How to Plant and Care for Your Roses

491324153You don’t have to be born with a “green thumb” to grow lush, spectacular roses on healthy, thriving rose bushes.

The art and science of rose gardening can be learned. Once you’ve perfected your growing techniques your “green thumb” will blossom right along with your roses.


Here are the most important planting guidelines:

  • You want your soil to be slightly acidic (approximate pH of 6.5). If it is too alkaline add ground sulfur, and if it is too acidic finely-crushed limestone should do the trick.
  • Plant your roses where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day during the summer.
  • Dig large holes for each plant (15-18 inches wide) and mix significant amounts of compost or aged manure into the soil when you cover the roots.
  • Cut back the plants in the spring and fall to encourage budding, not during the summer when the sun is scorching. Big rose canes can be cut back by two-thirds and smaller canes can be cut down to about 10 inches.
  • To boost calcium and iron put a four-inch square of gypsum board and one 16-penny nail into each planting hole.


Rose plants need the equivalent of about 90 inches of rain each year. You should soak the plants thoroughly twice weekly during the driest summer months to maintain moisture levels, making adjustments as necessary based on variations in the precipitation cycle.

For effective moisture retention add a three-inch thick layer of mulch around the base of each plant. You can use chopped leaves, grass cuttings or shredded tree bark to create your mulch layer, which should surround the plant without actually touching it.


From April through July you should apply non-chemical fertilizer to your rose bushes one time each month.

One cup of a balanced granular fertilizer sprinkled around the near perimeter of each plant would be ideal. In May and June add a tablespoon of crushed Epsom salt to each cup of fertilizer, in order to supply your roses with extra magnesium.


Prune your bushes thoroughly each spring and throughout the growing season as needed. Pull out old blossoms to make room for the new and remove all dead flowers until the first frost is imminent, when you no longer want to encourage new budding.

All pruning waste should be cleared out from around the base of your rose bushes. Buy appropriate cutting tools so you’ll be prepared to cut everything cleanly and smoothly.

Preparing for Winter

When the coldest weather comes your rose bushes could be in danger. Here are a few tips that will help keep your plants safe and sound until spring:

  • Don’t prune in the fall but do remove any dead or diseased rose canes.
  • Don’t fertilize beyond mid-autumn but keep watering your bushes when the fall weather turns dry.
  • After the first frost but before the ground freezes surround each plant with a layer of mulch (oak leaves, pine needles or straw) or compost.
  • If you live in a climate where wintertime temperatures plunge, enclose each rose bush in a mesh cylinder and surround it with mulch, dry wood chips or chopped leaves.
  • To prevent spring outbreaks of disease clean your rose beds out completely. Leave no waste behind.
  • Spray for fungus one last time with a dormant fungicide.

One Final Tip

Deer love to nibble on rose bushes. To keep them away plant lavender around your roses, deer can’t stand that odor and will avoid the area while it is in bloom.

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