Another Rose by Any Other Name

Part 2: A Few Tips on Raising Healthy Roses and Dealing with Diseases and Pests

By Janet Scheren, Fairfax Master Gardener Intern
Rose care is easier than you may think. If you can grow flowers, you can grow roses with a few caveats. Start with those that have good disease resistance and plant them in a sunny location with good drainage and air circulation. You’ll also need to water them deeply to encourage good root development and apply fertilizer three times a year. That’s pretty much it. Yes, there are some pest and diseases to watch out for, but with modest care, these issues can be kept at bay.

Shrub rose

Shrub Rose

Shrub roses are a great choice for novices and those who want less maintenance. These tough, hardy roses are generally more disease resistant than other varieties and are considered the easiest to grow. Common varieties include the knock-out, drift and carpet roses. Most English roses are considered shrub roses. Additionally, native/species roses are also highly disease resistant and hardy.

There are two ways to buy roses — potted/bagged or dormant bare root plants. While it’s still best to plant in the spring or fall, with the exception of extreme weather, potted roses can be planted almost any time of year and are easy to get established. Bare root roses are planted in early spring when daytime temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees and require extra care in planting. The advantage of bare root roses is that you can order a wider variety of roses than you can find at local garden centers, and it’s less expensive to ship bare roots than potted plants.

Planting and Maintenance

Pick a well-draining site without root competition from shrubs or trees that has at least six hours of sun, preferably morning sun. This helps to dry any morning dew that can contribute to fungal disease. Prepare your bed in advance. Roses thrive in light soil amended with good organic material, such as compost, leaf mold, peat moss or aged manure. Perlite can be added to increase drainage in heavy soils. Roses grow best with a soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0. If you haven’t had your soil tested within the past three years, tests are available from your local extension office as well as many garden centers. Additional amendments may be needed if the pH falls outside this range. These will be indicated on your test results.

The planting hole should be twice as large as the root ball and deep enough for the crown to sit at soil level. Water the new bush in to help eliminate any air bubbles created when you b