hole evenly.
9. When to plant roses
Roses, despite being difficult to grow, can be planted nearly all year round. To give your plant the best chance of survival, avoid winter when the ground is frozen and in the height of summer when soil is very dry. Planting in the autumn is best for bare root roses but container roses tend to be more hardy and versatile. November to March is often recommended as the best time to plant your bush.
How to grow roses – a step by step guide
Now you know the background and top tips for growing your roses, it is time to get them chosen and planted in your backyard. Follow this step by step guide to make sure they’re planted in the right spot, looked after well and continue to bloom for years to come.
1. Where should your rose bush go?
As mentioned above, roses love sunlight so when choosing where to put your plant you need to make sure they will be in full sun for at least five hours a day. If your plant isn’t getting enough sun, the growth will be stunted and it will not provide as many flowers. Getting the right place is very important as moving a rose bush once it has been planted is tricky. You can move them in spring or autumn but if you move your bush in summer it can die due to the increase in heat.
2. Prepare the soil
Mix a nutrient rich compost, speciality rose food or well-rotted compost into the soil. You should aim for about a bucket of this material per square metre of ground. Use a fork to mix this into the soil at least 30cm deep to make sure the nutrients are well absorbed. You can even use manure for this. Use a fertilizer or compost tea over the top of the planting area then mix it in with a fork.
3. Choose and order your plants
When choosing your rose type, there are a few things to consider. Think about the climate – is it a hot and sunny area or will you need a rose bush that does well in low temperatures. There are four main types of roses – hybrid tea, floribunda, ramblers and climbers and shrub or species rose. Each of these plants have different needs and benefits so choose the one that suits your backyard by looking at what they require.
4. Planting your roses
Dig a hole for each rose plant which is about twice as wide as the plant’s roots. Don’t dig too far down though, it is more important that the roots have room to grow outwards rather than downwards. Generally, a spade depth is ok. Make sure you wear thick gloves to protect yourself from the thorns. Unwrap the roots and extend them into the newly dug hole. The rose should always go into the centre of the hole and you can use a cane to keep it standing upright. Fill with soil.
Water your roses around twice a week in the middle of summer as they will dry out fast. Instead of using a sprinkler or a watering can, you need to dump buckets of water on the shrubs themselves so the moisture gets down into the roots. The key to making sure the watering gives your plant what it needs is to make sure the soil is well drained.
Roses can be fed before and after they bloom and around once a month through the summer you should add a fertilizer to the soil around the bush. The best way to do this is to avoid the stem as this can cause damage or damp. In May and June, the hottest part of thesummer, you can use Epsom salts mixed in with the fertilizer which encourages new growth.
Roses need to be pruned back in the first winter after planting and all dead, damaged and weak growth needs to be removed completely. After this first pruning, you should cut back your bush every spring and take away any old growth or anything that has become infected with a disease. As rose bushes are prickly, you should wear arm protection as well as gloves and safety goggles are useful due to the springy nature of the branches. A pair of small pruning shears will do while the plant is small but as it grows you may need a handsaw to cut away thicker sections.
8. Keeping the plant safe over winter
“Winterizing” your plant will stop any frost or snow getting to your roses and damaging them. Cut away dead branches and stop using fertilizer as winter sets in. You can protect the plant from harsh frosts by putting a large flowerpot over the top of the bush entirely. If you can, spray the area with an antifungal just before winter to help kill off any diseases.
9. Removing deadheads
“Deadheading” means to remove the old flowers and leaves after they die. By removing these from your rose bush you are encouraging the plant to create more blooms. After pruning or when the leaves fall naturally, use a rake to clear away this debris from around the base of your plant and keep it clear. Just ahead of winter, you should stop deadheading as taking away the dead flowers when there is a frost could create new shoots which won’t withstand the drop in temperature.
If you’ve been struggling to keep your roses alive, or even getting them to grow at all, then hopefully this article has given you some great advice. By following these tips and the step by step planting guide, your frustrations will be over and you can soon be enjoying flowers from your fully grown rose bush. Remember to choose your location well, feed and water the plant carefully and prune back your bush regularly. Gardening can be difficult but the feeling you get when your plants get stronger each day and transform your garden is very rewarding.
If you found this article helpful, or have any other tips on how to grow roses, please comment below and share with your friends.