Here in zone 8a, the advent of an early spring has had me scrambling in the garden to prepare for the bloom season. The winter has likely left our garden beds in a less than desirable condition. It seems that everyone's leaves, weeds and other debris finds its way to my garden and now must be attended to. With the warm temps, soon will come the emergence of new growth on our roses and there are a few tips that will put your rose in optimum growing condition.
- 1. Clear all beds of leaves and other garden debris and remove any disease leaves on your shrubs. Many roses are susceptible to blackspot and other fungal diseases. This fungus can survive the winter and will become a problem for you this spring if left unattended. Keeping your beds clean throughout the growing season will cut down on disease in your garden.
- 2. In the Deep South, we prune roses in the spring. It doesn't really matter whether or not you prune in spring or fall, just prune. Pruning invigorates the rose and the new growth will produce beautiful blooms on good stems. Prune repeat blooming hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora and miniature roses by at least ½ and Shrub and other varieties of roses by at least 1/3. If the rose only blooms one time per year, wait to prune until after it blooms, as these roses only bloom on previous year's growth. Also prune repeat blooming climbing roses after first bloom. Remove any dead wood, die back as well as any spindly or crossing canes. I try to open the center of the shrub as much as possible to encourage good air circulation.
- 3. If your roses are still dormant, now is a good time to apply a dormant spray such as Lime Sulphur. This will kill on contact any fungus. Be sure to spray the area around your roses too. Do not apply once roses have leafed out, it can damage your shrub.
- 4. If needed, now is a good time to add amendments to the soil. I mix (in equal parts) garden soil, composted cow manure, sand and mushroom compost. The result is a friable soil rich in growth enzymes that will encourage your roses to grow.
- 5. Top off your soil amendments with a two inch layer of mulch. I use mini pine bark nuggets found at local home centers. They break down quickly and provide weed control and help to keep the moisture in the ground.
- 6. Once roses have broken dormancy and the threat of frost has passed, apply fertilizer. There are many great fertilizers on the market for roses; many of them produced the same results. I have had excellent results with organics. Alfalfa tea as well as manure teas will do wonders for your roses.
- 7. Encourage new cane growth by adding ½ to a cup of Epsom salts to the base of each plant and water in well.
- 8. Roses need at least one inch of water per week to produce quality blooms. Only water roses at the base of the plant. If it doesn't rain during the week, be sure to water your roses.
- 9. The best defense against pests and disease is prevention. Dormant spray, removal of diseased leaves and clean rose beds will work wonders to keep disease to a minimum. If disease does become a problem such as blackspot or powdery mildew, remove diseased leaves and spray a fungicide. Repeat every 3-5 days until it clears. As for pests, I use the pull and squish method. for Japanese beetles and remove aphids with a spray of the hose early in the morning. Pesticides also kill beneficial insects and I use it only as a last resort.
- 10. With all your spring rose chores complete, sit back and await beautiful blooms. When they arrive, be sure to share some with a friend. Everybody knows somebody that needs a rose!
About Chris VanCleave
Chris VanCleave - An avid rose gardener who currently serves as President of Birmingham Rose Society. Birmingham Alabama. He and his wife enjoy a garden of over 100 roses. He blogs his rose gardening adventures at Redneck Rosarian