Monthly Rose Care
A Month by Month Guide to Growing Better Roses
Prepared specifically for Southern California,
but may be used for other areas with similar climates,
or modified for other areas.
Master Consulting Rosarian
Complete Bareroot Rose Planting
Buy bareroot roses and plant them as soon as possible. Soak them overnight in a solution of one tablespoon each of Vitamin B1 (for root growth stimulation) and bleach (to avoid root gall, downy mildew, and other diseases) per gallon of water. Toss a handful of superphosphate into each planting hole. Fill in with a blend of natural soil and mulch or planter mix.
Prune Your Roses
Prune your roses by at least one-half in height, thin out twiggy growth, and remove all foliage. Attend a pruning demonstration at your local rose society meeting, or at a nearby nursery if you want to learn more. For Southern California, all rose pruning should be completed by the end of January.
We highly recommend that you dormant spray your roses within a week after they are pruned and the leaves removed. I prefer using a Horticultural Oil.
Apply Dry Granular Rose Food to the Roses
After pruning, give your established rose bushes 1/4 cup of dry granular fertilizer, then water in well. This type is slow to release and will be ready for the roses when the weather begins to warm.
Finish Planting With Mulch
When all your roses are pruned and the new bareroots are planted, put them all to bed with a thick layer of mulch. Kelloggs Gromulch is my preference. This will prevent the canes and bud unions of new plants from drying out, and will amend the soil of existing plants. For existing bushes, apply several inches of mulch throughout the rose beds. There are local horse ranches where you can get "stabled" horse manure for free; you just have to do the shoveling and hauling yourself. Or, you can purchase a skip load of mulch from a local supplier, and they will fill your truck or deliver it for an extra charge. Finally, water the plants well and don't let them dry out.
Pruning, planting, dormant spraying, and mulching of your roses must be completed by the middle of the February before the weather starts to warm. It's time to finalize all the details in preparation of a great rose growing year.
Begin With Organics
Your roses will appreciate an application of organics such as fish emulsion (5-1-1) around mid-February (one tablespoon per gallon of water). Then two weeks later apply one cup of alfalfa pellets around each bush (1/2 cup for miniatures) and water in well. Now is a good time to apply mulch such as Kellogg's Growmulch
Finger Prune For Bigger Blooms
Some gardeners will perform "finger pruning" on their roses to encourage longer stems and bigger blooms. This simply means to snap off some of the new bud eyes along each cane, especially where several bud eyes are emanating from one location on the cane. Personally, I do not waste my time doing this because I want as many blooms as possible.
Ease On Into The Spray Program
You may begin to see aphids and mildew at the end of February. Mildew is much easier to prevent than to get rid of after the roses have it. But you only need to spray for aphids when you see them. The first application of insecticide and fungicide should be sprayed at half strength to avoid spray burn on the new and tender foliage. Carefully read the directions on all labels, and wear protective clothing. Organic gardeners might try to control pests with daily washing of the foliage.
Well, here we are again just at the threshold of a promising new spring. Our roses are flush with growth and the green buds show promise of what is to come. You'll be amazed at how a little extra care can improve your roses.
It's Time To Feed Your Roses
You'll notice that your roses are starting to leaf out nicely, so they will benefit from an application of general purpose fertilizer to keep the foliage green and lively. Give them a kick-start with Grow-More 20-20-20 (first week in March for Southern California).
Prevent Mildew on Your Roses
Mildew is preventable, if you start early enough. If you choose to use a fungicide, it will need to be sprayed every 7 to 10 days depending on how much mildew your garden gets. Use as directed on the product label.
The Aphids Are Coming
March is the time to be on the lookout for "nasties" in your rose garden. If you start to see aphids, you'll need to dig your sprayer out of storage. Aphids are no bigger than a pinhead. They love to suck the juice out of new foliage and blooms. Spray with your insecticide of choice, or wash down with a hard stream of water. Squishing works, too!
Look Out For Snails in the Garden
Snails love roses, too! This is a good time to apply snail bait to stay ahead of the snail population. Use with care around children and animals.
Watch Out For Spider Mites
April brings spider mites. They are no bigger than a grain of salt and can be barely seen with the naked eye. In fact, if you look on the back of the rose foliage, spider mites look like salt and pepper. Spider mites can be prevented with daily washing of the foliage on the undersides with a water wand, or by using a miticide.
Feed Those Hungry Roses
During this peak blooming season, fertilize weekly with rotated feedings of Fish Emulsion and Grow More (1 tablespoon per gallon of water). At month-end feed your roses iron chelate (for dark green foliage), zinc (for bloom color), and Epsom salts. For many years I've been foliar feeding my roses with a liquid seaweed product called Response, one teaspoon per gallon of water. I mix it in with the fungicide and insecticide whenever I spray. It seems to also enhance the benefits of the fungicide.
Mildew on Roses is Preventable
Spray your roses every 7 to 10 days with a fungicide for mildew, mixed according to the product label. When you see aphids, it's time to spray with an insecticide. Spray the roses in early morning to avoid leaf burn, and before the wind kicks up (to avoid getting chemicals in your face).
Control Spider Mites on the Rose Bushes
Keep an ever watchful eye on the spider mite situation. Miniature roses are especially susceptible. If you wash the foliage daily, especially the undersides, spider mites can be kept under control. Don't be afraid to wash all your roses thoroughly with water. It is so warm and dry here that mildew should not be much of a problem this time of year.
Encourage More Rose Blooms
By mid-May, most of us will be finishing the first spring bloom cycle. To ensure good rose blooms for the next cycle, we must now deadhead all spent blooms. It will take an average of 45 days for the roses to hit their next bloom cycle. Some roses will bloom sooner, and others will take longer to rebloom, sometimes up to 60 days.
Keep the Roses Fed
Continue with the feeding program, as your roses will need a steady diet to produce lush foliage and more blooms. Roses are heavy feeders, and more so if they are grown in pots because the fertilizer will drain on through. Start with fish emulsion the 2nd week of May, and at the end of the month feed iron, epsom salts, zinc, and a teensy bit of SuperThrive. To encourage lots of bloom, apply a water-soluble fertilizer with a bloom enhancing NPK rating such as 10-52-10 or 10-30-20. There are various brands that will do the job such as Grow More.
June Rose Blooms
As we head into the second bloom cycle, you may need to watch out for a few aphids, and especially for thrips which discolor the rose blooms and make them look dirty. Apply insecticide according to directions on the label. Continue feeding Grow More to encourage big blooms. An application of Epsom salts, iron and SuperThrive at month end will really spiff up your rose bushes, and will get them prepared for the long, hot summer. Now would be a good time to apply a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, which will feed your roses for 90 days.
Water is the Key Ingredient for Roses
Now is the time to make sure your roses are sufficiently watered. If you have an automatic watering system, check to make sure that the timer is set properly. Without water your roses will die. Water helps the rose plant take up nutrients. With proper drainage you really can't overwater roses. Wash off the foliage daily to keep spider mites under control.
Roses Love Organics
Apply fish emulsion around mid-month, one tablespoon mixed with one gallon of water. If you have more than 50 rose bushes, a siphon device (such as Syphonex or Hyponex) or a submersible pump is recommended for application. Later in the month, 1/2 cup of alfalfa pellets can be spread around each bush, a quarter cup for minis. I also apply liquid kelp (seaweed) on a regular basis.
Lightly Deadhead the Roses
Just lightly deadhead the blooms off your rose bushes. The idea is to keep as much foliage as possible during the summer. The lush foliage will help to shade the plants and keep them cool. As you deadhead the blooms, be sure to pick up all the spent blooms and fallen leaves and put them in the garbage. Never use rose clippings for mulch because they harbor diseases. A clean garden is a beautiful garden.
Keep Your Roses Cool and Moist
Roses need lots of water, especially in our hot, dry area. Daily watering during July and August may be needed. They love to be washed down from head to foot, and this will also keep the spider mites at bay. Invest in a Water Wand (it looks like a shower head with a long handle) from one of the local garden centers. Apply mulch for extra protection.
Feed Organics For A Summer Snack
I recommend organics for summer rose feeding. There are lots to choose from: fish emulsion, blood meal, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, or kelp. Mills Magic and Dr. Earth have some great organic products.
Prepare For The Fall Rose Bloom Cycle
Around Labor Day it will be time to begin preparing for the fall bloom cycle. If you lightly prune your roses, take off 1/3 of their height and thin out twiggy growth, you will have beautiful roses for the October bloom cycle.
Finish Summer Pruning For Bountiful October Blooms
Finish your summer rose pruning. You will need to lightly prune all of your roses now for a big burst of colorful bloom during the month of October. Do not strip off all the foliage like you would do for the hard winter prune, and only cut back about one-third of the height of each plant. Whether you want to exhibit at the fall shows or simply want a bounty of beautiful roses for your dinner table, the fall pruning ritual is well worth the effort.
Begin the Fall Feeding and Spraying Program
Mildew will begin to make its appearance as the weather starts to cool down again. It's much easier to prevent mildew than to try to get rid of it once you have it. Spray fungicide every 7 to 10 days (read the label for directions). When you see aphids, it's time to spray with an insecticide. Begin feeding with rotations of fish emulsion, Epsom salts, iron, and a balanced rose fertilizer such as Grow More, Dr. Earth, or Bandini granular. A shot of SUPERthrive does wonders!
Disbud For Big Rose Blooms
Towards the end of the month when green buds start to form, daily disbudding of sidebuds on hybrid teas will be of utmost importance for serious exhibitors. This procedure will encourage bigger blooms. For floribundas, you should remove the central bud which will usually bloom before the rest of the spray (bloom cluster).
Fall Fertilizing of Roses
Continue your rose fertilizing schedule through October (in Southern California or warmer climates). It's especially helpful to use a high phosphorous fertilizer during several weeks prior to the rose shows, as this will encourage bigger blooms. I like the soluble Grow More 10-30-20. Any brand will do, as long as the middle number is high, and the product is formulated for roses. You can use this weekly, or alternate with fish emulsion. A dose of iron, zinc, Epsom salts and SUPERthrive applied at the beginning of October will do wonders. Remember to water your roses thoroughly before and after fertilizing.
Spray Roses for Pests
Mildew may be especially prevalent during this time of year as the nights begin to cool down and the daytime may remain warm. A fungicide will keep mildew under control if sprayed weekly. You may also see aphids reappear. You may choose to use an insecticide to kill insects when they are visible, or pick the bugs off by hand. Make sure your roses are well watered at least four hours before spraying, otherwise the foliage may wilt and burn.
Don't Forget To Water the Roses
Just because it may become cooler does not mean that you can discontinue watering. Hot and dry Santa Ana winds can dehydrate your roses. Check sprinklers and drip emitters to make sure they are working properly.
Plan To Grow Better Roses
Start now to plan your strategy for growing better roses. Proper pruning, mulching, fertilizing, and watering should be an integral part of your plan.
Decide On Your New Rose Purchases
Now is a good time to start looking through the myriad of rose catalogs which are now pouring in and make out your wish lists. We'll also have to make decisions as to which roses will need to be given up for adoption to make room for the new ones we just can't live without.
Rejuvenate Your Potted Roses
Winter is the best time to repot roses that have become rootbound. Keep garden debris cleaned up to avoid overwintering of insects and fungus. Apply one cup of alfalfa pellets per bush, 1/2 cup per miniature. Apply 1/4 cup of superphosphate around each bush. Don't forget to water at least once a week if there is no rain. Get ready for January pruning.
Enjoy a Colorful Winter Garden
Keep spent blooms trimmed off the rose bushes to ensure a bountiful bouquet for your holiday dinner table. Pansies make wonderful wintertime companion plants for the roses, especially when the roses are bare from winter pruning.
© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.
Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez