Mid-April brings us roller coaster weather, Tax Day, and the time to start thinking about the proper maintenance of your rose bushes. It seems like so many people I know have rose bushes that have sentimental meaning. Whether you have existing rose bushes, or you are planting new ones this year, it is good to brush up on maintenance to keep them looking great for years to come.
If you are planting new bushes, choose a site with full sun, well-draining soil, and good air circulation. If you don’t have a site that gets full sun all day, choose one that gets full sun in the morning hours. They need to get at least five to six hours of full sun all day. If you have a grafted rose, you want the graft union to be planted one to two inches below the soil.
If you are purchasing a new rose bush, you are going to find either bare root or potted plants. Most experienced rosarians will prefer to plant dormant bare root plants. Potted plants are a fine choice as well so long as they haven’t started to dry out and deteriorate on the shelf.
Roses are going to need about one inch of water per week during the growing season. Use an all-purpose fertilizer that has a nutrient make up of 8-10-8 about every four to six weeks while they are actively growing. Don’t fertilize past August 15 so they can harden off for fall.
Pruning depends on what type of rose bush you have. Shrub or old garden roses flower on old wood so they should only be pruned lightly to remove dead or damaged wood. You can also remove crossing or weak canes at ground level. If you have a variety that blooms twice a year, you can deadhead after the first bloom.
Modern hybrid roses should be pruned to a V shape with an open center. The best time to prune is in the spring when the buds start to swell (now-ish). You should also remove all dead, weak, or crossing canes. Ideally you should leave your bush about ten inches tall, but if you need to take more because the tips are dead, you can cut it down to about four inches tall. A good cut should be about a quarter inch above a healthy, outward facing bud, and should be made at a downward sloping 45° angle away from the bud. After September, don’t deadhead your modern hybrid roses, so they will begin to go dormant in time for the first fall frost.
Roses can bring joy for many years, so take some time to properly maintain them so they can give you beautiful blooms for many years to come.