The increased availability of cold-hardy, disease-resistant roses has put the lie to the image of the rose being the fragile weak sister of the plant palette. And while you may want to plant some of the more resilient types (such as Rugosas and Gallicas), there’s no reason to limit your preferences to the tougher relatives among the Rosa genus. By learning a few rose-care basics, you can maintain healthy plants and enjoy years of fragrant blooming, no matter what variety you choose.
A few rose-care basics can keep your plants healthy.
Photo Credit: Linnea Thornton
This Panda Meidiland® rose is great for borders and can be mixed in with other shrub/groundcover-type roses.
Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco
Species roses, like this Mulligan rose, often take very little care to grow and bloom.
Photo Credit: JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
Many of the newer shrub rose introductions, such as the Knock Out series, are easy-to-maintain, resist disease and bloom all season long.
Photo Credit: The Conard-Pyle Co./Star® Roses
For most roses, it’s important that you properly prepare your rose bed before planting. Most roses like full sun, so select your location appropriately. The plants also prefer well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter, and they need good air circulation (to help prevent mildew and other diseases). Mix a couple inches of compost into your soil before planting. Then after planting, water so roots don’t dry out – but avoid getting leaves wet. Mulching helps retain moisture in the ground; some recommended mulches are dry grass clippings, straw, bark or wood chips.
Given that winter will soon be upon us, you should also start preparing your roses for the colder weather. There are several methods of overwintering roses in areas where the ground freezes.
If you haven’t stopped already, cease fertilizing roses immediately. (For future reference, you should stop fertilizing at the end of your region’s warm season. You should also cut back on watering now, so the plants have a chance to go dormant over winter. After the first hard freeze of the season (and the leaves of the plant have dropped), cut back extremely long limbs (canes) and tie them together with string to prevent wind from whipping them around.
After tying the canes, mound loose, well-draining soil about 1 foot high over the crown of the plant (the knobby union where the rose species was grafted onto the hardy rootstock) to form a hill. Cover with a variety of materials – I recommend leaves or straw. (You can adapt this method for container roses, too. Move your containers to a protected area so that the soil around the roots doesn’t freeze. This will help the plants survive winter.)
There’s no argument that successful rose care requires an investment in time and research. But it may help to think of the roses you plant as an investment themselves – and one that will pay off nicely in terms of beauty and fragrance for years to come!