Tips for Growing Roses

The rose, one of the most glamorous garden flowers, continues to evolve into a more versatile part of the landscape. The earliest roses usually bloomed only once a year, but they gave off wonderful aromas. Old-fashioned roses can grow into large, thorny bushes, more vigorous than a modern hybrid tea rose.

In the early 1800s, reblooming roses from China were discovered and interbred with old-fashioned European roses to extend their bloom period. These hybrids had fewer thorns and petals but rebloomed through the summer. Breeding efforts focused on improving flower form and expanding color selection. The results were grandifloras, hybrid teas, and other long-blooming plants that required high maintenance.

Recently, to create hardier roses that need less spraying, have more fragrance, and bloom all summer, breeders began to infuse blood lines of the old-fashioned roses back into modern hybrids. This has created landscape roses, large or small bushes that bloom all season and have increased disease resistance. Many, but not all, are fragrant. They are a wonderful way to enjoy the long-bloom beauty of the rose.

Roses Image Gallery

Roses continue to be improved upon in the breeding process.
Roses continue to be improved upon in the breeding process.
See more pictures of roses.

This article will help you enjoy these glamorous garden flowers by offering suggestions on how to successfully grow roses. Let's start with basic care tips.

  • Protect a rose graft, the swollen knob near the base of the plant, from winter damage. Not all roses have grafts, but most hybrid teas, grandifloras, standard (tree form), and some miniatures are grafted. When planting, check for the graft and make arrangements to keep it from harm, if necessary. There are several options:
    • In well-drained soil, you could plant the rose slightly deep, covering the graft with insulating soil. In cold climates, the graft union should be planted 2 to 3 inches below the soil line.
    • Mound soil up over the graft in late fall and pull it back in spring.
    • Surround the graft with shredded leaves, and hold the leaves in place with wire mesh.
    • Buy plastic foam rose cones to cover the entire plant for extra insulation.

  • Prune hybrid teas, floribundas, and other roses requiring heavy shaping back to 12 inches tall while they are dormant in spring. These roses flower on new growth, and nothing encourages new growth more than heavy spring pruning. While you are cutting stems back, take some time to remove any dead, diseased, or overcrowded canes. For shrub roses, pruning can be as simple as cutting out old and dead canes with long-handled pruning loppers.

  • Remove root suckers from grafted roses to keep them true. Many hybrid tea and floribunda roses are grafted on the extra-vigorous and disease-resistant roots of other species such as multiflora or rugosa roses. These root stocks may send up sprouts of their own, called suckers, which are easily identified by the different-looking foliage and flowers. Upon close inspection, you can see root suckers emerge from below the swollen graft. Clip suckers back as soon as you see them to keep the inferior sprouts from competing with your rose cultivar.

  • If the only sprouts that arise from the plant are off the roots, the graft has been damaged -- which can occur during winter -- and the original rose top is dead. If the root is a rugosa rose, you might try to grow it -- it's a pretty plant. But if the root is a multiflora rose, it is a weed that is best taken out early.

  • Layer ramblers and other roses to make new plants. Ramblers have long, limber canes that can be tied to a fence or trellis like a climbing rose. These flexible canes make them perfect for layering. Notch the bark beneath the stem, remove nearby leaves, pin the stem to the ground, and mound over it with soil.Once rooted and cut free from the mother plant, you'll have a new plant growing on its own roots. It will have no need for graft protection!
  • Use the Minnesota tip method in cold climates for winter protection of hybrid tea roses. In well-drained soil, dig a trench on one side of the rose. With your foot, gently push the rose canes into the trench, where they will be insulated underground. Mound soil over the canes and graft and mark the burial site with a stake so you can free the canes in early spring.

Learn tips on how to deter pests and diseases from attacking your roses on the next page.

Old-Fashioned Roses
These roses are true classics:
  • Alba roses
    • 'Semi Plena'
    • 'Konigin von Danemark'
  • Bourbon roses
    • 'Louise Odier'
    • 'Variegata de Bologna'
    • 'Madame Isaac Pereire'
    • 'Honorine de Brabant'
  • Centrifolia roses
    • 'De Meaux'
    • Damask roses
    • 'Madame Hardy'
    • 'Comte de Chambord'
    • 'Celsiana'
  • Gallica roses
    • Rosa gallica officinalis
    • 'Cardinal de Richelieu'
  • Moss roses
    • 'Mundi'
    • 'Empress Josephine'

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.

Protecting Roses from Pests and Disease

Some types of roses are more disease-resistant than others, but there are steps you can take for all roses to avoid pests and disease. Read on for tips.

Shrub roses are easier to maintain and are more resistant to disease.
Shrub roses are easier to maintain
and are more resistant to disease.

  • Choose shrub roses over hybrid tea roses for low maintenance and disease resistance. Look for the following brands of high-quality shrub roses: David Austin English roses (from England), Town and Country Roses (from Denmark), Meidiland Romantica roses (from France), rugosa roses (developed from Oriental Rosa rugosa), and Explorer roses (extra-hardy hybrids from Ottawa Experiment Station in Canada).

  • Take good care of your roses so they will stay pest- and disease-resistant. Roses can be susceptible to a wide variety of problems, especially if they are growing weakly. Make sure they have well-drained, fertile soil. Water roses during dry weather and mulch them to conserve moisture. Prune to ensure each cane receives sun and good air circulation. With this kind of treatment, problems will be few and far between.

  • Control black spot by planning ahead. Black spot, which marks leaves with black spots and then kills them, can spread up the plant and cause complete defoliation. Its damage is not pretty! But it can be avoided. Buy disease-resistant roses, including many of the landscape roses, polyantha roses such as 'The Fairy,' and even disease-resistant hybrid tea roses like 'Olympiad.' Sprays with baking soda can prevent black spot infection. Even disease-resistant shrub roses can benefit from this in extra-humid or wet weather.

  • Rake up and destroy any leaves infested with black spot. This helps eliminate spores that would otherwise reinfect healthy leaves.

  • Plant around rose bushes with low or medium-height fragrant herbs such as mints, sweet marjoram, oregano, thyme, bush basil, and German chamomile. These herbs provide an attractive cover for the barren bases of many roses and release an odor that can screen the plant from rose-eating pests. They will also provide a nice harvest for the kitchen. Forget about eating the herbs, however, if you spray the rose with chemicals unsuited for edible plants.

Although hardier roses have recently been bred to avoid some of the problems associated with this flower, you'll still want to be mindful of the basic care tips offered in this article to ensure those beautiful blooms come back again and again.

Improved Cultivars of Disease-
Resistant Rugosa Roses
Use these roses to help prevent disease:
  • 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
  • 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup'
  • 'Linda Campbell'
  • 'Topaz Jewel'
  • 'Alba'

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.