Roses are one of our favourite garden plants. Choosing the right site for planting, providing the rose with the right conditions for healthy and successful growth and correct pruning and deadheading will ensure they flower profusely throughout the summer and into autumn. Careful attention will prevent any possible rose problems.
Plant position and soil
Roses need good light, preferably full sun, and shelter from strong or cold winds. They benefit from plenty of room and air, so don’t plant roses under trees or too close to a wall, generally not less than 60cm to 90cm (2ft to 3ft) for most rose bushes, and at least 45cm (18in) away from the base of the wall for climbers and ramblers. Avoid planting where roses have previously been grown. If this is not feasible, assume that the soil is ‘rose-sick’ and will therefore have to be replaced to a depth of about 45cm (18in) or more with fresh soil or compost.
Roses root quite deeply, so the soil needs to be fairly deep. If the topsoil layer is thin, or if drainage is a problem, dig in Levington Rose, Tree & Shrub Compost to improve the soil structure and enable fast establishment. Most roses will not tolerate extremes of acidity or alkalinity, generally preferring soils that are neutral or slightly acid. Highly acidic soils can be treated with lime well before planting and highly alkaline soils will also benefit from digging in a specialist Rose, Tree & Shrub Compost or Farmyard Manure.
Roses need soils rich in organic matter, which provide good drainage and moisture retention, as well as encouraging worms and bacteria to work to the benefit of the plant. Light, sandy soils tend to dry out easily, and nutrients are quickly leached away and they often fail to provide the physical support and anchorage needed by roses to withstand winter winds. So, incorporating additional organic matter when a rose bed is being prepared is extremely beneficial.
You can buy roses in three different ways: bare-rooted; pre-packed; and containerised or container-grown. Bare-rooted roses and pre-packed (which are basically the same as bare-rooted roses but have their roots trimmed and wrapped in plastic with a little compost) must be planted between mid-autumn and early spring, when the plants are dormant. It is worth soaking the roots of these types of roses in a bucket of cool water for a couple of hours before planting, as the roots may have begun to dry out.
Containerised and container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year, providing that the ground is not frozen, waterlogged or suffering from drought conditions. Only buy strong, healthy-looking plants and carefully check the rootball to ensure that it is strong and healthy. Choosing strong, healthy plants will alleviate many potential problems right from the start.
For bare-rooted and pre-packed roses, simply dig out a hole large and deep enough to accommodate the roots at the right depth. For containerised or container-grown roses, dig out a planting hole twice as wide and 5cm to 7.5cm (2in to 3in) deeper than the pot.
Prepare a planting mixture of Levington Rose, Tree & Shrub Compost mixed 50/50 with garden soil. Add to this some Miracle-Gro Rose & Shrub Food or Miracle-Gro Rose & Shrub Continuous Release Plant Food. Line the planting hole with a 5cm (2in) depth of planting mixture, place the rose in the hole, checking that it is at the correct depth, and fill the hole with the remainder of the planting mixture. Gently firm down, topping it up with a covering of normal garden soil to the correct depth if necessary, then water-in well with about 5 litres (approximately 1 gallon) of water.
Feeding and watering
To feed established roses, sprinkle 28g (1oz) of Rose & Shrub Plant Food evenly around each plant and lightly work into the soil. For best results aim to feed twice per year, at first flower bud stage in the spring and finally at the second flush of buds. Alternatively, feed once with Rose & Shrub Continuous Release Plant Food to feed your plants for the whole season with one application.
Whichever fertiliser is used, it should not be necessary to remove the mulch from around the rose before feeding. Usually the rain will wash the fertiliser through to the soil beneath, or it can be watered through if rain is not expected for several days.
Providing that an adequate feeding regime is practised and that the soil has been adequately prepared prior to planting, nutrient deficiencies should not occur. However if the telltale signs of yellowing leaves develop, the rose may be suffering from iron and/or manganese deficiencies. Likewise pale patches towards the centres of leaves and areas of dead tissue near the main vein indicate a lack of magnesium. Applying Murphy Sequestrene Plant Tonic directly to the soil as soon as symptoms appear should balance out these deficiencies.
As roses are deeply rooting plants they rarely need watering once they have become established, particularly on heavier soils. Mulching also helps to retain moisture in the soil. In prolonged periods of dry weather, it is better to avoid a ‘little and often’ approach to watering, as this may encourage surface roots, which are more likely to be damaged from drought. It is better to give the roots a thorough soaking by using a drip-feed, ‘leaky pipe’ system, or simply a hosepipe turned down to a trickle so that the water is applied gradually over a long period. Watering in the evening rather than in the heat of the day minimises water loss through evaporation.
Mulches are extremely valuable to help maintain favourable conditions for the rose, as well as reducing the level of maintenance needed of the gardener, by helping to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds and maintain an even soil temperature.
If mulch is to be applied for the first time, it is best applied when the soil is warm and moist. Before the mulch is applied, carefully treat any small or annual weeds that are present with a contact weedkiller such as Weedol Gun! Rootkill Plus. Use a systemic weedkiller such as Roudnup GC Weedkiller or TumbleWeed for deep rooted perennial weeds.
A good mulching material, such as Water Saving Decorative Bark or Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Natural Pine Bark needs to be at least 7.5cm to 10cm (3in to 4 in) thick to effectively control weeds and conserve moisture.
Rose pruning and deadheading
Roses are pruned to keep them within bounds and to make them flower well. The traditional method of pruning, hard pruning to about a quarter of an inch (6mm) above a bud, sloping away from it at a slight angle, is generally not necessary. In fact, the more foliage a rose carries, the better its flowering performance will be. Therefore, removing about half the length of the old branches on bush roses is sufficient and it is not necessary to remove twiggy and non-flowering growth other than suckers. Sucker growth, which comes from the root system onto which the rose variety is grafted, is fast growing and will take over the plant, and should be removed by gently tugging it away from the rootstock.
It does not matter whether pruning is carried out in autumn/early winter or in the spring, as long as no hard frosts are expected, as this can cause newly cut shoots to die back. However, it is generally recommended that tall rose bushes should be cut back by about one-third in late autumn to avoid wind damage.
Generally, shrub roses, ground cover roses and standard roses need only be pruned to keep them looking tidy and within bounds. Climbers and ramblers, provided that they are well supported and trained, need their sideshoots pruned to just a finger length or so. The branches of bush roses can be trimmed to about half their previous length. In all cases, remove dead, diseased, damaged and particularly old wood.
Deadheading is the removal of spent blooms before the rose is able to set seed. This encourages the plant to produce more flowers in a further attempt to reproduce, which is after all the plant’s reason for flowering in the first place. Deadheading acts a form of light summer pruning.
The traditional method of deadheading is to cut off the shoot, some three to five leaves below the spent flower. More recently it has been shown that roses perform better when they carry more foliage. Therefore the current recommendation for deadheading is simply to carefully snap off dead flower heads at the abscission layer. This is a swollen part of the stem below the bloom, where the rosehip would naturally be shed and is normally where the first leaflets can be found.
Rose pests and diseases
Prevention is always better than cure. A healthy, well cared for rose, grown in favourable conditions, will be more able to withstand pest and disease attack than one which is under stress. Therefore, good site preparation and careful planting followed by good aftercare and a simple preventative spray programme with a combined pesticide and fungicide will greatly reduce the number of potential problems that may occur.
Few insect pests are likely to cause serious problems on roses. Even heavy infestations of most pests are unlikely to be much of a threat to a healthy rose, but will look unsightly and worth controlling. RoseClear Ultra and RoseClear Ultra Gun! are a combined systemic fungicide and systemic insecticide specially formulated for roses and control many of the pests and diseases - such as black spot, mildew and rust - that affect them.