By: Stan V. Griep, American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian, Rocky Mountain District
A very important aspect to growing happy and healthy disease resistant roses is watering roses well. In this article, we will take a quick look at watering roses, also known as hydrating rose bushes.
How Often Do I Water a Rose Bush?
Some roses, such as Tuscan Sun (floribunda), will let you know right away when they need a drink. Other roses will tolerate things for a long while and then, seemingly all at once, look sick and droopy. I guess what I mean to say is that different roses have different watering needs. Note how long it takes your rose bush getting droopy and water it slightly more often than it takes for the rose plant to start to droop.
The key to the watering roses at the right time appears to be, like many other things in our lives, some good record or time keeping. Making note of the last time the roses were watered on a calendar, and how often your particular rose needs to be watered takes little time and is a great help to our already overloaded memory banks!
How to Water Rose Bushes
Some folks use a deep watering device to water their roses, some have things all set up on automatic watering systems and others, like me, water their roses with a watering wand. All are acceptable methods for watering roses.
When I water my roses, I simply fill the “bowls” I have formed around each bush with nicely amended soil until the water starts to puddle a bit. Moving on to the next rose bush all the while looking over each one’s foliage and canes for any signs of disease or insect damage.
After having watered three or four rose bushes, I go back to the first of the group I just watered, watering it until again a bit of a puddle of water starts for the second time. This is completed for each rose bush. By allowing the first watering to soak in well before the second amount of water is applied, the water is going deeply into the soil around each rose bush.
A few key items to consider in the area of watering or keeping our roses watered are:
- Be sure your rose bushes are well watered/hydrated before the application of any pesticide.
- When the temperatures are in the 90’s to 100’s (32-37 C.), keep a close eye on watering your roses. It takes no time at all for heat stress to set in. Watering daily may be in order.
- Watering your rose bushes by hand in some manner gives you a golden opportunity to look over each one well. Finding an insect, fungus or other problem early is priceless when gaining control over the problem.
- Mulch around your roses to help hold in the very important soil moisture.
- Do not forget to give your rose bushes a little water during the winter months, especially when the snowfall or rain has been little to non-existent.
- If the weather in your area has been dry plus windy, it is critical to water your roses and keep a very close eye on the soil moisture level! The soil moisture that is there will be quickly drawn up and out by the winds.
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Feeding and Watering Roses
Roses are very hungry plants and should therefore be fed regularly throughout their lives to ensure maximum blooms and growth, from first year plants through to 50 year old ramblers. We recommend a good feed of a nitrogen high feed like “Top Rose” after the late-winter prune in February, then feeding every two weeks throughout the flowering period with a high potash feed like “Tomorite” or "Uncle Tom's Rose Tonic".
This photo shows just how much difference regular feeding makes. Both ‘Frilly Cuff’ roses were pruned at exactly the same time and to the same height, but the big difference is that one has been fed fortnightly, whereas the other one hasn’t been fed at all. As you can see the plant that received a regular feed is much bigger, healthier and is bursting with buds. Many feeds are available, but the one we w ould most recommend is Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic, which we used for this demonstration. Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic will not only encourage strong healthy growth but will also increase disease resistance.
Tomorite also works well and is one of the cheapest and most readily available. Simply dilute to half the strength recommended on the bottle for Tomatoes.
Roses also require regular watering, especially during the summer. It is very hard to overwater a rose, but they will not appreciate having their roots sit in cold water for long periods.
Roses grown in pots should be given a good water daily throughout the growing season. During the summer newly planted roses will also need watering regularly until their roots are established.
As well as putting the plant under stress, insufficient watering can also contribute to the development of rose diseases.
How to Grow Miniature Roses
Miniature roses are true roses that have been selectively bred to stay small in size. Most miniature roses have smaller flowers than standard rose bushes, but they come in the same variety of types and colors as their larger counterparts. Despite their petite size, miniature roses are extremely hardy. In fact, because they are propagated on their own roots (and not grafted onto the rootstock), they are more winter-hardy than most roses and tend to be profuse repeat bloomers.
The genetic parentage of miniature roses can be difficult to define since they've been in cultivation since the 17th century, but most originated as genetic mutations of old garden roses or China roses. Most types of miniature roses are now grown are the result of extensive breeding and are long divorced from the original species, most of which are native to Asia. However, they maintain many of the same core characteristics and also do best if planted in spring.
Miniature roses grow moderately quickly and work well in a border or as garden edging. They're also especially nice as specimen plants in containers, where they can be brought closer to eye level and truly be seen and appreciated.
- Compost promotes overall plant health, helping roses to be more resilient to pests and diseases. Mix into the soil at planting time, or apply a 1- to 2-inch layer each spring around the base of established rose plants. Learn how to make your own compost at home.
- Manure can be worked into the soil at the time of planting or mulch established rose plants with a one-inch layer in spring. Make sure manure is well-aged so it doesn’t burn plants. Manure teas also work well.
- Bone meal can be applied in spring for a slow-release effect through the growing season and again in fall to promote root growth and next year’s flowers.
- Cottonseed meal boosts overall plant health. Apply once or twice a year for a slow-release effect throughout the growing season. Since it is somewhat acidic, soil pH may need to be adjusted with lime or other alkaline source.
- Kelp meal or seaweed extract promotes root development and boosts immunity to pests and diseases and can be part of a regular fertilizing program throughout the growing season.
- Fish fertilizer can be used as an all-purpose fertilizer and promotes lush growth. To use as the primary fertilizer, apply every 3 weeks during the growing season often used in combination with kelp.
- Alfalfa is one of the best overall organic amendments, resulting in more vigorous growth and increased bloom production.
- Coffee grounds can be sprinkled around the base of rose bushes at any time during the growing season for a boost of nitrogen. Coffee is acidic, so soil pH may need to be adjusted with lime or other alkaline source.
- Epsom salts promote bloom color, greener foliage, and more vigorous cane growth. Apply in spring or at the time of planting.
"Organics make for the most beautiful roses and gardens," says Denise Kelly of Variegata Studios in Santa Rosa, CA. "But there can be a downside in that some products attract wildlife and pets. Bone meal and alfalfa pellets are especially attractive to dogs and raccoons, so I use alfalfa meal instead, which waters in more easily."
Oso Easy Double Red™.
Photo: Proven Winners® ColorChoice®.
OVERWHELMED BY FERTILIZER CHOICES AND SCHEDULES?
If sticking to a regular fertilizer schedule seems impractical, you can still grow beautiful roses by choosing low-maintenance varieties that need little or no fertilizing. Landscape roses are a simple way to add lots of color to your garden. Unlike hybrid teas, these resilient plants don’t require extensive fertilizing or other care.
Fertilizing landscape roses is easy: simply apply a controlled release fertilizer in early spring. That’s it! No need to overwork yourself with these easy-care varieties.
The Oso Easy® series is a great choice if you don’t want to deal with remembering to keep a fertilizing schedule, or deal with pruning or constant deadheading. Plus, they’re also highly disease resistant—which means no spraying either!
What are the Best Methods for Rose Watering?
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There are several effective methods of rose watering. Any method that provides the roses with sufficient water, and is easy for the gardener to maintain is a good method. Roses require between one and two inches (2.5-5 cm) of water each week for optimum conditions. Few areas receive this amount consistently, so supplemental watering is necessary. In addition to improving the appearance of your roses, having sufficient water will increase the roses' resistance to disease.
The easiest and least expensive method of rose watering is to water with a watering can. The problem with this method is that it can take a great deal of time, depending upon the number of plants one has. Areas that receive some rainfall, but still need supplemental watering may find this method convenient.
An affordable and low maintenance method of rose watering is to use a soaker hose. A soaker hose allows rose watering without the gardener remaining in attendance. It is also possible to spend more money at the garden store, and invest in a soil level waterer or a drip level irrigation system. These are much pricier options, but are a good choice for someone with limited time.
Over time it becomes easier to determine if the roses are receiving sufficient water, however, initially it may be necessary to stick a sharp spade into the ground near the rose plant to determine how deeply the water has penetrated. Roses grow best when their roots are between 12 and 18 inches deep. Deep, thorough rose watering encourages this, while more frequent, shallow watering encourages roots that grow close to the soil.
Regardless of the method chosen to water roses, spend time observing the plants to determine if they are receiving the proper amount of water. Roses that do not receive enough water have leaves that are dry and that appear fragile. Roses that are receiving too much water have leaves that turn yellow and fall off.
There is no set schedule for how often to water roses. In areas with a lot of wind and hot weather, the roses may require more than two inches (5 cm) of water a week. If the roses are mulched, they should not require nearly as much water. No matter what the watering schedule, watering early in the day provides the best results. This way, the water can soak into the soil before evaporating in the heat of the day, and any water splashed onto the leaves has a chance to dry before nightfall. Leaves that remain wet overnight are much more likely to develop fungal diseases than leaves that are dry.