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Tips on Growing Roses for the 'Newbie'
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Tips on Growing Roses for the 'Newbie'
by LeAnn R. Ralph
2004 LeAnn R. Ralph

I certainly cannot claim to be an expert on roses -- and I cannot claim to have a green thumb -- but I've got a couple of rose bushes that have been growing in my yard for quite a few years. And here's what I have learned about roses and how I take care of mine:

1. I have discovered that the inexpensive rose bushes you can buy at Wal-Mart or K-Mart or other discount stores (for $2.59 or $3.59 each) do just as well if not better than the more expensive roses you can buy at a greenhouse. I've had one particular rose bush for nine years now. It was a "Wal-mart special," and each year, it grows bigger and taller and has more blooms. It starts getting flowers in the middle of the summer, and then it blooms again in September.

2. Other types of roses, depending upon where you live, will do quite well also. I have a couple of rosa rugosa (the "old-fashioned" ones with the single row of petals in the flowers). These are growing in what is essentially sand, and every year they spread out more and get more vermillion-colored blooms.

3. I have also transplanted wild rose bushes that I found growing in the ditches around my house. Wild rose bushes require virtually no care at all. A couple of them have been growing in my flower beds for almost 30 years. One of the things I like about the wild rose bushes and the rosa rugosa is that they spread out on their own. I have transplanted wild rose bushes early in the spring and also during the summer. They don't seem to care when they are transplanted. As is true of transplanting any plant, be sure to water regularly after you have moved the plant to your yard.

4. Rose bushes of any kind are voracious feeders. They absolutely love fertilizer. I have a horse, so I put "horse manure tea" on my rose bushes (1/3 of a five-gallon pail of fresh manure; fill with water and dump around the base of the plants). I fertilize my rose bushes three times during the season--in the spring, in early summer and in mid-summer. Commercial rose bush fertilizers also are available. Follow the directions on the label. The wild rose bushes and rosa rugosa don't necessarily need fertilizer, but they love it when they get it.

5. Roses want plenty of sun, 6 or 8 hours a day. The rosa rugosa will tolerate a certain amount of shade. The wild rose bushes will tolerate more shade than either of the other two.

6. Roses need plenty of water, especially in drought conditions. The rosa rugosa and wild roses will tolerate a certain amount of drought, but as is true of all plants, they do better when they get enough water. If it doesn't rain, be sure to water your rose bushes several times a week.

7. Roses do not want to be crowded by other roses or by other plants. One of my rose bushes wasn't doing as well one year. It shares a flower bed with a variety of irises (the rose bush is on the end). The irises had grown and spread so much that they were crowding the rose bush and growing all around it. I dug out the irises right next to the rose bush (and planted them elsewhere), and once it wasn't crowded, it started doing much better. The next year, it was back to its former glory. My wild rose bushes, and the rosa rugosa to some extent, don't care if they are crowded.

8. If you live where it gets very cold in the winter, as it does here in Wisconsin (sometimes 35 degrees below zero with windchills around 40 to 60 degrees below zero), be sure to cover your rose bushes in the fall. I trim my rose bushes back so there's only about a third of the plant left. Then I use hay to cover the bushes (about a half a bale of hay each). You can also buy those rose cones to cover your rose bushes. One of my roses that is doing the best is by the basement wall where it is somewhat protected from the weather. I do not cover the rosa rugosa or the wild rose bushes. They do fine without being covered. I also do not trim the rosa rugosa or the wild rose bushes.

9. In the spring when there is no longer any danger of below zero air temperatures (or windchills), I uncover my roses. Then I keep my fingers crossed that they made it through another winter. One year, my absolutely favorite rose (it had yellow/pink/cream colored flowers), winter killed. I was certain I had done something wrong and hadn't covered it well enough, but then the host of a local garden show on television said that many people in the area had lost different types of plants over the winter because we'd had a particularly harsh winter. So, sometimes in spite of your best efforts, you're going to lose a rose bush.

10. Miniature roses are another alternative. I have one miniature rose bush that I bought four years ago. I planted it in a large clay pot. When all danger of frost is past in the spring, I set the pot out in the backyard where it will get plenty of sun. I water it regularly and fertilize it several times during the summer. The miniature rose bush blooms profusely and is covered with tiny pink blossoms that are positively adorable.

In the fall, before the first frost, I move the pot into our walkout basement and set it by the south window. The reason I don't bring it upstairs is because my kitty cats would more than likely chew it to pieces. They love to chew on plants. If you don't have cats, or if your cats don't chew on plants, you could, of course, set the rose bush by a window in your living room or another room where there is plenty of light (a southern exposure in the winter would probably work best).

LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of these books:
* (e-book) (2004)
* : True (Spring and Summer) Stories from a Wisconsin Farm
* (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) (2003)
* (2004)
* (2005)
* : Tried and True Recipes from Wisconsin Farm Country
" A heartwarming anthology of true anecdotes of rural life on a Wisconsin dairy farm." -- James Cox, Editor-in-Chief/Midwest Book Review

(715) 962-3368

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