Tips On How To Grow Wonderful Roses

Tips On How To Grow Wonderful Roses
by Thomas Fryd

I have always loved flowers but had no thought of growing roses until a couple of years ago when my husband set out a dozen rose bushes near in our backyard. These didnt do well but by their failing offered the stimulus I needed to become interested. I set out my first plants in 1995. So fair seemed the rose to me that once started I went all out and now have 115 rose plants and expect to have more.

From the first, chance played a kind role in my venture with roses. Luckily, I had been gardening which included enriching a red clay vegetable garden at our home. In 1995, when I was ready to plant roses, the ground was ready to use.

The land was level and in full sun. I set out 30 plants bought from a reliable nursery. The bed was laid out in 3 rows 20 inches apart. Holes, 10 inches wide, were dug to a depth of about 12 inches and plants set in them 20 inches apart. Nothing was added to the dirt put back around the plants.

I did not know enough to hill the plants with soil at planting time but Mother Nature blessed us with rain every day that week and they all lived. I didnt feed or water the plants and sprayed very little. The plants neither grew nor performed well that first season.

That fall, realizing there was more to rose growing than buying plants and digging a hole in the earth to put them in, I joined the American Rose Society.

By the spring of 1996, I knew a little more. I bought 30 plants again and since the ground I planned to set them in was level, I thought some provision should be made for drainage.

Three trenches, 24 inches deep and 14 inches wide were made. The bottom 12 inches of soil was dug and discarded and replaced by 4 inches of sand and gravel. On this, an 8-inch-deep mixture of topsoil, peat moss, rotten cow manure and some bonemeal was placed. The rest of the trench was filled with a mixture of one part peatmoss and two parts topsoil.

The third spring after I was bitten by the rose bug, I planted 30 more plants. Because the second bed was sinking, leaving an uneven surface, the third was dug to a depth of only 13 inches. No sand, gravel or manure was used and much less of the other materials. Since the method used in laying out Bed No. 2 did not make for better drainage but acted as a reservoir, I did not provide for drainage in this bed and I believe that failure due to poor drainage is rare, anyway.

If I plant any more beds of roses, and Im afraid I will, I will use Bed No. 1 as a pattern. Roses will be slower to start but after they get going theyll be harder to stop. I believe this bed t0 be tougher in every way. Perhaps roses are like humans, a little hardship in the beginning, when not too harsh, makes for success in later life.

Yet, if ever I want plants to come up in a hurry but do not care for their future or quality of bloom, Ill plant them as I did my third bed but add to the soil of each plant one tablespoon potassium sulphate and six of superphosphate. This must be applied to the soil in such a way (over, around and under roots) so as not to touch roots. I have two piles of soil for each plant. The one for direct contact with roots is entirely free of chemicals.

I never had the soil of any bed tested as I could see no need to. A different method of planting has been used for each bed. In one bed, nothing but organic matter has been used. It has done well but Im convinced that top feeding of a mixture of organic and inorganic matter is best.

All roses Ive bought from the second bed on have been those recommended by the American Rose Society. These have been exhibition as well as decorative types. Feeding them was begun in the second year. Roses in the second and third beds were watered regularly from the first year and came up with a bang! It was only at the end of the third year that the plants in the first bed caught up with the other two. All three beds have now been planted long enough to prove a few things to me.

To a visitor all three beds would appear to be going along at about the same pace and to be equally lovely. But not to me. There is a tender spot in my heart for the first bed. Probably, because it was my “first child.”

Many more small roots grow near the surface in the first bed than the others and so need summer as well as winter protection. I, however, care for all beds the same way. To hold moisture in the soil and keep heat out, I mulch in summer.

Plant Stuff

To keep canes and rootlets from freezing, I hill and add manure to the mulch in autumn. In my section, the lowest temperature in winter is about from 5 degrees above to 5 below zero. Winters may be severe enough to freeze canes right down to the protective hills. Sufficient dirt is, therefore, brought in from other parts of the garden to hill around each plant to a height of about 8 inches. Then, a little manure is placed between the hills right on top of the summer mulch. About the middle of March, I gradually remove the hills of dirt and manure, completing the operation by the first of April when we may have a few light frosts but no more hard freezes. I have found that the sooner the hills are removed, the longer plants remain dormant.


In the fall, plants are cut back to within 3 to 4 feet of the ground to protect them from wind and snow. In spring, pruning is completed in the usual manner and should be done, if possible, when buds start to swell.

I use a coping saw, pruning knife and shears and prune to within 18 to 24 inches of the ground, leaving 4 to 6 of the best canes. I paint each pruned cane with an pruning paint. Pruned this way, the first blooms are at their best the first of June here in West Virginia.

If, however, I wish to enter a later show, I prune part of my bushes to 12 or 14 inches. Then, the first blooms will be at their best about a week later. The lower pruned bushes will have somewhat longer stems but no better blooms. Cut buds on the longer stems will keep no better than those on shorter ones.

By October theres very little difference between low and high pruned bushes. The higher pruned one is usually 8 to 10 feet tall while the low is 6 to 8 feet tall but better formed. Once I experimented by not pruning bushes in an established bed. Never again! Bushes were tall and bloomed freely but were not pleasing to the eye.

Spring Care

Pruning completed, mulch, compost and manure, put on the previous spring, are removed. Now the union or graft can be seen about an inch above the ground. To supply food and protect rootlets and the graft from the sun, I recover the beds with fresh material as soon as the old covering is removed.

Since the rootlets are near the surface, I never do any digging or loosening of the soil in any of the beds. First, I put on a one-inch layer of six-month-old cow manure, the manure being mixed with water in a tub to make it semi-liquid. Next I add a half-inch layer of compost made by adding about 6 pounds of 20 percent superphosphate to each cubic yard of leaves and grass clippings in the compost pile. On this I place a 2 to 3-inch mulch of equal parts ground corn cobs and peatmoss. I prefer this to any Ive used.

Feeding Program

As soon as buds appear on new growth, the covering is pulled back 8 to 10 inches from each plant. First, a gallon of water from the hose is given each plant and this is followed by a small handful of mixed food containing one part iron sulphate, magnesium sulphate and borax; four parts potassium sulphate and 20 parts superphosphate. Each plant is given another gallon of water and then recovered.

This is repeated each month until September except that in July and August, one tablespoon ammonium sulphate is added to the feeding of each plant. Two weeks after each feeding, I add a small handful of manure to each plant and water as before. If the weather is hot and dry, I water more frequently. Deep watering, done often, is most essential.

Some may think this a lot of food. But, a plant growing from 20 to 100 inches and producing an abundance of long”stemmed flowers, needs a lot of food. Last September I cut a rose bud from a bush with a 44-inch stem and one 48 inches long the same day. Both came from the first bed.

Health Measures

Plant diseases and insect control is begun as soon as growth appears. In using insecticides and fungicides for outdoor and indoor plants, thoroughness of application and timing are most important.

I have eliminated black spot from my garden. A long pair of thumb dressing forceps or have been a great help to me in fighting black spot; By using the forceps, I can remove a diseased leaf easily without touching and so infecting a healthy one. It also keeps hands at a safer distance from thorns. While visiting rose gardens, Ive often observed the owner pull off leaves infected with black spot and then put his contaminated hands on healthy foliage. Is there a better way of spreading this disease?

Ive used malathion spray for the past two years and have had excellent results with it in controlling insects.

Growing roses brings with it many delightful things. Besides their beauty, one has the fun and sport of competition and the pride of exhibition and there are friends made in the good company of rose lovers, all interesting and friendly people and free from guile. The true rosarian has no secrets.

It is not an everyday thing that a man begins to grow roses and in so short a time produces such extraordinary beauties that they win hearts and raves from friends and rose lovers.

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