Spring rose care will help get your roses off to a more enjoyable blooming season. Modern roses are the longest blooming of all shrubs. Many varieties start flowering in mid-late spring, with recurrent bloom cycles through late fall. Unless you are looking to grow absolutely perfect blossoms for competitive exhibition, roses actually require much less work than you may usually read about. Carefully chosen varieties of shrub roses will - with no summer spraying - yield a full season's bounty of blooms.

photo credit: jardins-sans-secret.com
Spring Rose Care - Timing
Spring rose care should be accomplished after winterkill (if any) has become apparent, but before the new leaves unfurl. There are several ways to figure this. I've found it is most successful to work on the roses just as the Forsythia starts to bloom, rather than slavishly following the calendar.

Spring Rose Care - Feeding
If you hilled-up your roses with mulch last fall, the first thing you need to do is to tear down the mulch mounds and spread it around the roses so that the total mulch depth never exceeds 1 ½ inches. If you have more, remove the top layer. The first spring rose care fertilization consists of four different products, a handful of each should be sprinkled around the plant in a circle, about 12-18 inches out from the stem: Espoma Rose-Tone®, Espoma Kelp Meal®, Espoma Epson Plus and Greensand (Five additional feedings, a month apart, consist of just one handful of Rose-Tone®--nothing else Never feed after September 1st; late feeding encourages late emergence of tender growth, which will be winterkilled). Use 1/3 to 1/2 as much of all products, at all times, on miniature roses.

photo credit: lsuagcenter.com
Spring Rose Care - Pruning
Pruning is usually considered to be the most time-consuming of all rose care tasks. Recently, a research study compared 2 beds of the same Floribunda roses. One bed was hand pruned by skilled rose growers. The other was pruned with a combination of a power hedge trimmer and a lawn mower raised up on huge wheels. Throughout the season, the two groups were compared for flower production. Guess which plot did the best. Hint: it wasn't the hand pruned plot. Carefully chosen roses are much tougher and more forgiving then most people realize.
At any rate, spring rose care pruning is not difficult if you keep the following points in mind:

  • You will need five good tools: sharp by-pass pruners, by-pass loppers, small pruning saw, elbow length (gauntlet) leather or rubber/plastic impregnated gloves, and safety goggles.
  • Over-pruning roses in spring tends to weaken the plant. Never prune away more than one-third of the live growth.
  • On all roses, remove diseased, dead and broken canes. A cane that has blackened from winterkill, or suffered physical damage, should be shortened to an inch below the offending section.
  • Where possible, cut on a 45 degree angle.
  • Once-blooming (as opposed to recurrent-blooming) roses require no further pruning in the spring. These are primarily antique roses and old-fashioned ramblers. Do whatever additional pruning necessary after blooming in early July.
  • Reduce hybrid tea roses to 4-5 vigorous canes not shorter than 30 inches. Grandifloras should be reduced to 5-6 canes not shorter than 36 inches. Reduce floribundas to 7 to 8 canes not shorter than 24 inches. In general, try to achieve a vase-shaped plant for most roses in these categories.
  • Especially on hybrid teas and grandifloras, cut 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud. Cut so the 45 degree angle allows water to drain away from, rather than into the bud.
  • Mini roses, shrub roses, rugosa roses and repeat blooming antique roses just need a haircut, trimming them to size.
  • Treat English roses and romantica roses as grandifloras.
  • Trim modern climbing roses and pillar roses to shape. Aged canes should be removed, as should those that grow away from the support or criss-cross awkwardly. Massive rejuvenation pruning is best postponed until early July and done, if at all, every 3 to 5 years.
  • To prevent cane borer, put a dab of Nubark(TM) Rose Stick on the cut wound of any cut branch greater than pencil thickness.
  • To discourage diseases and insects, rake up and discard all pruned material, including leaves, with the trash.
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    photo credit: dennis7dees.com
    Spring Rose Care - Spraying
    On roses that have been troubled by fungus diseases a spray of lime sulphur during spring rose care will kill the over-wintered spores of blackspot and mildew. Mixing the lime sulphur with horticultural oil will control a broader range of pests. To achieve full effectiveness from the oil, this spray must be applied on a day when it is not going to freeze the following night. Spray the roses to the dripping point and spray all the surrounding mulch. This spray must be applied when the roses are still dormant--before they start to leaf out. During the next few days, top dress with enough mulch so that total coverage is 2 to 2 ½ inches. As roses leaf out, occasionally they are troubled by green aphids on the tips. These are easily controlled with insecticidal soap.
    Alan Summers, president of Carroll Gardens, Inc., has over 30 years experience in gardening and landscape design. He has made Carroll Gardens one of America’s preeminent nurseries, having introduced more than 20 new perennials and woody shrubs over the years and reintroduced numerous “lost” cultivars back to American gardeners.

    Carroll Gardens publishes a weekly online newsletter written by Alan. It contains valuable gardening advice and tips and answers to customer questions.

    Every Saturday, Alan hosts a call-in gardening forum on WCBM radio - 680 AM. For those outside of the WCBM listening area, they can listen to radio show via the internet.

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