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How to Grow Landscape Roses
Few garden flowers have stood the test of time like roses. For centuries, they have been revered for their bouquet-worthy summertime blooms. There are so many different types of roses, from climbing forms to hybrid tea, floribunda and more, but for our purposes here, we are focusing on how to grow landscape roses.
All of the roses we offer are easy care, shrub form or climbing roses that have been selected for their natural disease resistance and prolific blooms. You’ll see that caring for them is as easy as any other shrub in your garden. Let’s take a look at some in-depth growing tips so you can be successful with your roses.
Choosing the Best Rose for Your Space
Roses tend to vary a bit in their habit, meaning the overall shape of the plant. Some form an upright clump, others tend to stay lower but are widespread, and climbing roses have an upright arching shape.
If you are trying to cover some ground with roses, choose those with a broadly mounded shape like Oso Easy® Mango Salsa, Oso Easy Urban Legend®, Oso Easy Peasy®, Oso Easy Italian Ice® or any of the Ringo® series of roses.
If you’d like a rose to train up a trellis or arbor, choose a climbing variety like any of the Rise Up® series of roses.
What to Do When Your Rose Arrives
As soon as your new rose is delivered, open the box immediately and carefully unpack it. You might want to wear gloves when you do so since roses have thorns. The plant will be ready for some fresh air and water when it arrives. Don’t worry if a few leaves or flower petals have fallen off during shipment—this is normal for roses sent by mail.
Set your new rose in a sheltered place outdoors (assuming temperatures are above 50°F) rather than putting it directly in the sun right away. That will help it wake up slowly from being in a dark box and it can become gently acclimated to your environment. If possible, plant your new rose within a few days of receiving it, following the instructions below.
Where to Plant Your Rose
In most climates, including our climate here in Michigan, roses need full sun (greater than six hours of sun daily) to grow well. Roses won’t thrive if you plant them in less than six hours of direct sun. All-day sun is best unless you live in the warmest parts of the U.S. where some protection from the afternoon sun will help your rose’s flowers last longer. If your rose is borderline hardy where you live, planting it near a south or west-facing wall can offer some protection in the winter.
It’s not always practical, but if there is a spot in your garden where you could set up drip irrigation or water by hand so that your roses’ foliage doesn’t get wet, that would be an ideal location to grow them. If overhead watering is the only option, be sure to water early in the morning so that your roses’ foliage is dry by nightfall.
All of the landscape roses we offer will need about two to four feet of open ground in which to grow. Don’t try to squeeze them in among your other plants—roses need some breathing room around them to stay healthy and floriferous. Choose a spot where there will be good airflow and sunshine around all sides of your roses.
Most people grow roses in the ground in the landscape. However, smaller varieties of roses like Oso Easy Italian Ice®, Oso Easy® Double Pink and Ringo® Double Pink can also be grown in large containers. Just remember that a rose will need to be at least two zones hardier than your growing zone to be able to survive the winter in a container.
How to Plant a Rose
Landscape roses grow well when planted in both spring and early fall. If you live in zone 3 or 4 and are planting hardy roses, you can plant them in the summertime too since your summers are relatively mild. Just be sure to plant your roses at least 6 to 8 weeks before frost so they have time to establish some roots.
Planting a rose is a lot like planting other shrubs and perennials, except you’ll want to wear gloves when you do so to avoid getting pricked by their thorns. You’ll need to use a shovel to dig or an auger to drill a hole that is two times wider and just as deep as the container your rose is planted in. By loosening up the soil around your rose’s roots, the plant will have an easier time sending out new roots into the surrounding soil.
Roses enjoy rich, moist, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Mix some humus, compost or soil conditioner in with your native soil at a ratio of about half and half, and use that to backfill the hole when you plant your rose. It’s also a good idea to mix Espoma’s Organic Bio-tone® Starter Plus in with the soil at the time of planting.
When you’re finished planting, water your rose in well to settle the soil and eliminate any air pockets around its roots. Add a bit more soil if needed once things are settled. Then, spread a two-inch layer of shredded hardwood or ground bark mulch around the plant. Mulch is important for roses because it prevents water from bouncing back up onto the foliage, and that helps to prevent some rose diseases.
Note: If you are growing your rose in a container, use a high quality potting soil that is lightweight in texture. Follow the same directions for using Bio-tone and mulch the top of the container.
How to Prune a Landscape Rose
The most important pruning you’ll need to do for your landscape rose comes in the springtime, just as the new leaves begin to emerge on the stems. You’ll want to cut the plant down by at least one-third at that time. It’s pretty hard to damage a rose from pruning, so don’t worry too much about your technique.
The best way to prune a rose is to look for the plump, swollen, outward-facing buds and make your cuts just above them. This will mean pruning out the thinnest canes with the smallest buds. Any dead, damaged or crossing canes can also be removed at that time. Doing so will ensure all of your rose’s new growth comes from the most vigorous part of the plant and that air will be able to flow well through its canes (a key factor in avoiding disease).
During the growing season, if you’d like to cut back your rose to encourage fresh growth and more buds, look for the place on the stem where there is a set of five leaflets and cut just above it. This will stimulate new growth.
Ongoing Maintenance for Landscape Roses
Landscape roses generally need about as much maintenance as perennials do, though modern varieties have come a long way with their stronger disease resistance and self-cleaning nature. Here are a few maintenance tips you’ll want to consider for your roses.
Roses are “hungry” shrubs—more so than a standard shrub like arborvitae or viburnum. They’ll flourish particularly well if you feed them monthly with Espoma’s Rose-tone® fertilizer. It is derived from feather meal, poultry manure, bone meal and alfalfa meal, and is 100% natural and organic. Rose-tone can be used on all varieties of roses growing in the landscape and in containers. Be sure to stop feeding your roses at least six to eight weeks before frost to avoid winter damage to their new growth.
It’s not necessary to deadhead the landscape roses we offer in order for them to rebloom. They will shed their spent petals and send up new buds automatically. However, if you prefer a neater look or are the type of person who loves to deadhead their flowers, removing the spent blooms won’t hurt your roses one bit. Do so by trimming the stem just above the first set of five leaves.
Dealing with Aphids and Japanese Beetles
When you grow roses, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with aphids or Japanese beetles at some point. What can we say? Everyone loves roses! Practicing companion planting is one good way to avoid or limit these pest issues.
It’s thought that aromatic plants and herbs make good rose companions since they can ward off aphids and Japanese beetles. Try companion plants like chives and ornamental onions, scented geraniums, marigolds, salvia, dwarf varieties of bee balm, anise hyssop, Russian sage, lavender, yarrow, catmint, thyme, parsley and oregano. Be sure to plant them at least one foot away from your roses to leave plenty of room for good airflow around the plants.
Aphids can appear quickly in large numbers on a rose’s canes. A strong blast of water from the hose will usually get rid of them. If something stronger is needed, try Espoma’s Organic Insect Soap or neem oil.
Japanese beetles aren’t affected by pesticides because of their protective hard shells. You could pick them off and drop them into a bucket of soapy water to get rid of them. A long-term solution is treating your lawn for grubs in the fall. That’s where Japanese beetles get their start, so eliminating grubs will help your roses in the long run.
There was a time when roses fell out of favor with gardeners because of their susceptibility to fungal diseases like black spot and powdery mildew. Thankfully, rose breeders have come a long way since then in developing many disease resistant varieties like all of those we offer at Garden Crossings. Though all roses can still contract diseases, the incidence is low, especially if you are smart about how you grow them and follow the tips detailed above. Unfortunately, rose rosette is one disease that breeders have not yet conquered, but they are working hard to find a cure and to develop resistant varieties.
Black spot is a common fungal disease that affects roses. You’ll see the leaves near the bottom of the plant turning yellow and then developing circular black or brown spots on the leaf surface. The infected leaves will fall off and should be cleaned up and discarded in the trash, not in the compost bin. Black spot is a waterborne fungal disease, so like we mentioned above, mulching around the base of your roses to prevent water splashing up onto the leaves can aid in prevention. Using drip irrigation or watering by hand and directing the water to the plants’ roots can also go a long way towards preventing black spot.
Powdery mildew usually makes its appearance on warm, muggy, summer days, especially when the nighttime temperatures remain high and the air is still. You’ll notice a white powder-like substance on the surface of the leaves. Drip irrigation and watering early in the morning can help prevent its development. Proper pruning to keep the plant’s habit open and not crowding other plants around your roses can also help. Spray fungicides can control the spread of powdery mildew if necessary.
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