Want to grow shrub or bush roses in your garden? Learn how to grow, maintain, prune and propagate rose plants.
What you need to know about a rose
Name: rose (Rosa sp. & cvs).
Plant type: deciduous and semi-deciduous ground covers, climbers, and small to large shrubs.
Height: from 20cm to 2m.
Foliage: deciduous, generally deep green, oval-shaped with a distinct point and serrated leaf edges.
Climate: all but arid and semi-arid.
Soil: quality, free-draining.
Position: at least six hours of sun, protected from winds.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers in a range of sizes and colours from spring through until autumn. If left unpruned, may develop colourful fruit – rosehips.
Feeding: requires regular and reliable feeding.
Watering: requires reliable water across hot, dry periods and during leaf and flower development.
Appearance and characteristics of a rose
There is probably no flower that has been written about as much as the rose, and for good reason. Their blooms are just magnificent, and the perfume, when present, ranges from an alluring hint to incredibly intoxicating. With sizes ranging from a cute-as-a-button patio rose to a full-sized bush, there's a rose to suit virtually any situation.
Typically a medium-sized, bushy shrub, a healthy rose bush will be well covered with deep green foliage, although lower, older stems may remain bare.
Flowers are borne on the end of stems above the foliage, and may be a single bloom on a stem or clusters of flowers on multiple, shorter stems.
Once well established, a rose is a very hardy, reliable and beautiful landscape plant.
Use for roses
A rose can be grown for many uses:
- Commonly grown as a feature plant or in a bed with other roses.
- Excellent with a backdrop planting to accentuate foliage colour and flowers.
- Some varieties can be trained as standards, ball-on-stick style, topiary.
- Many varieties are excellent in pots.
- Many varieties are excellent for cut flowers.
How to plant and grow a rose
Plant your rose where it will be protected from strong winds, to prevent flowers from being damaged. Choose a location where there will be not competition for space above ground or for roots below ground. Allow for good air circulation around bushes – don't overcrowd them.
For best flower production and fewest problems, position your rose in a full-sun situation – at least six hours a day – while it is actively growing.
A rose will be very adaptable to most soil types, however it will require good drainage. In poorly drained or heavy clay soil, plant your rose in a mound or raised bed. In pots, use a premium potting mix.
For best results, follow these tips when planting:
- A rose enjoys quality soil with added organic matter.
- Prepare the soil a few weeks in advance by thoroughly turning it over and blending through well-composted manure or quality compost.
- At planting time, add a controlled-release fertiliser to both the planting hole and the soil surface.
Caring for a rose
Follow these steps to care for your rose across the seasons.
- New growth will be abundant.
- Watch for sap-sucking insects such as aphids, and treat them with a pyrethrum-based spray.
- If you have previously had fungal problems, black spot and powdery mildew, apply preventative treatments of a suitable safe fungicide.
- As flower buds develop, watch for any bud-grubs that may attack newly forming flowers. Ask your local garden specialist for advice on the safest products.
- Apply a suitable controlled-release fertiliser and regularly water with a suitable seaweed tonic.
- Some spring-flowering roses can be pruned after flowering to bring on a second flush of flowers.
- Water well during hot times, avoiding overhead watering.
- Monitor for pests and diseases, treating as required, and look out for tiny red spider mites at this time. Their presence may be indicated by visible ‘peppering' on the leaves and fine spider-like webs underneath.
- If any scale insect are present on the stems or trunk, treat with a suitable pest oil.
- Remove any spent flower heads.
- Top up mulch.
- As roses slow down and leaves age, fungal problems such as black-spot and powdery mildew become more likely. Treat as required and remove and dispose of any fallen leaves.
- Remove any spent flower heads.
- Keep an eye out for any other pests.
- Roses are dormant during winter.
- Pruning is done around July, but this will vary with your region. Time the pruning so that buds appear after the last frost.
- After pruning, apply a good layer of mulch. The experts swear by lucerne, as it adds extra nitrogen to the soil, aiding with spring leaf growth.
- In warmer regions you can apply a controlled-release fertiliser before mulching.
- Winter is also bare-rooted rose planting season.
How and when to prune a rose
Flowers only appear on new seasons growth, so pruning your rose is essential for quality growth and flower production. Every rose label will have some pruning information, so it's worth keeping the label after planting. Here are some general pruning tips:
- Pruning tools must be very sharp and clean.
- Shorten strong canes by around two-thirds.
- Pruning cuts should be around 1cm above an outward-facing bud.
- Cuts should be made at 45°, sloping away from the bud.
- Remove any congested branches or others that are rubbing or crossing over.
- Remove any non-productive older sections, damaged, diseased or dead wood.
- Aim to open the bush up for improved air circulation.
How to propagate a rose
How to grow a rose from seed
Follow these steps to grow a rose from seed:
- Rose-hips can be allowed to form after flowering.
- Once they become conspicuously ripe, often a very bright orange or red colour, harvest them and split them open to reveal the seeds.
- Spread the seeds in a tray filled with seed-raising mix. Keep moist in a warm, sunny spot.
How to grow a rose from a cutting
Follow these steps to grow a rose from a cutting:
- Roses can easily be grown from cuttings. However, as roses are normally grafted onto hardy root stock, the success of cuttings in the long-term may be limited.
- When conducting winter pruning, save lengths of the last season's growth that are around 15cm long.
- To test if they are suitable for use, break a thorn off. If the bark is green underneath, it's too young. Look for a brown area.
- Fill a pot with a suitable propagating mix. Use a pencil to poke holes in the mix to about halfway down.
- Make sure the cuts are all clean, not rough. Remove any leaves and the thorns on the lower section.
- Dip in propagating gel and then carefully position in holes. Press soil down, water well and keep moist, not wet, in a warm, sheltered spot.
If you like this then try
How to plant a tree: all the tips you need for preparing the soil for larger plants.
Groundcovers: fill up those empty spaces under your rose bushes.
Seeds: the easy and budget-friendly way to have all the plants you could want.
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