Blog 5 Things You Need To Know About Roses

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.

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Marjorie Munro commented on 03 Aug 15

I am going to help a friend prune her standard roses tomorrow and I heard Graham talking about Sandra's rose pruning tips on the Garden Clinic website. Thank you so much for the helpful hints as I only have bush roses in our garden and was not sure if standard was different. I had also asked at Tim's garden centre who were also helpful. I am now armed with new set of Fiskars secatures, lime sulphur and advise for my friend.

Joan Robinson commented on 01 Aug 15

Could you please tell me what all the flowers are in this picture. I would love to repeat it.

Thank you.

Suzanne Crematy commented on 26 Jul 15

I read that you should't put a new rose into the same area where you have just removed an old rose. Is this true. My rose bed only holds 5 roses and 2 of them are no longer the roses I planted but are actually the under stock having taken over. Whilst the roses are nice enough, I was considering removing them and planting new ones. Can you advise?

Anonymous commented on 17 Jul 15

Hi Miranda
Yes pretty much all the same advice for roses growing in pots although because they are in pots and not in the soil they could actually do with liquid feeding as well! Try Harvest, Powerfeed or Uplift in the watering can once a month from September - May. Thrilled to hear you love the show, call the Helpline 10am - 2pm - if you need anymore help - okay!

Anonymous commented on 17 Jul 15

Thank you for your terrific advice. I have a potted garden on my balcony with one beautiful rose ay it's centre.
Does your rose care apply to ones in pots?
Thank you. I am a new member but long time listener to sat and sun mornings. Loving it all!

The Garden Clinic team commented on 16 Jul 15

Thanks Judyth and Kerry for your comments.

It's nice to know, Judyth, that we have inspired you to get out and tend to those roses. And, Kerry, we'll be posting lots of practical information on pruning climbing roses in the Spring issue of the magazine, and on the website over October and November, when climbing roses are finishing their annual flowering.
Remember that those old fashioned climbing rose varieties and banksia roses flower on last season's growth, so leave the big prune until then. Pierre de Ronsatd is the same rose we have at the front of the Garden Clinic clubhouse, and whilst we have taken some dead wood out over Winter, the majority of the pruning will happen after flowering in October, or November.

Best regards,
The Garden Clinic team.

Kerry commented on 16 Jul 15

Can u do how to prune climbing roses I have a fence of about 12 Pierre de Ronsatd been in 4 yrs ?
Thanks Kerry

Judyth Kelly commented on 16 Jul 15

Dear Sandra, Linda and all at The Garden Clinic,
Thank you for this wonderful photo/text info on pruning roses. Missed out on Swanes gathering so this is most timely - going to prune my 3 roses today and hoping this time I will be successful in propagating at least 2 new ones for my daughter and niece. My grandmother gave my mother a magnificent red rose in 1941 to celebrate her moving into her new home at Narwee and I now have one at the front and one at the back, which flower prolifically. I have been promising myself to bring a flower over to you for naming and will do so soon.
Again, thank you all for your wonderful weekend programme.
Very best regards,
Judyth Kelly.

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