Growing Roses- a Beginner’s Guide

I avoided growing roses for a long time, although i love them. They had a reputation for being fussy. I wanted to give it a try however, and so I did. In recent years, I have enjoyed growing roses and find that modern breeders have come up with many fine roses easy to grow and not fussy.

So what have I learned?

First, roses love full sun, but will grow in part shade. But the more sun they get, the better they do. Six hours of sunshine is considered full sun by most authorities. Afternoon sun is more potent than morning sun, so the west side of the house is better than the east.
Second, roses need good, rich soil. If you have sandy soil or a heavy clay, you will need to improve it in order to succeed. What does that mean? Dig a hole at least three times as wide as the pot it was in when you purchased it. If your rose came in an 8-inch pot, a 24-inch hole should be the minimum you dig. Also,  put a couple of inches of pea stone in the bottom of the hole for drainage. Then fill it with an equal mix of topsoil and compost.

When planting a tree, it is important to dig a hole shallow enough so the tree does not get its trunk flare buried. The trunk flare is the portion of the tree that was above ground when it was growing before it was potted up for sale. Often, that trunk flare is covered with soil when you buy it, and needs to be exposed.

Not so for roses.

Many roses are grafted onto rootstock. The bud union — a scar — should be buried in the soil. The colder the climate, the deeper that graft line or bud union should be. For Zone 4, it should be about 4 inches below the final soil line. Zone 5? 3 inches. Zone 6? 2 inches.

Third, roses like soil that is just slightly acidic – pH 6.0 to 6.8. If you have acidic soil, say somewhere in the 5.0 to 6.0 range, you should add limestone to bring up the soil pH and make it less acidic.

Roses need more water than most other plants, but do not want to sit in soggy soil. When growing roses, provide an inch of water per week from rain, or a couple of watering cans of water applied slowly so it can soak in. A deep watering once a week is better than a little sprinkle every day.

Want more blossoms? Roses do better if they get some fertilizer a few times during the course of the summer. You can use a chemical fertilizer, a 10-10-10 for a “kick in the pants,” and mulch with chopped seaweed.

June is over, but roses are not. Nowadays, many roses will re-bloom every 45 days or so, and some bloom almost constantly. Just be sure to cut off spent blossoms, and down to another shoot with five or more leaves.

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