From June to September, roses add a special flourish to yards, gardens and public parks throughout the United States, but for many gardeners, tending roses may seem intimidating. With 23 years of experience, head gardener at Hershey Gardens in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Jamie Shiffer knows a thing or two about cultivating a beautiful rose, in all of its varieties.
Here are his top five rose gardening tips for gardeners of all experience levels:
Plant and fertilize early. Consider planting new rose bushes in early spring. “Both new and existing rose plantings will need to be fertilized at this time,” says Shiffer, who recommends applying a slow-release fertilizer surrounding the base, such as GreenView with GreenSmart Rose Food, which is formulated with essential macro and micro nutrients that provide extended feeding for up to 12 weeks. Research reveals that it helps to produce superior plant growth, improve plant health and vigor, and increase buds, blooms and plant yield. After fertilizing, thoroughly water your roses. If desired, you can apply two inches of mulch around the plant.
Avoid over watering. “You should water roses sparingly throughout the very hot season,” recommends Shiffer. “The biggest mistake people make when watering is to water from overhead with a hose, instead of at ground level.” Watering from above, Shiffer explains, can cause black spots to appear on the petals and throughout the day. As the heat intensifies, the water on the petals promotes fungal growth. To avoid this, water at ground level first thing in the morning.
Prevent black spot. While good watering techniques can prevent fungal growth, for some gardeners, a humid environment can lead to the same problem. “Treat black spot using a fungicide spray application on the plants every two weeks,” says Shiffer.
Prune for increased plant growth. To encourage rejuvenation and growth from your rose bushes, be sure to deadhead through September. Count from the blossom down to the fifth leaf and make an angled cut.
Maintain throughout each season. Regardless of variety, roses require year-round maintenance. Use this calendar as a guide to care for your rose bushes:
March – Thin out the plantings; cut them back to 8 or 12 inches in length.
April – Beginning in late April or early May, fertilize roses with a slow-release fertilizer that will last for 3 months, such as GreenView with GreenSmart Rose Food.
May to October – Use spray application on roses every two weeks. From June to September, deadhead your plantings so they will push new growth.
September – Remove rose petals without cutting the bulb off completely.
November – Cut all roses back for the winter to 32 inches in height.
For novice gardeners, Shiffer recommends starting with star roses or knockout roses, as they are among the most disease- and insect-resistant. “They come in many different colors and produce blooms throughout the year,” he says.