Apr 12, 2011

Spring Rose Care

It's time to start caring for your roses this season. Getting them off to a healthy start includes removing the protective mulch that you placed around them last fall, pruning them and starting this year's fertilizer program.

I like to remove the mulch in two stages since the weather is still unpredictable. First, remove about half of the mulch, wait about two weeks and then remove the rest down to the two inches you will leave for summer. Clearing the mulch should expose the base of the stems at ground level to a width of about 3 inches beyond the stems all the way around. This will allow warming and sunlight at the crown so that new stems can develop for this year's growth.

When you prune, you'll be doing two things: setting the shape for this year's growth and effective disease control. Removal of some old stems from the center opens the plant to better airflow. Cut to just above buds that face the direction of preferred growth (usually to the outside.) This allows for better airflow and more rapid drying of the foliage for the rest of the growing season and helps to prevent or at least reduce fungal growth.

You should cut the plant to three to six of the largest, healthiest, best-space stems. If you want mostly color in the bed, you can trim stems back to six to ten inches in length and enjoy a shorter, bushier plant this summer. It you want to leave the plant taller for a background effect, and winter has been kind, you can just trim any dead stem tips so that new growth will start all along the old stems. This can give you some lovely flowering shrubs with much height and color for the summer. I have found this particularly effective with some of the old stand-by rose varieties such as Carefree Beauty, Betty Prior and The Fairy.

No matter what length of stem you prefer to leave, trim the roses to an outside bud - one that is forming out away from the center of the plant and will lead new growth in that direction. Trim approximately one-eight to one-fourth inch above the bud and at an angle with the bud, so as not to injure it. After pruning, be sure to dispose of all trimmed sections as well as undertaking a thorough leaf clean-up from last year's remnants to avoid any disease carry-over. A small dab of Elmer's wood glue on the cut end can help stop cane borrers from causing trouble.

As a last but important step, be certain to fertilize your roses. Use a rose fertilizer, available in both granular and water-soluble forms as well as in combination with certain pesticides. Check with your local garden center for suggested types. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on the package, and fertilize at the suggested rate and timing schedule.

It's best to wait until you are certain that spring is here before starting heavy fertilization. Otherwise, you push your plants into early growth, only to have them chilled by late freezes. (Nipped in the bud!)

Now, sit back and enjoy the blooms that are certain to burst forth in late May to early June.

1 comment:

Faeryfay said...

I hope you have many gorgeous blooms!