Roses have quite the diva reputation — demanding hours of sunlight, well-drained soil, continual watchfulness for pests, beetles and bugs, mildew and black spot. Lots of bother, to be sure, but oh, the rewards.
Just ask gardener Chris Van Cleave, a rose authority with more than 150 rose bushes in his backyard.
“I tell folks to just enjoy roses,” Van Cleave said. “People get uptight about gardening, but they don’t need to be. When the roses bloom, enjoy them and share them with those around you.”
Van Cleave is the author of the Redneck Rosarian blog and gardens in Birmingham, Ala., and his techniques can be used by rose gardeners all over the U.S.
The first step to becoming a rose gardener is to decide what you want from the roses, Van Cleave says.
Do you want color? Fragrance? Hybrid tea roses are florist favorites known for their perfume and brilliant colors, but require more attention than other varieties.
Floribunda roses combine the color and fragrance of tea roses in sturdy shrubs; they produce multiple blooms on each stem. Low-maintenance Knock-Out Roses are the most popular shrub rose, with prolific blooms. They are disease- and pest-resistant, but do not carry a fragrance.
There are also climbing varieties, suitable for placing in containers alongside an arbor or trellis. Miniature roses are a good choice for containers, too.
Next comes location. For maximum bloom, roses require about six hours of sunlight each day, preferably morning light. While southern and western exposures will work, an eastern exposure is ideal.
If your yard is not suited for a rose bed, consider container plantings for roses. Just remember that with the larger varieties, you need to be mindful of depth. A typical rose bed is 15 to 18 inches deep.
The Rumblestone 90-Degree Planter provides plenty of room to show off larger rose varieties such as hybrid teas or floribundas in Home Depot’s Vigoro brand. Save compact floribundas and mini roses for smaller containers such as the DIY Paver Planter.
Roses play well with other plants that have the same sunlight and watering requirements. Look for low-growing plants that will shade roots, but also allow for air flow throughout the rose bush.
Van Cleave recommends planting with perennial herbs such as lavender. For annuals, choose begonias and marigolds.
Roses are sold bare root in winter, and in containers beginning in spring. When planting roses, either in beds or containers, Van Cleave recommends a soil mixture made up of equal parts composted manure, top soil and pine bark mini nuggets.
Care and maintenance of roses:
- When it’s time to plant, shake loose the rose’s roots, fill the container with the soil mixture, then top dress with more pine bark mini nuggets. The nuggets will disintegrate in the composted manure.
- Prune in early spring. Here, Van Cleave follows the three D’s: trim all diseased, dead and damaged branches and cut all remaining branches by two-thirds.
- Fertilize regularly (about every six weeks) with a liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer. Van Cleave sometimes applies manure tea or alfalfa tea, and a top dressing of composted manure to his roses.
- Water two to three times a week. In hot, dry weather, roses may need more water.
When it’s time to cut roses, keep in mind these tips from Van Cleave:
- Cut early in the day before the sun is too high.
- Use bypass pruners for clean cuts.
- Once inside, prepare containers with a mix of equal parts water and lemon-lime soda.
- Cut the stems a second time before placing in containers.
- Recut the stems every two days.
Roses will last up to 10 days using this method, Van Cleave says.