Tips for healthier plants that bloom better, longer.
Beautiful roses are a sure sign of a serious and successful gardener. Roses take more care and attention than most garden plants, but the results can be spectacular.
Choosing the right kind of roses for your environment and the effect you're trying to achieve will get you started right. Roses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and not all varieties are suited to the harsher growing regions of Canada. Your Garden centre can recommend those that are most likely to succeed in your conditions, but here is a brief outline of the types available:
Bush Roses include Hybrid Tea Roses, the type that grow a single flower on a stem can grow to 1meter (3ft) in height or more. While very beautiful and suitable for cutting, they are among the most difficult roses to grow due to their susceptibility to disease and insect damage. They need regular maintenance to look their best. Other types of Bush Roses include the Floribundas, a type with several flowers on each stem. They are somewhat hardier than Tea roses and are also available in a wide range of colours, but less suitable for cutting. Another type of Bush Rose is the Grandiflora, a cross between the Hybrid Tea Rose and the Floribunda, with some of the best characteristics of each. While not as hardy as the Floribunda, they offer clusters of large tea-rose type blooms on long stems.
Shrub Roses are some of the best types to blend with other plants in a landscape. They are "natural-looking", low maintenance shrubs that are often highly resistant to insect and disease problems, and hardy in cold temperatures.
Miniature Roses are excellent in small spaces, or even containers. They also grow well indoors if given enough light. There is a great range available, smaller versions of most other rose types, and they are fairly easy to grow.
Climbing and Rambling Roses can be trained to climb a trellis or wires, and are relatively easy to grow. Climbers are the most common ones you'll find at nurseries. They do take some extra care to avoid winter kill, and good pruning practices are important. With a bit of extra care, these roses can be spectacular on a wall or archway. Whichever type of rose you decide on, be sure to buy quality stock from a reputable garden centre.
Where to start: Roses like good depth (60cm or 2ft) of a fairly heavy clay loam soil, and will not thrive in sandy or heavy clay soil. They also require fairly high levels of light and good air circulation. Roses planted in a partially shaded, confined area are unlikely to bloom much, and will be more susceptible to disease. Choose your location carefully, make sure the soil is improved if needed, and you will be rewarded. Don't buy your roses until about a day before ready to plant them.
Planting: The night before you'll be planting, unpack all the bare-root roses and soak them in water for 12 hours. The next morning, carry one plant at a time to the planting area in a pail of water. The entire bed should be prepared, not just single holes dug. Dig a hole in the prepared bed large enough to give the roots lots of space. Make a mound in the bottom of the hole to spread the roots over. The bud union (where the branches come out of the roots) should be 1" to 2"(2.5-5cm) below the ground level in a cold climate. Fill in the hole, firm the soil and gently pour the pail of water around the plant. If you are planting early in spring, mound more soil up around the stems to protect the plant until temperatures warm up, then remove it. Potted roses can be planted much like other shrubs. Water them in their pots before planting.
Pruning: The first spring, roses should be pruned back almost to ground level using sharp pruners. Clip off any thin shoots, leaving only the ones thicker than a pencil. Look for an outward facing bud that is 3 or 4 buds up from the ground, and prune on an angle to match the bud, just above it but not too close (see diagram). In subsequent years, you can leave 5 or 6 buds.
Feeding: Don't feed new roses until the new growth is at least 5cm (2") long, then they should be fertilized regularly. Use a fertilizer like C-I-L® Rose food or C-I-L Gro® Rose fertilizer, following the label directions. Don't feed after late summer.
Watering Roses need about 2.5cm (1") of water each week during the growing season. To reduce the risk of disease, water around the base, not over the foliage.
Pests or Diseases: Roses are very prone to damage from pests and diseases like wilt and mildew. Ask your Certified Dealer if you need help in identifying them. It's a good idea to have an insecticide and fungicide on hand so you can provide some preventative care.
Winter Protection: Roses should be covered for winter protection. Hill earth or compost 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4") deep around the base of the bush (especially important with hybrid roses). Climbers should be carefully taken down and laid on the ground. Before covering, however, trim all types of roses back slightly, removing unopened buds. Clean up all dead or fallen foliage, and don't put it in the composter to limit disease spreading. With a bit of extra care, you'll find rose growing a rewarding task. And who knows, maybe next year you'll have some prize winners!