Rose Garden Advice

A resource for the rose enthusiast

  • Home
  • /
  • Rose Care & Maintenance

How to Care for Roses

By exploring how to care for roses, you are nurturing nature's timeless masterpiece, tending to these exquisite blooms that have an innate ability to captivate our hearts and grace our gardens.

Few blooms command the same level of admiration and affection as the rose. These iconic flowers have been cherished for centuries, gracing gardens, celebrations, and expressions of love with their timeless beauty and enchanting fragrance. Cultivating roses isn't merely a pastime; it's an art form- and not one you should fear!

Pink garden rose on bush

You've come to the perfect place if you're a beginner gardener eager to care for your first rosebush or an experienced grower trying to improve your methods.

We're about to go out on a quest that will debunk the difficulties of caring for roses and guide you in uncovering the keys to thriving, vivid roses in your garden.

What’s the Best Watering Technique for Roses?

Roses have their water preferences. Let's break it down by the type of rose:

Understanding the Water Needs of Different Rose Varieties

  • Hybrid Tea Roses: High maintenance, no doubt about it. They need regular, consistent watering, especially during hot spells.
  • Floribunda Roses: These are more forgiving, but don't neglect them. Regular watering is still essential.
  • Shrub Roses: They are the 'go with the flow' types. They prefer steady moisture but can handle some variability.
  • Climbing Roses: Their roots prefer drier conditions, but their flowers need moisture. Find a balance.
  • Old Garden Roses: The wise elders of the bunch. They can tolerate some dryness but appreciate a drink every so often.

Signs and Symptoms of Overwatering

Overzealous watering can be as harmful as drought for your roses. To avoid over-watering, watch out for these tell-tale signs:

  • Wilting leaves: Paradoxically, too much water can cause leaves to droop. It might be a sign of overwatering if they look limp and overly green.
  • Yellowing or browning leaves: When you see leaves turning yellow or brown, especially if they feel soggy to the touch, it's time to re-evaluate your watering routine.
  • Mold and mildew: Excess moisture creates a perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other fungal issues. Keep an eye out for these unsightly invaders.
  • Waterlogged soil: Dig down a few inches. If the soil feels consistently wet and doesn't drain well, you may be overwatering your roses.
  • Root rot: This is a severe consequence of overwatering. If your roses show signs of weak, blackened, or mushy roots, you've been too generous with the watering can.

Signs and Symptoms of Under-watering

Under-watering can be just as detrimental. Look for these indicators to know when your roses are thirsty:

  • Crispy leaves: When leaves become dry and crispy at the edges, your roses signal distress.
  • Shrinking and withering: The entire plant may look wilting, with leaves and stems shrunken or withered.
  • Parched soil: If the soil is bone-dry an inch below the surface, your roses crave a drink.
  • Lack of blooms: Roses struggling to get enough water may produce fewer, smaller, or fewer vibrant blooms.

The Importance of Deep Watering

Deep watering encourages your rose roots to grow deep, making them more resilient. Shallow watering keeps roots near the surface, making them vulnerable.

Red rose in full bloom on bush

When you water, do it at the base of your roses and give them a good soak. Let that water penetrate deep into the soil to promote healthy root growth. Deep watering ensures your roses can handle whatever life (and the weather) throws at them.

When watering, try to keep the leaves dry. 

Wet foliage can lead to fungal diseases, so use a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system at the base of the plants.

Water your roses in the morning. This allows excess moisture to evaporate during the day and reduces the risk of night-time fungal issues.

What Fertilizer Should I Use?

Look for a balanced NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) ratio, like 10-10-10 or 14-14-14. This provides essential nutrients for growth, root development, and blooming.

Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady, long-lasting supply of nutrients, reducing the risk of over-fertilizing. Quick-release fertilizers are fast-acting and best for specific needs.

You can opt for Organic fertilizers derived from natural sources and improve soil health over time. Synthetic fertilizers deliver nutrients quickly but may require more frequent applications.

How and When to Fertilize Roses

  • Early Spring: As your roses wake up from their winter slumber, provide a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to kickstart their growth.
  • Late Spring: Apply another round of fertilizer when your roses are in full bloom. Use a quick-release fertilizer to boost flowering.
  • Late Summer/Fall: Give your roses a final feeding before they enter dormancy. This helps them build strength for winter.

Application Tips

  • Water your roses thoroughly before and after fertilizing to prevent root burn.
  • Spread the fertilizer evenly around the base of the plant, avoiding direct contact with the stems.
  • Follow manufacturer recommendations for the proper dosage and application method.

What Soil and Mulch is Required?

Healthy soil is the cornerstone of a flourishing rose garden. Here's how to get it right:

  • Soil testing: Conduct a soil test to determine your soil's pH and nutrient levels. This guides you in choosing the suitable amendments and fertilizers.
  • pH Adjustment: Roses prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH level around 6.0 to 6.5. Adjust pH with lime (to raise pH) or sulfur (to lower pH) as needed.
  • Organic Matter: Incorporate compost, well-rotted manure, or organic materials to improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability.


Apply a 2–4-inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, to the base of your roses. Inorganic mulches like landscape fabric or pebbles can also work. Mulch helps moisten the soil, regulate temperature, and reduce weed growth.

Pink variegated rose in garden setting

How to Prune a Rose Bush

Pruning rose bushes is an essential part of rose care, and it helps maintain the health and appearance of your roses.

Tools you'll need before you get started:

  • Pruning shears (bypass pruners)
  • Long-handled loppers (for thicker canes)
  • Leather gloves
  • Safety glasses (for eye protection)
  • Disinfectant (rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide)

Pruning is typically done in the last weeks of winter or the start of spring before new growth begins. This varies depending on your local climate. You want to prune before the buds break dormancy but after the risk of frosty winter weather has passed.

Firstly, wear protective gloves and eye protection to prevent thorns and debris from harming you.

Before you begin, disinfect your pruning shears and loppers with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to prevent the spread of diseases between plants.

Start by identifying and removing any dead, damaged, or infected canes. Cut these back to where the cane's tissue is healthy, usually a few inches below the damage.

Next, eliminate any weak, spindly, or thin canes. These canes are less likely to produce robust blooms.

To shape your rose bush, determine the overall structure you want to achieve. Common pruning styles include:

  • Open vase shape: Remove canes growing towards the bush's center, leaving the outer canes to create an open, vase-like shape.
  • Bushy shape: Trim canes evenly to maintain a compact, rounded appearance.

Adjust the height and size of your rose bush to your preference, making sure not to cut it too low or too drastically. Generally, aim to leave about 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) of the main canes.

Red roses on the bush in garden bed close to the house

Make each cut at a 45-degree angle above an outward-facing bud eye. This encourages the new growth to grow outward, preventing a dense, tangled center. Cut at a point where the cane is approximately ¼ inch above the bud eye.

Remove canes that grow towards the bush's center, which can cause congestion and hinder air circulation.

After pruning, gather and dispose of all the removed canes, leaves, and debris.

Finally, apply a balanced rose fertilizer around the base of the plant and add a fresh layer of mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Water your rose bush thoroughly to encourage new growth.

For further details about pruning, see Rose Pruning Basics - 7 Essential Steps

What’s Required When Caring for Roses in Winter?

In the last weeks of fall, after the first frost date but before the ground freezes, prune your roses to remove dead or weak canes.

Apply a generous layer of mulch around the base of your roses to protect the roots from extreme cold. For added protection, wrap the canes with burlap or special rose cones.

If you have grafted roses, ensure the graft union is well-protected from frost. This is a vulnerable spot that needs extra care when winterizing roses.

Can Pests and Diseases Occur?

Protecting your roses from pests and diseases is paramount for a thriving rose garden. In this section, we'll delve into the common pests and signs of diseases that might threaten your roses and explore organic methods for pest control.

Common Rose Pests:

  • Aphids: These tiny, soft-bodied insects love to feast on rosebuds and new growth. They're usually green or yellow.
  • Japanese Beetles: With their metallic green bodies, these beetles devour rose leaves, leaving behind skeletonized foliage.
  • Thrips: Thrips are slender insects that cause silvery streaks on rose petals, making them look unsightly.
  • Spider Mites: These minuscule arachnids suck the sap from rose leaves, leaving a tell-tale stippling pattern.
  • Rose Chafers: Rose chafers are greenish-yellow beetles that feed on rose foliage, often skeletonizing the leaves.
  • Rose Slugs: Despite their name, rose slugs are the larvae of sawflies. They eat holes in rose leaves, giving them a tattered appearance.

Signs of Diseases

Diseases can tarnish the beauty of your roses. Watch for these common signs of rose diseases:

  • Black Spots: Black or brown spots on rose leaves often indicate black spot disease, a fungal infection.
  • Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew appears as a white, powdery substance on leaves, stems, and buds.
  • Rust: Rust diseases result in orange or rust-colored pustules on the undersides of leaves.
  • Botrytis Blight: This fungal disease causes brown, mushy flower petals and can lead to stem dieback.
  • Canker: Cankers are sunken, discolored areas on stems that can girdle and kill parts of the plant.

Organic Pest Control

Maintaining the balance in your rose garden while protecting your roses from pests and diseases can be achieved through organic pest control methods:

  • Companion plants: Introduce companion plants like marigolds, lavender, and garlic to repel pests.
  • Pruning and hygiene: Regularly prune and remove dead or diseased plant material to minimize hiding spots for pests.
  • Beneficial insects: Encourage the presence of beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which are natural predators of pests.
  • Neem oil: Neem oil, a natural plant-based oil, can deter pests and combat fungal diseases.
  • Homemade sprays: Mixtures like soapy water, garlic, and pepper spray can be effective against pests.

FAQ about Caring for Roses

Do you cut off the dead roses?

Yes, you should cut off dead or spent roses in a process called "deadheading." Deadheading is essential for redirecting the plant's energy into producing new blooms, ensuring a more extended flowering season. Dead or decaying flowers can become breeding grounds for diseases and pests. Removing them helps maintain the plant's health. Deadheading keeps your rose bush looking neat and attractive, eliminating the unsightly appearance of withered flowers.

Is Seasol good for roses?

Gardeners frequently use Seasol, a fertilizer made from seaweed. Due to its high nutrient content and capacity to foster root growth and general plant health, it can be advantageous for roses. Increased disease resistance, better flowering, and higher stress tolerance are some advantages of using Seasol on roses.

How do you take care of roses after they bloom?

After roses bloom, deadhead the spent flowers, prune the plant in late winter or early spring, and fertilize regularly to encourage new growth and future blooms. Removing dead flowers and shaping the plant will keep it healthy and beautiful.

Blooms of Dedication: Cultivating a Rose Garden with Care

It's clear that tending to these magnificent blooms is much more than a pastime; it's a labor of love, an art form, and a connection to the beauty of nature. We've explored the intricacies of how to take care of roses, from pruning to fertilizing, mulching, and everything in between.

Caring for roses is a fulfilling endeavor that rewards patience, dedication, and a bit of green-thumbed finesse. It's about understanding the unique personalities of your rose varieties, listening to their subtle cues, and tailoring your care to their individual needs.

Your rose garden is more than just a collection of plants; it's a testament to your dedication, a sanctuary of natural beauty, and a living work of art that you tend with your hands.

Beautiful red-pink rose on bush

Verified by MonsterInsights