Growing Roses - Your Foolproof Guide to Rose Care and How to Grow Roses

Growing roses completes your cottage garden and our guide will show you how to grow them successfully. We will look at  planting them out, rose care, the different type, pruning and rose cuttings.

There are so many kinds from climbing and rambling varieties to highly fragrant tea roses, great hybrid perpetuals, free-blooming bedding-roses, and good foliage plants in shrubbery roses. And then of courses there are the old fashioned roses that are a must for any cottage garden.  Some of the best of these have been bred by David Austin.

Many people feel that there is a mystery to this well loved plant, and that they are difficult to grow. It is just the opposite! They aren't! But you do need to make sure that the roses that you choose to grow are the right type for your needs, get a lot of water, and the climate is not too hot and humid.

Growing Roses and Rose Care

To get the best results, roses should be placed in a bed by themselves, where they can be tilled and pruned and well taken care of, as other flower-garden plants are. The ordinary garden roses should rarely be grown in mixed borders of shrubbery unless of course you want to create a cottage garden. To get the best results for a glorious show; make beds of one variety and color rather than to mix them with several varieties and several colors.

If you want to grow roses in mixed shrubbery borders, then the single and informal types should be chosen. The best of all these is Rosa rugosa.

rosa rugosa rose hipGrowing roses like the Rosa rugosa not only gives you attractive flowers through the greater part of the season, but it also has very interesting foliage and a striking habit.

Even without the flowers, it has an attractive mass of foliage. The foliage is not attacked by insects or fungi, but remains green and glossy throughout the year.

The fruit, or rose hips are also very large and showy, and persist on bushes well through the winter.

Some of the wild roses are also excellent for mixing into foliage masses, but, as a rule, their foliage characteristics are rather weak, and they

are liable to be attacked by thrips.

Growing Roses - Different Classes and Types

There are many classes of roses and different classes, and when growing roses of different types and class, they require different treatment. Some of them, such as the teas and hybrid perpetuals bloom from new canes; while the rugosa, the Austrian, Harrison's yellow, sweet briers, and some others are bushes do not renew themselves each year from the crown or bases of the canes.

Outdoor roses may be divided into two groups so far as their blooming habit is involved:

(1) The continuous or intermittent bloomers, such as the hybrid perpetuals (blooming chiefly in June), bourbons, tea, rugosa, the teas and hybrid teas being the most continuous in bloom;

(2) and those that bloom once only in summer, as Austrian, Ayrshire, sweet briers, prairie, Cherokee, Banksian, Provence, most moss roses, damask, multi flora, polyantha, and memorial (Wichuraiana). "Perpetual" or recurrent-blooming races have been developed in the Ayrshire, moss, polyantha, and others.

Preparing the Soil for Your Roses

mixed rose bedGrowing roses cannot take place in any type of soil in order to get the best results.

The best soil for roses is a deep and rich clay loam, although any ordinary soil will do, provided it is well manured.  And a clay soil is good too, as long as it is well drained and allows excess water to move away from the root zone.

Cow manure is strong and lasting, and has no heating effect. It will cause no damage, even if not rotted. Horse manure, however, should be well rotted before mixing it with the soil.

The manure may be mixed in the soil at the rate of one part to four. You cannot add too much compost and manure to soil where you are growing the hybrid tea roses. You should also add a good handful or two of blood and bone to your compost manure mix. Spent mushroom compost is also good if added to the soil.

If you have very sandy soils then you will need to improve the soil by adding a lot of compost and manure and other organic matter to enrich the soil.

If you have soil that is naturally acid then add lime at the same time as you are adding compost and manure to your rose holes. Use about 2/3 cup per square meter on sandy soils and double this quantity on heavy soils. 

When preparing the rose holes they should be dug deep and then filled with the compost and cow manure at least 4-6 weeks before planting.

By the time you come to planting your roses out the soil should be in a good crumbly condition. To get it to this stage you need to dig the soil over again about 2 weeks before planting to break up any clods and to mix in the organic matter as it continues to break down.

Planting your Roses

In rose planting, care must be taken to avoid exposing the roots to the drying of sun and air. If dormant field-grown rose plants have been purchased, all broken and bruised roots will need to be cut off smoothly and squarely.

The tops also will need cutting back. The cut should always be made just above a bud, preferably on the outer side of the cane.

Strong-growing roses may be cut back one-fourth or one-half, according as they have good or bad roots.

Weaker-growing kinds, as most of the ever-blooming roses, should be cut back most severely. In both cases it is well to remove the weak growth first. Plants set out from pots will usually not need cutting back.

Where to Plant Roses

A full blown pink rose and 3 buds.

When growing roses, while roses grow well in a sunny position, a dry atmosphere and hot summers are sometimes trying on the flowers, as are severe wintry winds on the plants. While, therefore, it is never advisable to plant roses near large trees, or where they will be overshadowed by buildings or surrounding shrubbery, some shade during the heat of the day will be a benefit.

If you live in the tropics give your roses 6 hours of sunshine a day, and allow for some shade. This will also prevent your blooms from fading.

The best position for planting roses is on an eastern or northern slope, and where fences or other objects will break the force of strong winds, in those area where such winds prevail.

When growing roses don't expect them to last forever. Roses should be carefully taken up every four or five years, tops and roots cut in, and then reset, either in a new place or in the old, after enriching the soil with a fresh supply of manure, and deeply spading it over. In Holland, roses are allowed to stand about eight years. They are then taken out and their places filled with young plants.

Planting Different Types of Roses

Hardy roses, especially the strong field-grown plants, should be set in the early fall if practical. It is good to get them out just as soon as they have shed their foliage. If not then, they may be planted in the early spring.

Spring is the best season for growing roses. It is advisable to plant roses out as early as the ground is dry enough, and before the buds have started to grow. Dormant pot-plants may also be set out early, but they should be perfectly inactive. Setting them out early in this condition is preferable to waiting till they are in foliage and full bloom, as is so often required by buyers. Growing pot-plants may be planted any time in spring after danger of frost is past, or even during the summer, if they are watered and shaded for a few days.

Open-ground plants should be set about as deep as they stood previously, excepting budded or grafted plants, which should be set so that the union of the stock and graft will be 2 to 4 inches below the surface of the ground.

Plants from pots
may also be set an inch deeper than they stood in the pots. The soil should be in a friable condition. Roses should have the soil compact immediately about their roots; but we should distinguish between planting roses and setting fence posts. The drier the soil the more firmly it may be pressed.

As a general rule, it may be said that roses on their own roots will prove more satisfactory for the general run of planters than budded stock.

On own-rooted stock, the suckers or shoots from below the surface of the soil will be of the same kind, whereas with budded roses there is danger of the stock (usually Manetti or dog rose) starting to grow and, not being discovered, outgrowing the bud, taking possession, and finally killing out the weaker growth.

Still, if the plants are set deep enough to prevent adventitious buds of the stock from starting and the grower is alert, this difficulty is reduced to a minimum. There is no question but that finer roses may be grown than from plants on their own roots, withstanding the heat of the summer, if the grower takes the proper precautions.

Step-by-Step Rose Planting Instructions

  • Step 1. Unwrap the rose from the polythene bag, check the root system, then plunge the roots into a bucket of water for about 30 minutes. Add 10 ml seaweed solution to the water.
  • Step 2.  Dig a hole twice the width of the root system, but only the depth of the root ball. Add some compost and well rotted manure into the soil that you removed from the hole. Mix well to prevent the manure from burning the roots.
  • Step 3. Check the planting depth by standing the rose in the hole. Lay a stake across the top of the hole. The graft union should be just above the soil surface and level with the stake.
  • Step 4. Take the rose out of the hole, adjust the level of the soil if necessary and make a mound of earth in the base of the hole. Stand the rose on top of the mound. 
  • Step 5. Make sure that there are no air pockets around the roots.  The height of the mound should be adjusted so that the bud union (where the scion is budded onto the root stock) is slightly above or at soil level.
  • Step 6. Back-fill the hole carefully with the soil that was removed from the hole. Firm the soil around the roots as you go. Roses like compacted soil and don't do well in loose soil at all.
  • Step 7. Water the rose well, adding more soil afterwards if necessary. Scatter some slow-release rose food around the surface and cover with  a layer of organic mulch. Don't allow it to build up against the trunk as this will encourage disease.

Rose Feeding Program

For a good program for rose care, 2 weeks after you have planted your roses it is time to start feeding them. Start with a handful or two of blood and bone and dig in lightly. Follow this up again in winter after pruning.

You can also give your roses an additional feed in early summer.

A good feed for roses is:

10 cups of blood and bone to 1 cup sulphate of potash. 
Apply to your roses every 6 weeks in the summer. 
You will get bigger blooms, more colorful blooms and healthier plants.

If you wish, you can also foliar feed your roses in the summer by spraying the leaves with a liquid  fertilizer such as fish or seaweed every 2 weeks.

This is an excellent dry fertilizer recipe that I picked up. Remove the mulch around your roses in the spring and sprinkle and mix this into the top inch of your soil. Then replace the mulch. As you water, the fertilizer will trickle down to the roots and produce good, strong rose plants.

1 cup alfalfa meal
1 cup fish meal
1 cup greensand (glauconite)
1/2 cup bone meal
1 cup gypsum

This is enough for 1 large rose bush or two smaller ones.  Although greensand looks like sand, it can actually absorb 10 times more moisture than sand, which is great for locking moisture into the soil.

Roses are heavy feeders, and if you don't feed your roses on a regular basis, the blooms will not be as you had hoped.

Countryfarm Lifestyles Tip:

Old banana skins can do wonders for the quality of your roses if they are cut up and placed into the soil, just around the surface, around the roots. Make sure that you place the banana skins, with the inside of the peel facing down.

Banana skins are packed with phosphates, sodium, magnesium, silica, potassium, sulfur and calcium.

Burying meat fat around the roots will also give stunning blooms.

Roses and parsley are great companion plants as the parsley improves both the health of the rose plants and improves the scent of the blooms.

Growing Roses and Watering

You will be surprised with growing roses just how thirsty they get. Roses need frequent soakings around the root zone during dry weather but the foliage should not be sprayed as this could encourage black spot. Watering in hot weather should be a thorough watering at least 3 times a week, or every day in very hot weather.

Growing Roses - Rose Pruning

Rose Pruning is often seen by novice gardeners as something to be scared of. However, once you have a go, you soon find that it isn't such a mystery after all. You just have to make sure that you know the variety of rose that you are pruning, as not all roses are pruned in the same way.

Buy stepping back and looking at the rose itself, once you have identified it, you will then know what to do to retain its shape, how to treat the dead wood and the new canes that are emerging.

Pruning is so important for the health of your roses bushes as well as ensuring that it will grow for you for a long time.

We have written an additional page on rose pruning where we give you a breakdown on the main points of pruning for most rose species.

But, at the end of the day, roses are extremly hardy and forgiving. So if you don't get your pruning right one season, don't fret, as your roses will still grow for you the following year, and hopefully by then you won't make the same mistakes.

Growing Roses from Cuttings

Growing roses from cuttings is possible, but there are some varieties that do not produce a strong rooting system. There are 3 ways in which to take cuttings:

1) During autumn, hardwood cuttings can be taken just before they lose their leaves. Cuttings should be taken from strong shoots that are about 15 - 20 cm in length.

Remove all the lower buds with a knife leaving only 3-4 buds at the top.

Dig a narrow trench about 20 cm deep and place about 2 cm of coarse sand in the bottom.

Dip the bottom end into pure honey and then place the cuttings at a slant into the soil and cover up with the soil so that about 3-4 cm of the cutting appears above the soil.

Firm the soil in and water well.

By spring they should have formed a good root system and can then be planted out in the following autumn.

2) The other method of growing roses from cuttings is to take a soft-tip cutting. These are taken in spring.

Select a stem that is young and brittle and will easily snap of made to. Take these cuttings 7 cm in length with 3-4 buds. Trim the base with a sharp knife and remove all the lower leaves.  

Dip the end  of the cutting into pure honey and then place in a container of coarse sand, perlite or some other sterile growing medium. Water well and make sure that some of the sand is above the buds that were left on the cutting.

After 3-6 weeks new roots should have formed. Move to a new pot filled with a rich compost mix.  Plant and cover plant with a plastic bag to encourage humidity and growth.

Plant out the following spring.

3) Propagating roses using Potatoes

Now, this is not something that I have tried, but I was so fascintated in reading the article that I thought I would share it with you, as this is something I will definitely be trying. Not just for the novelty factor, but quite possible that the nutrients in the potato is exactly the right food that is needed by the rose cuttings.

Anyway, all you need are 8 inch rose cuttings, some pototoes, some potting mix and a plastic soda bottle to create a miniature greenhouse.

The details on growing rose cuttings in potatoes is here.

Growing Roses - Pest and Diseases

Roses will suffer from a number of diseases and pests at some stage of their life. So when growing roses, always be on the look out for signs. We have further details on roses diseases here.

Roses will get black spot from time to time, as well as from thrips, aphids, mealy bugs, and other rose-eating bests like the chafer beetle and the red spider mite. Control theses insects by either using predatory insects, such as lady bugs, or you can use natural pesticides and insecticides. White oil is also very good in getting rid of rose scale.

As you can see, growing roses is not that difficult as long as care and a set program for water, feeding and pruning take place.

Planting Hybrid Tea and Shrub Roses by Color

I know when I am planning a new garden, I like to plant according to a particular color scheme.  As a result, I thought I would give you a list of roses that you can find that are heirloom roses that can be planted according to color. Some of these are readily available in your local garden centers, while others are more difficult to source, and only available from specialist growers.

Red Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

Crimson GloryChateau de Clos VougeotWilliam OrrEna Harkness
PointsettiaBrasierLiebersglutCharles Gregory
Best RegardsCharles MallerinGrand Duchesse CharlotteDaily Mail Scented

Pink Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

OpheliaShot SilkMadam Abel ChatenayDame Edith Helen
Madame ButterflyLorraine LeeRod StillmanMrs. George Geary
La FranceElizabeth of YorkMrs. Bryce Allan

Yellow Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

Golden DawnPeaceMcGredy's YellowSpeck's Yellow
Diamond JubileeDividendFontanelleGolden Ophelia
Sir Henry SeagraveVille de ParisJulien PotinSallie Lewis

White and Cream Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

McGredy's IvoryWhite EnsignVirgoElizabeth Arden
Mrs. Herbert StevensPortadown IvoryBlanche MallerinMadam Jules Bouche
Mrs. R.H. DarlingtonSouvenir de LietteMrs David McKeeFrau Karl Druschki
Mrs. Foley Hobbs

Copper Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

TaffetaCaliforniaMrs. Sam McGredyM. Edouard Heriot
CubaSutter's GoldHeinrich GaedeLawrence of Arabia

Bi-Colors Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses

TalismanPresident Herbert HooverLamplighterTally Ho
Betty UprichardI. ZingariGeneral GallieniContessa de Sastago
Mrs. G. A. van Rossem

Best Climbing Roses

Summer Flowering Climbing Rose Varieties

Bennet's Seedling Blush RamblerCrimson RamblerDundee Rambler
ElectraFloraFelicite PerpetueHelene
Madame d' ArblayMadame PlantierTea RamblerThe Garland

Wichuraiana Climbing Rose Varieties

Alberic BarbierLady GayLady GodivaFranfois Foucard
Dorothy PerkinsLeontine GervaisGardeniaMinnehaha
HiawathaRene AndreJersey BeautyWhite Dorothy

Perpetual Flowering Climbing Rose Varieties

Ards RoverBelle VichysoiseClimbing Aimee VibertLongworth Rambler
Madame Alfred CarrierePaul's Single White

Best Tall Rose Varieties

AglaiaBrunonisCarmine PillarClaire Jacquier
Conrad F. MeyerCrimson RamblerEleanor BerkeleyElectra
Philadelphia Rambler Waltham Rambler

Perpetual Flowering Tall  Rose Varieties

Alister Stella Gray
Bouquet d'OrClimbing Caroline TestoutDuchess d'Auerstadt
Gloire de DijonMadame BerardMadame Jules GravereauxMadame Isaac Pereire
Noella NabonnandOphirieReine Olga de WurtembergReve d'Or

Best Dwarf Roses

Summer Flowering Dwarf Rose Varieties

Hebe's LipLady CurzonLeuchtsternMrs. O. G. Orpen
Rubin RubrifoliaTausendschon The Lion

Summer Flowering Dwarf Rose Varieties

Billiard et BaneLady WaterlowBoule de Neige Comtesse de Turenne
Gruss an TeplitzMadame Hector Leuilliot FellenbergTrier
Francois Crousse Zephirine DrouhinGloire des RosomanesMrs. W. J. Grant

See information on roses diseases here.

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Excellent rose care information Not rated yet
Excellent rose care information. Your information is very thorough, with lots of simply explained rationale, for each suggestion made... Thank you!

Thank you from a novice rose grower Not rated yet
I have always loved roses of every kind. I was never brave enough to try to start growing my own, until I came upon your site. With a little luck, a …

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