ALLEGANY CO., N.Y. — Last week I was at a Nursery/Greenhouse and a woman was standing near me admiring the rose bushes. She said, mostly to herself, “I wish I could grow roses, they are so beautiful.” Her companion came up and hurried her away so I never found out why she thought she couldn’t grow roses. I should not have been “admiring” anything! The number of roses I have is obscene. Some people think roses are too fussy to bother with, but with a few adjustments people can grow them.
Most roses require 6 hours of sunlight each day. You might have to trim some bushes to get the amount they need or put them in a sunnier part of your yard. Jackson & Perkins lists the following rose bushes as somewhat shade tolerant:
- Climbing Iceberg, white flowers
- Sally Holmes, climbing with pale pink/white single flowers
- Gemini, pink hybrid tea
- The Fairy, shrub rose with quarter sized pink flowers
- White Dawn
- Honey Bouquet peach floribunda
Roses also like well-drained soil. To check your soil, dig a hole about 12” deep x 12” wide, then fill it with water – let it drain completely. Right after it drains, fill it again. Place a ruler in the hole and set your timer for an hour – when an hour is up – check how much the water has drained. If it drained 1-6 inches in an hour it is considered well-drained. If it drains hardly at all it is a poorly-drained soil (PDS). Drainage of more than 6 inches is considered dry or droughty soil (DS). Results of well-drained are optimal, however, if your results were different, there are still things you can do:
- Make a raised bed for your roses. (PDS, DS)
- Dig your hole 2-4 inches deeper than described in the instructions that come with the plant. (DS)
- Put a few inches of gravel in the hole before adding new soil. (PDS)
- You can amend your soil by adding peat moss and perlite, or vermiculite to your soil. Test again for drainage. (PDS, DS)
Patio roses can be grown in pots on your patio or porch thus eliminating the drainage issue and can be moved as you wish. In this area they will need to be moved indoors to a garage or basement. You will also need to water regularly as they have no access to water from the soil.
Next you need to decide what type of rose bush you want:
- Climbing roses will need some type of support. Trellis, fence, or tree. A word of warning: while it is lovely to see roses climbing up a tree they will also have to compete with the tree for nutrients. Common examples: New Dawn (pink), Blaze (red), Cecile Brunner (pink)
- Tea roses are the most well-known classic, one flower to a stalk bush. Common examples: Chrysler Imperial (red), Mr. Lincoln (red), and Peace (yellow and pink).
- Floribunda roses are excellent as landscape roses and have been called “a bouquet on a stem” because each stem has multiple buds. Examples: Scentsational (red and white striped), Stairway to heaven (peach), Veteran’s Honor (dark red).
- Grandiflora roses are a cross between Hybrid tea and Floribunda plants. Plants are large, up to 6’ tall and strong with large flowers. They can be used as screens or hedges and are particularly hardy and disease resistant. Queen Elizabeth is the proto type with large pink blooms. Also Granada (coral) and Gold Medal (yellow)
- Shrub roses are shorter and more compact plants. Some will be suitable for the front of a border, although some varieties will get 5 feet tall. “Knockout roses are of this type and come in many colors.
- Miniature roses grow about 12-18 inches tall and can be seen to best advantage at the front of a border. Plum Dandy (deep purple), Rainbow’s End (yellow to pink) are examples.
- Antique or Old Garden Roses frequently have many sharp thorns, grow in poor soil and may bloom only once. Some have an intoxicating fragrance and others none at all. Examples: The Fairy (short, small pink flowers), Geoff Hamilton (large pink flowers), Falstaff (dark red flowers).
- Hedge roses are short, 2-3 feet tall, and are usually planted to create a border or boundary between two properties or along one property. They come in a variety of colors. Some suggestions: Betty Boop (single dark pink), Bonica (light pink) or Knockout.
Roses are available either “bare root” or container grown. Either is fine. Sometimes container grown is a little more expensive, but is ready to plant. Bare root need to be soaked for 12-20 hours before planting.
You want to buy healthy disease free stock. I am sure I am not the only one guilty of “rescuing” a diseased or damaged plant at a reduced price with the idea that I could save it. Works better with perennials and not so well with roses. Even if you saved money buying the poor plant, you will lose money when it dies. Sadly, I am a slow learner and continue to try to rescue plants!
One other problem people encounter with roses is buying plants not suited to our environment. Too many times I have purchased a bush because I loved the flower, the name or the scent and neglected to see if it would grow where I live! Whether you buy your plants from a brick and mortar nursery or an online catalog, be sure to read the description!
With most catalog descriptions as well as hang tags on plants you will find a “Z” with a couple of numbers after it. This stands for Zone and where it will grow. Most of us here are in zones 4-5 depending on if we live on a hill or in a valley. For example a Z 6-9 bush will probably not do well in this area. I have done this and if there was a mild winter and I mulched heavily and covered the bush, it survived, but was not in great condition and did not survive another winter even though it was well protected. Roses are more susceptible to wind than cold so need to be wrapped or covered. The remainder of the description will give you information about color, fragrance, size of blooms, color of foliage size and sometimes disease resistance.
So now that I have convinced you to grow roses, how do you plant your rose?
You have already bought the plant (right zone), found a good location (sunny), prepared the hole according to the directions that come with the plant (soil is well-drained or modified), and soaked it if it is a bare root. Mound some of the soil into a cone in the bottom of the hole. Spread the roots out over the cone and partially fill the hole. Add water and let it soak in, then fill the hole and water again. The directions that come with the plant will tell you whether to add fertilizer or not.
Keep your new plant watered (but don’t drown it! – 1” of rain per week or more if the temperatures are in the 80’s or above) sit back ready to enjoy it. Next time: Care and Maintenance of rose bushes
–Pam Jones, Master Gardener
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County
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