Choosing a Rose
Recent rose introductions have provided rose-growing amateurs and pros alike with more choices than ever. The old-fashioned beauty and rich perfume of David Austin’s English roses are a wonderful new addition to the rose repertoire. Floribunda and shrub roses have numerous, smaller blossoms per stem (an instant bouquet) and grow 3-5 feet tall. Hybrid teas are the formal, large-flowered, long-stemmed choice for cutting, and grow 4-6 feet tall. Rugged rugosa roses are known for their fragrance, disease resistance, ability to withstand coastal growing conditions and the huge rosehips that often appear while the plant is still blooming; they can grow to about 6 feet tall and wide. Climbing roses are wonderful for covering an unsightly fence, old building or scrambling up into a tree. Li’l Sprout’s rose varieties are especially well-suited to growing in the Puget Sound region; we emphasize those that are easiest to grow, with good disease resistance, you will be successful with.
Roses require a sunny location with at least 6 hours of sun a day, well-drained soil, and good air circulation. Roses may be grown in containers as well: miniatures could be planted in containers 14″ or larger; larger-growing varieties would require a container approximately 18″-20″ in size. Containers can be of any material-wood, clay, ceramic, plastic, concrete-but must have drainage holes.
Dig a rough-sided hole twice as wide as the rootball, and only as deep as the rootball. Mix super-phosphate OR bone meal in the bottom of the hole. Remove the pot and carefully set the plant into the hole. Be certain the grafted crown is above ground level. Mix a shovelful or two of compost to the soil dug out of the hole; fill in the hole with the soil/compost mixture, tamping gently to settle the ground. Water well, adding Up-start to ease transplant shock and help the rose establish. Mulch with 1-2″ of organic matter to suppress weeds and conserve moisture, taking care to leave the base of the plant free of mulch. Allow newly planted roses to root in place for four to six weeks before applying any fertilizer.
Roses need a consistent supply of water, along with good drainage. Rugosas are an exception and need only be watered the first year until they are established. Most roses need about an inch of water a week to keep blooming well. Water deeply, thoroughly-then allow the soil to dry out. Never allow rose plants to become so stressed they wilt. Apply water to the ground only, keeping the foliage dry, to keep diseases to a minimum.
Four to six weeks after planting, feed with a complete rose fertilizer. Or feed regularly from late March through August with a complete, balanced rose food. Avoid use of fertilizers with systemic insecticide mixed in and handle insect pests separately as they appear.
Common problems include aphids, black spot, mildew and rust. Aphids are best washed off with a hose or squished by hand. If they persist, insecticidal soap used as directed works well. Black spot, mildew and rust are fungal diseases that can be lessened in a number of ways. Good air circulation and garden sanitation are crucial. Remove spent blooms and keep the ground clean of fallen leaves, especially if diseased. We carry fungicides to help in the control of rose diseases. Follow label directions for best results.
In our climate, roses often bloom well into November. To assist their transition into dormancy, snip off leaves in October. Use loose, lightweight organic matter for winter mulching protection (straw, bark, sawdust), covering over the graft union about 12-15 ” deep; uncover around March 1st when doing spring pruning. The entire height of tree roses must be protected: a chicken wire cage placed on the ground around the rose and filled with straw or leaves to cover the high graft should protect tree roses through our coldest winters.
In our Puget Sound climate, rose pruning is done in earliest March, after the coldest winter weather has passed. The different types of roses require different pruning attention. New growth may have started which will be pruned off: go ahead and prune anyway! Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras are pruned quite hard, to about 6-12″ from the ground. Leave only the strongest 3-6 canes, cutting out the others completely. Floribundas, shrubs, English roses, antiques and ground covering types are left twiggier and are pruned less severely: to about 15-24″ from the ground. Prune tree roses according to the type of rose grafted on top of the trunk. Climbing roses are not pruned their first two years. Train long, main-framework branches vertically or horizontally; they are usually left intact. In the third year, shorten side branches (growing off the main framework) to about 6-10″. If climbing roses begin to look thin at the bottom with few leaves, cut 1-2 old canes to the ground to encourage new growth. As with pruning of all kinds: dead, diseased and damaged wood is always removed first; then weak and crossing branches are removed. Cut faded blooms back to a five-leaflet leaf.