Rose Care Tips
(Planting, Feeding, Deadheading, Pruning, Mulching, Pest control, over-wintering)
Buying Good Stock

Buy only healthy, two-year-old, budded plants with well-prepared root stock. A poor rose specimen will always lead to a disappointment. In that case, dig it up and start again with a good strong healthy rose plant. However, never plant a new rose on exactly the same spot where a rose was previously planted, as this will prevent the new rose from developing properly.


The way roses are planted also greatly contribute to their health. Select a sunny, draught-free, well-drained location with good air circulation (not directly under shrubs or trees, unless they have been pruned purposely to host a climbing rose). Make holes large enough to accommodate roots without bending or cutting them, leaving enough space to add compost and fertilizer. See also: Designing your rose garden.

Feeding and watering

Keep the soil evenly moist by watering at least twice a week. The soil for roses should be watered deeply, but infrequently, so that the surface can dry out between watering. This will not only encourage strong root growth but also prevent fungus to spread rapidly on the moist surface. Moisture trapped by soil or mulch around the base leads to rot, killing plants. Always water roses in the morning. This will help prevent black spot and mildew.

Even during winter, occasional watering of garden roses during dry periods will help them perform better during the next growing season.

In order to maintain strong, healthy roses, it is important to establish an annual fertility program. Use the color of the foliage as an indicator for the plant's needs. By June, with adequate light, the foliage should be lush dark green. Pale yellow-green is an indication that the rose plant is not getting enough nitrogen. However, remember that it is better to under-fertilize rather than over-fertilize.

Most soluble fertilizers should be applied once a week during the months of May, June, and July. Organic fertilizers such as bonemeal should be applied a few weeks prior to pruning, for this type of feed takes a little longer to work. Granular are usually applied once in spring with a about mid-June or at the end of the spring bloom period. For continuous-flowering or repeat-blooming roses, a third application in mid-July is suggested. No fertilizer should be applied after mid-August so as not to encourage soft growth that is susceptible to winter damage.  Roses can be fall fertilized after the plants have gone dormant. Applying fertilizer at this time will not encourage growth but will be available as the plants start to grow in the spring. Preferably use a slow-release organic fertilizer for your fall fertilizing, such as Plant-tone or Holly-tone. Organic fertilizers work on the plant by improving the quality of the soil and thus favor a more continuous, regular growth and preventing plants from growing too early in the winter or spring.

Another fertilizer option is to use a time-released fertilizer, such as Osmocote. These are dry, encapsulated fertilizers that release their nutrients slowly over the season. There are a number of different formulations available, such as 3-month, 6-month, and 9-month.  Nutrient release is dependent on the soil moisture and temperature. Time-released fertilizers are usually applied in May. Just make sure you buy one with the correct N-P-K ratio for roses.

Synthetic fertilizers are widely available and easy to apply. However, they release nitrogen at the moment of application, especially the liquid ones, and tend to attract pests due to the higher nitrogen levels in the plants and the fast-growing, tender shoots. They tend to work very quickly jump starting growth too early.

Rose Diseases and Pests

See our separate article: rose diseases and pests.


One of the best ways to help the rose endure the long winter is to produce a strong, healthy plant during the summer. (See previous points about planting, watering and fertilizing).

Stop fertilizing by the beginning of or mid August, about four to six weeks before a hard frost is expected, depending on your hardiness zone. Late fertilizing will encourage the plant to grow and have new soft stems that could be easily winter-damaged. Because growth is slower, the rose will not need as much water. So, gradually cut back on watering and allow the rose to slightly dry out. Don't be alarmed by yellowing leaves. Leaves begin to turn yellow as the plant draws food into the roots. This is a good indication that the the rose is ready for its winter nap. Excess water at this point will only increase diseases.

Winter mulching with straw, pine needles, compost or any one of the many barck mulches is advisable in all but the extreme southern sections of the United States. This mulch regulates the soil temperature and moderates the effects of freezing and thawing on the rose graft and the lower 8-12 inches of the rose canes.

In exposed positions climbing roses may be mound mulched, sprayed with an anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt Stop, as well as wrapped with burlap to protect them against wind burn.  In extreme conditions, the entire canes can be laid on the ground and mulched over for the winter.

External links:

Roses - Growing and Overwintering Tender Varieties by Michele Hébert, Land Resources Agent

Beginner's Guide to Rose Care
Unless otherwise specified photos on this page © Alessandro Carocci Buzi and Lilly's Rose Garden.
The Complete Book of Roses by John Mattock et al.
The Macdonald Encyclopaedia of Roses by Stelvio Coggiatti
Old Fashioned Roses: Their Care and Cultivation by Amanda Beales
Classic Roses - An Illustrated Encyclopaedia And Grower's Manual Of Old Roses, Shrub Roses And Climbers (Revised & Expanded) by Peter Beales
Lilly's Rose Garden - Ideas for planning and designing your Rose Garden
Recommended Books
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control
by Barbara W. Ellis, Fern Marshall Bradley (Editors

More information:
Garden Pests & Diseases
Garden Pests & Diseases
by Audrey Brooks (Author), Andrew Halstead (Author),
The Royal Horticultural Society (Author),
Christopher Brickell (Editor)

More information:
The Rose in Literature
Botany of Roses
Roses around the World
Hardy Roses
Hardy Roses:
An Organic Guide to Growing Frost- and Disease-Resistant Varieties
by Robert A. Osbourne (Author), Beth Powning (Photographer)

More information: