Roses can reward gardeners with some of the finest scents and most colorful blooms of any garden. They’re actually easy to care for if you remember a few tips about planting, pruning and care.
A rose seems delicate, but roses are actually pretty tough plants. As spring approaches, a gardener’s biggest concerns are where to plant new rose bushes and how to prune roses in the garden. Check out our tips for giving your roses the best chance for a healthy start and a season full of beautiful blooms.
Choose a Planting Location
Roses need at least five to six hours of sun a day in nearly every location. A little bit of afternoon shade might be good for a rose in a hot location, but be sure that wherever you plant your new rose, it’s getting plenty of sun throughout the day. If you can offer your new rose some protection from the wind, even better.
Your rose bush also needs air. With the exception of climbing varieties, be sure not to crowd your rose bushes or place a new plant too close to a wall. The lack of air circulation makes it more vulnerable to pests and disease. Finally, although roses need plenty of water, they also need good water drainage. The best way to water a rose is with less frequent, but deep watering. Your soil needs to soak up that water and let it drain down to water the roots.
If you’re replacing an old rose, amend the soil completely before planting. Then add plenty of mulch around, but not touching, the base of the rose. When choosing a site for a climbing rose, be sure to consider the plant’s mature size as it spreads so that it has a support structure nearby and doesn’t crowd out your other plants.
Prune According to Rose Type
Modern hybrid varieties need a spring pruning just as the buds begin to swell. Shape the plant like the letter “V” and prune just enough to remove canes that are dead, weak, or crossing and scraping other canes. Then, cut off the tops no more than one-third or two-thirds, making your final cut on each cane one-fourth inch above a healthy-looking bud that faces outward (not back in toward the plant’s center). This pruning helps shape the plant and ensure good flower production. As your hybrid rose blooms, you also need to deadhead prune, taking off faded blossoms with cuts one-fourth inch above a set of five leaflets on the same stem, but leaving at least two mature leaves below the bloom. Stop deadheading within about a month of your first fall frost, usually sometime in September.
If you have shrub and old-style roses, prune them more lightly than hybrids. These flower on older wood, and your pruning should only involve removal of dead, damaged and crossing canes. Avoid deadhead pruning as well so you can maintain the rose hips that remain after flowers fade. They not only look great, but birds love the seed-filled hips. And if you give a summer prune to repeat-blooming English roses (that tend to bloom in a rush of flowers), you encourage further blooming and keep the shrub’s growth contained. Cut back all of the stems that are flowering, leaving a few buds of the current season’s growth.
Climbing roses also need shape pruning. Any climbing rose, or other rose variety, that blooms only once a year, should be pruned as soon as they finish flowering. They bloom on wood from the previous year. Prune repeat-blooming climbers while dormant in late winter or early spring. All climbing roses deliver the best display if you train their canes to run horizontally instead of vertically. Untie and straighten tangled canes carefully and remove old and weak ones. Also, remove suckers from below the bud union (the swollen area at the bottom of the stem where the graft and root stock are joined).