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5 Things You Need To Know About Roses

It’s time to get those unruly roses under control. Spring is all about emerging rose buds. With some prior planning you can give your roses the best shot at a spectacular flowering season.

Sandra Ross shares the 5 things you need to know to make them happy, healthy, fragrant and fabulous.


Stunning rose display. Photo - Luisa Brimble 

1. Planting

Roses can be purchased in two ways: in pots that can be planted out year-round; and during the cooler months you’ll find them a little cheaper, bagged and bare-rooted. The bagged rose is dormant - sleeping, there is a few sticks poking out, the soil is removed and the bare rose roots are packaged in sphagnum moss. It's nice to know roses can stay in this bagged state for a few weeks!

To plant a bare-rooted rose, soak the root zone in bucket of half strength seaweed while you dig a broad hole (somewhere with plenty of sun). Mix garden soil with soil conditioner, such as compost or cow manure. Sprinkle fertiliser over the base of the hole and make a small mound in the hole, with improved soil. Spread the roots of your rose over the mound. The most important part of the process is this >>>> you MUST backfill with a wet slurry of garden soil and cow manure. This fills up all the air pockets between the roots so no root can dry out. If you don’t, the rose may die.

Leave a saucer depression of soil around the stem. Water with seaweed solution, until air bubbles stop rising. Water carefully for six weeks, until your rose is established. We find roses are so tough they only need extra watering for 6-12 months, after establishing they are pretty happy with the rain that falls unless we have a completely dry stretch.


How to plant bare-rooted roses. Photo - Linda Ross

2. Pruning

Firstly you’ll need a sturdy pair of elbow length gloves to protect your arms, thorns can cause all sorts of painful infections. Long shirt helps too. The most effective way to prune bush roses is to cut most of the bare branches back so you can get a good look at the lower branching framework. At our recent Rose Pruning Demonstration at Swanes Nursery, Dural, we watched in awe (horror) when Finbarr O’Leary ‘destroyed’ a rose by pruning it back so hard. He says we all molly coddle our roses, never prune hard enough and don’t realise the growing strength that comes directly out of the growing union. He pruned a 1.5m bush rose to three little 20cm stubs in front of our eyes and we all went home to do the same to our garden roses. Same can be done with standard roses. I know all the guff on rose pruning says ‘outward facing buds’, ‘vase shape’ and ‘bevelled cuts’ but nothing is as important as knowing where the bud unions is and cutting back 10-20 above this.


Prune hard. Don't be shy. Photo - Linda Ross

3. Spraying

Prevention is better than a cure! When it comes to roses this is the golden rule. Once insects and diseases are established, they can be difficult to control so one of your best tools is a good sprayer and a raft of Eco-garden products. Try combining 5mL Eco-oil with 4gm Eco-rose in 1Litre water to save spraying time - creating a 2-in-1 organic insecticide and fungicide. This is particularly useful to control common pest and diseases in one spray rather than separate sprays. Choose a battery operated hand sprayer if you can’t handle the pump action ones. Depending on how many roses you have this is a life changing purchase! Truly making spraying a pleasure.

Once pruned, your rose stumps need disinfecting with a spray of Lime Sulphur. This will sort out any rose scale and mealy bug lurking in the bark crevices - so we can start the spring season bug free. Don’t worry if there are little green shoots already, if the lime sulphur burns them a bit, they will regrow.


4. Feeding

Think of growing roses as a 6-8 week cycle…. prune – feed – grow – pick! Prune – feed – grow – pick! Repeat. The more you pick the more you get. After years of trials, I’ve found pelletised fertilisers offer the best results. These include Sudden Impact for Roses, Organic Life and Dynamic Lifter for Roses. The pellets contain a mixture of poultry manure, fish meal, seaweed, blood and bone. They need moisture to decompose and release their nutrients, so feed after rain.


Beautiful roses. Photo - Jorge Salcedo

5. The best roses


‘Safrano’ is a lovely old Tea rose


Marechal Niel needs a 2.5m pillar support


Free flowering Tea rose, Monsieur Tillier.


‘Angel Face’ is delightfully fragrant.


‘Crepescule’ grows best along wires on a paling fence


‘Pierre de Ronsard’ is a ‘chocolate box’ rose best grown up pillars for support.

If you would like some practical pointers to help tame your roses have a look at Sandra's rose care video.