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Rose tips and tricks

Tips and tricks all in one place for you to best care for your roses.


One of the best tips that was passed on to me is to fertilize your roses four times a year on Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. The timing of these dates works out perfectly to space out your fertilizing schedule and help you remember when to fertilize.

We use alfalfa pellets soaked in water to make an alfalfa slurry. We generously water the bases of the roses with the alfalfa water and put alfalfa around the base of the roses to continue feeding the soil and to act as a mulch around the rose. You can also lightly mix the alfalfa into the soil around the rose. Other natural fertilizers that can be sprinkled or tilled into the soil around the base of the rose are egg shells for calcium and Epsom salts for phosphorus.


Protecting your roses during the winter is really important. If you have planted a grafted rose, protecting the graft is important so that the flowering part of the rose does not die. If that dies, you will be left with the root stock but not the kind of rose you bought. The root stock will take over and probably produce a red rose.

Prepare your roses for winter by cleaning them up, pruning off any dead or diseased foliage or flowers, and removing any fallen leaves or branches from ground around them. Do not prune extensively in the fall.

The best way to protect the rose is with layers. First, bind up the canes of the rose with twine. Then wrap the rose bush in burlap. Finally, mound the soil around the base of the rose with mulch or soil from a different site. Tying the canes together helps protect the plant from harsh winds. The burlap will protect the canes from cold temperatures. The mound protects the graft and base of the canes. Unwrap and unmound your roses as winter winds down and freezing weather subsides. They should be unwrapped and unmounded before they start growing new leaves.

How much protection your roses need will be based on what zone you are in. In zone 7A, I am able to mound mulch around the base of my roses and remove the mulch in the early spring. Again, make sure to de-winterize before new growth as there is a possibility that the rootstock can begin to produce canes if the mulch or soil remains at the base of the rose.


One of the best things that you can do to prevent pest infestations is interplant your roses with plants that will attract beneficial insects. Please be aware that even organic substances can harm bees and other pollinators. Never use pesticides.

If you have aphids on your roses, you can wait for your beneficial insects to step in and feast on them; or you can blast the bush with a high-powered stream of water from your hose. You can also squish them by hand, though that takes longer.

Japanese beetles have to be picked off one-by-one. Take a jar of soapy water out to your roses and drop each beetle into the jar. You can also pick them off, crush them between your fingers, and drop them into a bucket.

According to Rose Notes, spider mites hate water. If you spray down your bush (from above and below) and the ground around it two days in a row, it will help manage a spider mite infestation.

I use Sluggo Plus to keep slugs and earwigs at bay.


Back to that grafted rose...When the rootstock puts out canes that bloom a different color than the flowering rose, those are suckers. If you cut a sucker, it will only grow back stronger. You must tear the sucker out of the rose at the point where the sucker emanates from the rose. This means that you will most likely need to dig down into the soil to find where the cane starts. Tear it away from the plant. Do not cut it.


When you train a rose cane to grow horizontally, the result is more blooms. To peg a cane means to tie or intertwine that cane back to the base of the plant or the cane of another plant. It bends the cane, which causes the rose to produce blooms along the bend of the cane. You can also interwine the cane with another that is already bent.

Cutting roses for the best vase life

If you want to maximize your blooms, follow these steps. They work with most any flower you are harvesting.

Use a clean bucket, vase and snips.

Water your rose well the night before you plan to cut.

Cut the flowers early in the morning before the hottest time of day.

Cut the bloom at the right stage. With most roses this is as it is beginning to unfurl.

When you cut the bloom, re-cut the stem at a 45 degree angle, remove the lower foliage, and place the stem immediately into lukewarm water. No foliage should be in the water.

Bring the blooms inside, re-cut the stem, and let the stems sit in cool water in a dark space for at least an hour.

Use a floral preservative in your vase.

Change the water daily.

Only remove thorns that fall below the water line.

Other tips

Water the base of the rose, not the foliage.

Mulch around the base of the rose to maintain moisture in the soil.

During the summer, deadhead your spent rose blooms down to the first set of healthy leaves. Stop deadheading in the fall when the weather begins to turn cold so that your rose will go dormant and set seed in the form of rose hips.

Other posts in this series:

Propagating Roses from Cuttings


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