As a new year begins, many of us have made dramatic promises and decisions. If you grow roses, you make the promise to keep your roses growing well.
Here are the steps to take in January to promote healthy growth and minimize disease in your rose garden this year. And remember, what you do for your roses will benefit you when they bloom.
Pruning revitalizes our roses: it stimulates the growth of more flowers and opens the plant to light and air circulation to minimize disease. Pruning our roses is not difficult and is fun if you know how. Follow these five simple steps:
Use the right tools: you’ll need sharp bypass shears, gloved hands, sharp, long-handled pruning shears, and a pruning saw.
Inspect the rose from the union of the buds upwards: You will keep the healthy shoots and cut off the old, damaged, and stunted shoots. Cut off unproductive stems at the base of the bush to encourage the rose and make room for new productive stems (basal breaks) to grow from the bud union.
Don’t prune too hard: in San Diego, we typically prune about one-third the height of tea hybrids and one-quarter the height of floribundas, polyanthas, shrubs, miniatures, and mini floras. For climbers, we cut off the unproductive and damaged main shoots. The remaining stems are brought to a horizontal position, which favors lateral growth. The flowers of the climbers grow on these lateral shoots.
Cutover an outward-facing bud eye: you will notice a small reddish bump or swelling where a leaf is or was attached to a stick. This is called a bud eye. When pruning, cut ¼ inch above an outward-facing bud eye. This encourages the rose bush to grow outward, which keeps the center of the rose bush open to air and light.
Thin out and remove any remaining leaves on the bush so the rose bush can start the year with fresh foliage.
Welcome new roses to their new home by planting them correctly. This will give them a good start and the best chance of growing vigorously and flowering profusely all year round. Follow these five simple steps:
Location, location, location: Don’t plant roses under trees or too close to them. Make sure you know how tall your rose will be when it matures, and create space accordingly.
Preparing the rose hole: Dig a hole about 12-18 inches deep and about 2 feet wide. The soil must be well-drained. If the soil is poorly drained, consider growing in raised beds or containers.
If you are planting a new rose in a hole from which you removed another rose, make sure all the old roots have been removed and replace about half to two-thirds of the soil with a rose planting mix from the nursery.
Preparing your rose bush: Most roses you receive in the mail arrive bare-rooted. Unwrap the rose from sawdust or newspaper. Examine and cut only broken roots. Cut off only damaged or very spindly stems. Water the entire bare-root rose (stems and roots) in a bucket of water for at least 24 hours.
Some nurseries pot their roses for sale. If new leaves have already grown on the stems, leave the plant in the container until it forms a solid root ball. I like to buy my bare-root roses as soon as they are available at the nursery so I can take them home to soak before planting them in the ground.
Plant the rose: Replenish the soil you dug into the hole by mixing in purchased or well-decomposed homemade compost. In San Diego, we plant the rose so that the bud union is above ground level. Form a mound in the center of the planting hole and place the rose bush on top of the mound so that the bud union is a few inches above the ground. Fill the amended soil back into the planting hole and compact it lightly with your hands. Make a depression around the planting hole and water well to saturate the plant. Make sure the soil or mulch you will apply in February does not cover the bud union or canes.
Care after planting: Sometimes Mother Nature gives us water in January. If it doesn’t rain, make sure your newly planted rose is well watered.
Clear the garden of all weeds, branches and all leaves and flowering foliage to rid the garden of last year’s fungal diseases and overwintering pests. A clean base is always a good start to the new year.
Your January tasks are now complete. February’s tasks will include adding soil amendments and mulching the garden.