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Anyone Can Grow Roses

Roses suffer from a bad reputation as "fussy" and "difficult to grow". This is because many people buy a $4.99 Hybrid Tea from the local garden center, dig a hole just big enough to stick in in the ground, and pretty much ignore it after that. Just a little extra effort will allow just about anyone to enjoy Roses in their yard or on their balcony or rooftop.

If you just want some color in a corner of your yard, there are many new "Landscape" rose varieties that are winter-hardy, bloom from spring until frost, and are very disease resistant. Meilland in France has a whole series of sturdy shrubs in their "Meidiland" series, (distributed by C-P/ Star Roses in the USA), for example, Cherry Meidiland and Mystic Meidiland. I'm also seeing more and more of the "pink pot" FlowerCarpet™ landscape roses appearing around offices and shopping centers, which generally get little to no care.

Unfortunately, all of the landscape roses I've seen have little to no fragrance. If you want a rose that smells great, you can choose from many Old Garden Rose (OGR) varieties. Some of these bloom more than once a summer, most have a wonderful fragrance, and many are hardy and naturally disease resistant.

Of course, if you're really particular, and want a rose that smells great and looks like it came from the florist, you'll have to spend at least some time and money caring for it.

Common Rose Terms:

  • Canes - the large 'trunk' stems of a rose bush.
  • Disease Resistant - need little or no spraying
  • Double - a rose that has at least two rows of petals; most familar roses are double.
  • Hardy - can withstand winter cold
  • Remontant - will bloom more that once a summer
  • Sepals - the green parts of a rose bud that cover the petals.
  • Single - a rose that has only one row of (usually five) petals
  • Tender - cannot withstand winter cold


Rose Diseases

Here is a list of the diseases I have the most problems with. For pictures and descriptions from an expert and former ARS columnist, see Baldo's Bugs and Roses Page.

  • Blackspot
  • Canker
  • Downy Mildew
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Mosaic Viruses

Critters which Attack Roses

Here is a list of the bugs I have the most problems with. For pictures and descriptions from an expert and former ARS columnist, see Baldo's Bugs and Roses Page.

  • Aphids
  • Bristly Rose Slugs
  • Cane Borers
  • Caterpillars
  • Cucumber Beetles
  • Japanese Beetles
  • Rose Midge
  • Spider Mites

Winter Protection

"Winter Protection" is the practice of doing something to protect your roses from the ravages of winter cold. Of course, this is not an issue in the south, but it does affect the northern parts of the world. If you live in the U.S., see the USDA Zones page for the zone where you live.

While many roses have no problem with winter frost, cold and ice, many do. Unfortunately, each rose variety is a little different with respect to winter hardiness. Chinas and Teas are very tender, and are pretty much limited to USDA zones 7 and higher. Hybrid Teas tend to need protection in zones 6 and lower. When in doubt it's best to protect.

Most rose bushes, particularly shrub and landscape varieties, do not need any particular treatment or protection. Some known "tender" varieties, including china, tea, and some hybrid tea roses will need some protection. If you live in the U.S., it's best to speak to an ARS Consulting Rosarian who lives in your area and is familiar with your climate. Your local rose society probably has several. The ARS web site also lists many CRs who are available online to answer your questions. Remember, any "winterizing" should not be done until after Thanksgiving in this (USDA Zone 6) area.

The key thing to understand is that most roses that are sold are grafted, meaning that the beautiful rose we pay for is actually been "spliced" onto the roots of an unspectacular rose variety which has vigorous root growth. The point on the bush where the two varieties meet is called the bud union, and typically looks like a ball or knot of wood at the base of the plant. If a hard winter kills the rose bush to below this point, only the rootstock will be left alive, and though something will grow back, the rose you paid for will be dead and gone.

The idea behind winter protection, therefore, is to cover enough of the bush so that the bud union and some of the canes above it are protected from extreme cold. We generally use mulch (shredded bark or oak leaves work well) mounded up about one foot over the base of the bush, and leave the mounds there until new growth starts pushing out in the spring. Note: Do not use other tree leaves, particularly Maple leaves, as they tend to rot and produce an environment friendly to fungi and other diseases.

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