Roses have rather simple, but at the same time specific requirements to be beautiful and rewarding players in your garden.
Roses must have good drainage and as you probably know, Texas soils can be a challenge in this respect. Most people in Central Texas have either clay or rocks. If you have clay, add lots of compost, like Lady Bug Brand Revitalizer™ or Farm Style™ Compost. Ideally add 4-6 inches, and work it into your soil with good sturdy shovel, garden fork, or a tiller. Gypsum is also a miracle-working amendment for breaking up clay. Add gypsum at a rate of 4 pounds per 100 square feet. If you don’t have any soil (you know who you are), create raised beds with a high quality, compost enriched soil like Lady Bug Rose Soil or Hill Country Mix. Raised beds must be at least 12 inches deep, but 24 inches is ideal. The raised bed should be a minimum of 2 feet wide, as well. If you just can’t deal with your soil or lack thereof, put your roses in big pots filled with a good potting soil, such as Lady Bug Vortex potting soil.
All roses perform best with at least 6 hours of sun every day. Sunshine promotes lots of big, healthy blooms, helps dry out damp foliage early in the day (thus avoiding fungus), and makes for lush, dark green, healthy foliage. The Hybrid Musk class of roses will tolerate less and do very well, but even these sturdy varieties would prefer as much sun as possible. If you have less than 4 hours of sun, plant something else.
Space or rather, Air
It’s very important to give a rose an appropriate amount of space. This is in many ways the hardest requirement for gardeners, even the hardcore, seasoned ones who should know better. We have all been tempted to cram the plants we want into beds that are really already full or plant too many to achieve a fuller look faster. Or even insist that we can keep them in line with a pair of pruners. These antics will not behoove you in the end. If you don’t give a rose the room it needs, it will likely develop fungus since the foliage is too crowded to dry out after a rain or a heavy dew or the sprinkler system. You’ll get blackspot, powdery mildew, and rust. These are minor cosmetic issues for the most part, but they make a rose look very shabby.
Choice of plant
Many landscapers overlook this very simple rule of design. I’ve seen so many landscape plans with the word “rose” drawn in a jagged circle without any attention paid to size or color or leaf texture. Roses, Antiques in particular have very different personalities and they vary widely in growing habits and blooms shape as well as color, leaf size, and, well…style. Pick one you’ll want to look at and enjoy that is appropriate to the space you have.
Many people buy Antiques for their lack of maintenance and so you may be thinking you’ve been double-crossed. Relax. Plenty of people don’t do anything to their roses (except a little water in the summer) and they are just fine. This sheet is to give you the opportunity to do the absolute best by your rose and see them perform in kind.
There is a lot of unnecessary fear about pruning. You don’t have to prune at all if you don’t want to, or if your rose is newly planted. The purpose of pruning is to thin unwanted canes, remove dead ones, and create lots of new growth (which is where your blooms will be). Pruning also makes narrow or sparse bushes thicker and more robust.
Find a clean, sharp pair of bypass pruners. You can sterilize the blade with Lysol or rubbing alcohol or bleach. It’s a good idea to sterilize your pruners between each plant to avoid spreading any diseases. Start by removing any dead canes. (Those are the crispy brown ones).
Remove any canes that are growing in towards the center of the plant instead of out of it. These are called cross branches. Your goal is a nice, upside-down umbrella shape with all the canes heading out from the center.
Cut each of the remaining canes back ? to ½, cutting about ¼ inch above an outward facing bud. This is to encourage outward facing growth. Tah Dah! You’re done! Don’t worry if the bush looks funky. It’ll grow back, I promise.
Like any other plant, roses love compost. Adding 2 – 4 inches of your favorite compost in the spring and again in the fall will reintroduce healthy soil microbes and keep your plants very happy. Compost works well in conjunction with fertilizer, but if you must choose one or the other, choose compost. Be sure not to pile anything up on the stems.
Roses will bloom quite nicely on their own with lots of sunshine, but if you want more (and what gardener doesn’t?), you can fertilize. Fertilizing is for the active growing season and while roses never really go dormant in Central Texas, you don’t want to create a lot of new growth when it might freeze off or stress out a plant trying to cope with a brutal summer. March to May and then October to December are the best time slots for fertilizing. Lady Bug Brand Flower Power is a good choice if you want a dry, sprinkle-on option. Each feeding lasts 4 to 6 weeks and needs only to be watered in. Lady Bug John’s Recipe is also an excellent choice for those who prefer a more regular weekly or bimonthly feeding for the whole garden and are not afraid to wield a hose-end sprayer.