Roses have changed, and it’s about time! The emphasis now is on roses grown on their own roots and shrub and disease-resistant landscape types—ones that you can truly plant and almost forget. They’re no longer intimidating prima donnas, which makes me very happy.
Landscape roses such as these Knock-Outs make for stunning color all season with minimal care. Courtesy of Garden Media Group.
Gone are the days when endless pruning, spraying and dusting were required to produce a vase full of perfect roses. Now all you do is plant, fertilize and water. Your reward is healthy, beautiful bushes loaded with fragrant blooms for cutting and landscaping all summer long.
Shrub roses and those grown on their own roots are also the best choices for very cold climates. I’ve lost dozens of hybrid teas to -25ºF winters, no matter how much mulch I heaped upon the plants. These same roses also stand up to heat, humidity and the myriad of diseases spawned by hot climates. I know, first-hand, because I’ve lived and grown roses from the Gulf Coast to Wisconsin.
Grown on its own roots, Wedgwood rose from David Austin Roses can be trained as a climber or left to sprawl as a groundcover. Blooms are heady with fruity perfume with a touch of cloves. Courtesy David Austin Roses.
Bare root or container?
Both types of rose bushes are available this time of year. If you live north of a line drawn from San Francisco to Washington D.C., plant either. If you are south of the line, container roses are the best choice, because your ground and air temperatures are already escalating.
Soak bare root roses in a bucket of warm water overnight. Then dig a hole 18 inches wide and deep. Mix in compost or peat moss if your soil is hard and compacted. In the center of the hole, make a 12-inch high cone of dirt. Spread rose roots over the cone. Hold rose in place with one hand and fill in the hole with the other. Firm soil and water well.
Plant container roses after the last freeze of the season; dig a hole the depth of the rose pot and 18 inches wide. Remove the plant from pot, place in center of the hole, spread roots and fill in with soil. Water well and firm soil with the back of a shovel or your hands to eliminate air pockets. Scatter slow-release fertilizer formulated for roses around plants and scratch in with a cultivator.
Lady Elsie May is a tough shrub rose that has flowerd non-stop in my Zone 4b garden for the last seven years. I don't even water it! Rainfall seems to be enough. Compost mulch every spring is the only maintenance it requires. Courtesy of Angelica Nurseries.
Five Unusual Rose Tips that Really Work
• Plant lavender at the base of rose bushes if deer are a problem in your area. Deer are attracted by rose scent, and lavender muddies the rose aroma.
• Dump coffee grounds and used tea leaves around bushes. Both acidify the soil slightly, which roses love.
• Bury banana skins or even the entire black, mushy banana at the base of bushes to provide magnesium, an element plants crave.
• Scratch two tablespoons of Epsom salts into the soil around a rose. The salts make flower colors more intense.
• Use rabbit food for fertilizer. The pet food is composed of alfalfa meal, which supplies a growth stimulant, nitrogen and trace elements to roses. Scratch in ½ cup of pellets around each rose and water well.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.