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Spring is coming, and that means it’s time to start thinking about your garden again. Whether you’re starting from scratch as a beginner or have years of experience growing flowers to beautify your landscape, roses have always been the Holy Grail of garden plants. Prized for their scent as well as their beauty, these flowers represent the pinnacle of success for many gardeners.
Roses can be prickly, though — in more ways than one. Sure, the thorns are likely to get you, but these queens of the garden can also be persnickety about their growing conditions, and they have a reputation for being difficult plants.
The rewards of growing beautiful roses make them worthwhile, and you too can be successful with these plants. Follow these tips to grow healthy roses in your garden this spring and summer:
1. Choose the Right Variety
In recent years, rose breeders have responded to the demand for roses that can grow in less-than-perfect conditions. Knock-Out roses come in many colors, bloom throughout the summer and are highly resistant to diseases like black spot that can take down other roses. Because they’re so easy to grow, they’re hugely popular — you should be able to find them at nearly any reputable nursery.
The only drawback to some of the modern wonders of breeding is that they don’t have much of a scent. If you literally want to take time to smell your roses, look to ancient varieties like Rosa mundi, apothecary roses and some classic varieties like “Pink Meidiland” or “Carefree Beauty" that have stood the test of time.
2. Choose the Right Location
Roses need full sunlight for about eight hours a day to produce strong canes and lots of blooms. They also need soil that drains well, so be sure to choose a spot that isn’t subject to standing water or puddling when it rains.
You also want to make sure that your roses are protected from the wind and have sufficient support if you choose a climbing variety. Install a strong trellis and start training the cane in the very first year to get the look you want — you’ll have a bloody battle against the thorny canes in the future if you don’t tie them to the trellis when they are young and pliable.
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3. Feed the Flowers
Roses require fertile soil to do well, so make sure that you dig a deep hole and backfill it with a 50/50 mixture of soil and rich, organic compost when you plant. This will give the roots plenty of room to spread in nice, loose soil. Apply a balanced fertilizer about once a month, starting when the roses begin to put out a set of new leaves each spring. Continue feeding until the last month before frost — stopping the food source will help your plant stay strong as temperature cool down.
When fertilizing roses, it's best to use natural, organic fertilizer. Commercial fertilizers can do serious environmental damage if left unprotected, so if you do choose to use one, keep everything sealed tightly and stored out of the way, where children and pets can’t reach it.
4. Watch Out for Disease
One of the biggest problems roses face is disease. Planting the right varieties for the climate will help, as will choosing a good location. Still, sometimes bad things happen to good roses despite your best efforts.
For the best chance of curing your roses of diseases like black spot or powdery mildew, you need to catch the problem early. Get in the habit of inspecting your roses at least once a week to check for signs of disease. At the first sign of trouble, treat your roses with a pest spray. Here are instructions to make your own organic spray.
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5. Keep Pests at Bay
Most animals stay away from roses thanks to the sharp thorns, but insects are another story. Japanese beetles, aphids and rose slugs can all wreak havoc on your plants, eating away the leaves and severely weakening the rose bush. You can spray for insects with an insecticidal soap or tea tree oil for an organic solution. Some commercial insecticides are harmful to honeybees, so if you're buying one, pay attention to the ingredients.
With a little research about the best roses for your area and a commitment to check on your roses often to catch problems before they spiral out of control, you can enjoy these beautiful flowers in your garden this summer. “Inspecting” your roses should be fun — all you have to do is walk past them and take a good look. Since you planted them to enjoy them, this should be the most pleasant garden task of all.
Megan Wild is a slowly but surely learning the ins and outs of creating a healthy flower garden. Her favorite type of flower is either a tulip or a daisy, so she plants as many of them as possible. Check out her tips and tricks for gardening on her blog, Your Wild Home.