Selecting a Sprayer for the Rose Garden
By Robert B. Martin, Jr.
Master rosarian

The practice of spraying roses is a delicate subject to address in these times of environmental activism . But the fact remains that spraying is often essential for the control of insects and mites and for the prevention of diseases  that afflict roses. As a consequence many devoted rosarians spray their roses regularly. Others choose to avoid spraying their roses for various reasons; and indeed there are many roses that perform adequately with a minimum of spraying. Still others practice the discipline of IPM ("integrated pest management") which minimizes spraying but accepts the necessity of spraying roses from time to time as appropriate. The environmental questions are important to all who love roses which are without question the most beautiful flowers in our environment. But I do not seek here to debate these issues but rather to set forth in a pair of articles and a Chemical Guide the technical details on spraying for those who are interested.  I begin with the subject of selecting a sprayer.

Types of Sprayers
There are four types of sprayers: (1) compression; (2) hose end; (3) electric; and (4) trigger. The key to the purchase is to buy a sprayer adequate to the task. Constant refills of a sprayer cost time and effort and discourages the rosarian from practicing a proper spray program. In addition excess spray material presents a problem of disposal which is an environmental concern with which we can all agree.

To determine the size of the sprayer that you need for your garden, a good rule of thumb is that one gallon of spray material will, on average, service about 24 full size leafed out hybrid tea, grandiflora or floribunda roses.  Miniature roses count as 1/3 to 1/2 a full size rose depending on size. Climbing roses count as two roses. Using these ratios count the equivalent number of full size roses in your garden and divide by 24. This will indicate the minimum size of the sprayer you should select for your garden. If you plan to add more roses in the future you should take this into consideration as well; err, if necessary, on the side of having larger sprayer than may be immediately necessary.

It should also be noted that misting of buds and blooms for minor infestations of thrips and aphids can be accomplished with a small sprayer. It is therefore useful to have both a full size sprayer and a smaller one.

Compression Sprayers
Compression sprayers are sprayers that are operated by air pressure for the delivery of the spray material. Most are manually operated with a built-in pump or lever.  Some use a garden hose to provide the pressure.  Such sprayers can deliver a great deal of spray material at a relatively even pace and the pumping generally requires much less effort than trigger sprayers (described below). 

For larger gardens the constant pumping can prove tiring. Further the pumping mechanism tends to leak after time requiring more effort to pump up the sprayer.

Compression sprayers come in many sizes. Water is surprisingly heavy and the larger the sprayer is they heavier it becomes. For these reasons compression sprayers are practicable at a maximum capacity of 3-4 gallons. They are available with carrying straps or as a backpack. The backpack sprayers typically have a piston pump and have a larger capacity.

Compression sprayers are available in metal or plastic. Metal sprayers tend to become dented and corroded and seldom last whatever their construction. It is therefore better to buy a strong plastic sprayer which will last longer and is also lighter.

In selecting a compression sprayer for your rose garden, preference should be given to one with a wide mouth to permit ease of filling. The nozzle should be of brass and the end easily unscrewed to permit removal of obstructions which will occur no matter how careful you may be. It is useful to bend a paper clip around the strap which can be used to poke through the unscrewed nozzle to remove obstructions when they occur.

The most convenient size for compression sprayers is one of 2-3 gallons. A 1/2 gallon poly sprayer is very useful for spot applications or the smallest gardens.

Among the smaller compression sprayers is the 1/2 Gallon Hudson "Rose & Garden Sprayer" which is endorsed by the American Rose Society.  It is available from and Primary Products at about $21. is on the web at  Primary Products is at and can also be reached at 1-800-841-6630.  Gempler's sells an even smaller 48-oz. Chapin Hand Sprayer  at about $ 12 They are at .

Those with larger gardens should consider  the 15309 Chapin Industrial Poly Sprayer which I have used for years.  Originally it was my main sprayer; now it serves as a back-up for my electric sprayer.  It comes with a 3 gallon poly tank (2.25 gallons useable), an 8-inch diameter steel-reinforced threaded pump cap and a metal pump handle.  The hose is 36 inches long with an 18-inch brass extension shut-off and fan nozzle.  This one is intended for heavy-duty application and does not come cheap.  It is available from A.M. Leonard and you should expect to pay around $60 for it.  A.M Leonard is on the web at and can also be reached at 1-800-543-8955.

Those with medium-sized gardens, or who find pumping tiresome, should consider  the Hudson 2-Gallon Pumpless Sprayer.  It comes with a poly tank that is filled and automatically pressurized with a garden hose. It has an easy-fill funnel-top and a soft cushion grip oval handle grip.  The "Roto-Valve" spray control valve rotates 360 degrees for spraying up or down with no bending or wrist twisting and there is a nickel-plated brass spray wand and nozzle. It is available from and Primary Products at $42-46.

Of the backpack sprayers, the one that I have heard the most good words about is the 425 Solo Backpack Sprayer.  It has a 4 gallon plastic tank, a 4.5in fill neck opening and is operated by a piston pump with a handle that can be switched to the left or right side.  It is also available from A.M. Leonard and is priced at about $90.

An interesting backpack sprayer that I have only read about is the Field King Deluxe Backpack Sprayer which is available from  They advertise it as "the most comfortable backpack sprayer we have ever used."  It has a molded lumbar support which is said to distribute weight and eliminate the common metal bar associated with most backpack sprayers.   It also has a 4-gallon capacity and is operated by a piston pump.  The price is about the same as the Solo Backpack Sprayer. is also known as "The Horticultural Supply Store" and is at

Hudson also makes a smaller backpack sprayer called, appropriately, the "Hudson Bak-Pak Sprayer".  It has a 3-gallon one-piece blow molded tank, an easy-fill opening and a poly piston pump adjustable for left or right handed pumping and spraying.   It is available from at about $70.

Hose-End Sprayers
Hose end sprayers attach to the end of the garden hose and have a small jar with a dial mechanism to regulate the amount of spray material per gallon. Some can actually be screwed directly onto bottles of chemicals for delivery. All are relatively inexpensive.

Hose-end sprayers deliver a lot of spray with a minimum of effort. But the measuring apparatus is crude and permits wide variation in delivery of chemicals. The mixture ratio changes from a full bottle to an empty bottle; at first it is too concentrated and later it is too dilute.  A further disadvantage of a hose end sprayer is that it is difficult if not impossible to spray the underside of the leaves without spraying the solution all over your body. Users of such sprayers should wear a mask and pay careful attention to protection from overspray.

Electric Sprayers
For larger gardens, and for those who wish to minimize the time and effort of spraying without sacrifice of precise control, the sprayer of choice is an electric sprayer. The disadvantage here is principally one of cost as such sprayers are much more expensive.

A very popular model among large-scale rosarians is the battery-powered Mantis SprayMate [this product is no longer available]. This is a wheeled sprayer with a one-piece molded polyethylene tank that holds up to 12 gallons of spray.  The sprayer rides on 16-inch wide tread tires and is relatively easy to push or pull.  The power source is a 12-volt battery that is recharged with a plug-in charger. It comes with a 15-ft reinforced flexible hose and an 18" spray wand.

I have used a Mantis SprayMate for over ten years and although it does have some idiosyncrasies, it has served me reasonably well.  Its valve does tend to get clogged with powders and a different attachment must be used for any oil-based products.  There is also no realistic way you can tell when the charge is getting low (other than listening for the slowing down) so I have a tendency to charge it often.  One change that I have made (and have seen many rosarians make) is to add a longer spray wand to reach in and under bushes.  My spray wand is now 48 inches long; this is a little unwieldy but greatly extends my reach.

An alternative to the Spray Mate is the battery-powered SpotShot Power Sprayer [this product is no longer available] that comes in a 6 gallon and 12 gallon size.  I have examined this sprayer and it looks well-made; were I to be buying a new sprayer, I would consider it.  You can get more information on the Spot Shot by calling RGL Sales Company, Inc. at 1-800-330-2632.

Another alternative is the battery-powered PeCo Power Sprayer which is advertised in the American Rose.  More information on it is available by calling 1-800-438-5823

A smaller battery-powered sprayer that has received some good  reviews is the Black & Decker Cordless Power Sprayer Model VP450.  This has a polyethylene tank of undisclosed size and is advertised to discharge up to nine gallons of liquid per battery charge.  It has a six foot hose and an average length spray wand.  It operates on two 3.6-volt rechargeable batteries.  The sprayer is sold through retail outlets.  You can learn more about it and the dealers who carry it at the Black & Decker website.

Many serious rosarians use the electrically powered Atomist Airblast Model 1026A [no longer available]. It is relatively small, holding only 1.5 gallons, however is easily refillable or it can be hooked up by a hose to a larger holding tank. The Atomist is a true mister which atomizes the spray particles. It is expensive; on the other hand users report it to be extremely hardy and reliable, outlasting by several  times a typical compression sprayer of the same size.

An Atomist type sprayer raises legitimate concern about its weight, small capacity and the necessity of constant remixing to spray a large garden.  Also, although it creates a cloud of spray, there is no practical way to assure proper coverage of the undersides of the leaves.  Finally, it should be noted that it creates very small size particles which are easy to inhale, thus creating the potential of more danger to its user.  

Sprayer Source is Rosemania (as of December 2009). They have a wide selection of chemical sprayers.

Trigger Sprayers
At the other extreme from the electric sprayer is the trigger sprayer. A trigger sprayer is like a plastic Windex bottle with a plastic trigger handle. They are of very small capacity and tiring to use on all but the smallest jobs. They are, however, quite inexpensive and can be useful in the case of very small rose gardens or for misting a small number of blooms. Trigger sprayers are widely available as unmarked plastic containers; it is important that a label be applied which indicates its use so that it won't be mixed up with herbicides or household chemicals.

There are, as can be seen, a very large number of choices to consider in selecting a sprayer.  The bottom line though is that you should choose one that fits your spraying practices and your rose garden.  Spraying is not a particularly pleasant activity so you should make it as easy on yourself as possible.  

© Copyright Robert B. Martin, Jr. All rights reserved.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez



Updated January 4, 2016

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