Keeping roses beautiful

Pink roses in a beige vasePhoto by Lansera/Fotolia

Good pruning, feeding, watering and protection from the elements are key to happy and healthy roses.

PRUNE

First and foremost, always use clean, sharp bypass pruners (large, old canes may require loppers).

  • Most pruning is done in spring, since you can see where the buds are breaking. Prune dead or damaged branches?cut dry, brown or grey stems back to live wood, which has a green or cream centre. And remove any weak, spindly shoots. Beyond that, pruning is done to shape the plant and maintain an open branch structure so air and light can reach the centre.
  • Hybrid teas and floribundas can be cut back by anywhere from a third to half their height (or down to five or six strong buds) in early spring (many gardeners time it to when the forsythia is blooming). Rose hedges should also be pruned in early spring. Keep the base of the hedge wider than the top to allow light to reach the bottom stems.
  • On climbers, shorten only the side shoots to three or four buds; every three years, cut one or two of the oldest stems back to 12 inches to rejuvenate the plant.
  • Most shrub roses can be lightly pruned after their main flowering. On three- or four-year-old bushes, cut out a quarter of the oldest canes to the base and let new ones take their place.

FERTILIZE

In spring, add well-rotted manure or compost around the plant. Apply an organically based slow-release granular
fertilizer in June.

WATER
Wait until the bed is quite dry, then water deeply, letting the hose soak the root zone for 45 minutes. Wait for a few hours and repeat.
DISEASE CONTROL

The most bothersome rose problem is black spot, a fungal disease that produces dark blotches on the leaves. When leaves fall off, spores will overwinter in the soil and reinfect the plant. Remove the fallen leaves and dispose of them (don?t put them in the composter).

  • Give roses good air circulation and avoid getting water on the foliage to reduce black spot, as well as powdery mildew.
  • Planting garlic near roses helps to deter insect pests. Aphids can also be removed by a good blast of water from the hose.

WINTER CARE
Build a 12-inch mound of soil over the crown of plants that aren?t hardy in your area (this is called hilling up). You can also use rose collars (plastic sleeves that fit around the plants). These are filled with soil and leaves and then covered with mulch. Tall roses can be pruned back a bit so the canes don?t get whipped around in winter winds.