How to grow roses
Roses need plenty of sunshine – about six hours or more each day. Northerly and westerly aspects are usually the sunniest spots.
Most Aussie climates are suitable, with the exception of the tropical far north. Bare-root roses need to be planted in winter when they are leafless, but potted roses can be planted all year round.
Roses will happily grow in many soil types, but good drainage is essential. A few weeks before planting, add at least half a 30-litre bag of compost and aged manure per rose, and fork in. For heavy clay soil, use liquid gypsum.
When they are young, roses need to be kept well watered, but as they mature you can cut back watering to twice a week. In summer, give them a good soaking. Make sure you water just the soil, not the plant. Any lingering moisture on the leaves can cause fungal problems.
Roses are always hungry and if you feed them well they’ll produce glorious flowers. Give them organic rose food as soon as the buds appear and water well. Then give them a handful of food every four to six months during the flowering season. In winter, apply a 40mm layer of composted manure to condition the soil and feed.
Lucerne hay, pea straw and sugar cane are all great mulches for roses. Apply a 50mm layer in spring and top it up in summer to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Roses respond well to pruning, producing new canes and many more flowers. Mid to late winter is a good time to cut back established roses (leave spring- only bloomers and most climbing roses until after flowering in late spring). A mid-summer tidy up will help reinvigorate tired roses and encourage autumn blooms.
Where to plant roses in your garden
Just one rosebush can make magic in your garden. But why stop there? You've got a whole box of tricks up your sleeve if you decide to plant more. It depends on where in the garden is the best place for your bushes to thrive. It could be the front or back yard, deck or terrace - just so long as it's a sunny spot.
This is where you can show off! Go formal with box hedging if your house is modern, or informal with soft lines if it's cottagey.
- Plant drifts of three bushes - about 45cm apart - of the same variety for greater visual impact.
- Flatter your rose bushes with borders of plants that have grey or silver foliage as they work with all rose colours. Try French lavender, lamb's ear, wormwood, dusty miller, catmint or germander.
- Accentuate your bushes with strappy-leafed plants such as dilanella, minature agapanthus, variegated carex, Brazilian walking iris or mondo grass.
- Position potted standard roses on either side of your front door for a classic, elegant touch.
This is your secret garden others can only view by invitation only.
- Put in seating where you can take a spell and really enjoy the beauty of your garden.
- Add a water feature and garden art - something you treasure that won't disappear from your garden overnight.
- Create an archway that a rambling rose can claim.
- Let a climbing rose run rampant over your potting shed.
Consider your view of the garden from inside your home and plant so the best bushes are framed by windows.
- If your backyard is small, maintain scale with smaller rose bushes. If it's large, go for the big bloomers.
Space along these passages can often be tight, but there's no need to waste it!
- Put a trellis against a wall - about 20cm away to allow air to circulate through - for a climber or rambler.
- Incorporate another climber, such as clematis, to create a dramatic vertical effect.
- If your wall has an interesting texture - say brick, stone or render - an espaliered rose will complement this feature. Climbing roses are best because their canes are long, strong and flexible.
- Plant old-fashioned polyantha roses. They're small and more compact than modern varieties, but make up for their small size with an abundance of flowers in sprays or bunches from late spring until late autumn.
- Limit your colour range and stick to lighter colours so the space doesn't seem cramped.
Balcony, deck or terrace
The absence of a garden to call your own is no obstacle to growing roses. Many varieties do well when planted in containers, and you're never far from being able to appreciate their beauty or perfume. Put a few varieties on display in a window box planter! It can attach to your window or balcony rail.
How to get rid of pests and disease on roses
Modern rose breeds are very disease resistant but nothing’s perfect, so watch out for these issues.
- Sap-sucking aphids gather around the buds. Remove by hand or spray with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of soap flakes in a litre of water.
- Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that occurs in humid conditions. Ensure good airflow through the plant and treat with a fungicide, or spray lime sulphur on the plant and ground after pruning.
- Black spot is another fungal disease that affects leaves in warm, humid conditions. Treat with a fungicide.
How to prune roses
- Prune in winter when your plant is dormant and be prepared to be brutal. Your bush will reward you with beautiful blooms in summer.
- Cut dead stems back to their base and damaged or diseased stems back to healthy tissue, where the centre is white.
- Cut stems that look like they’ll grow into the centre of the bush – it’s important air flow through the plant is maintained.
- Remove suckers that emerge below the graft scar. Always cut at a 45 degree angle with the cut facing downwards and outwards just above a bud or leaf node.
How to grow roses in pots
You don’t need a bed – live the high life in balconies and courtyards!
Miniature roses are best for growing in containers that are at least 35cm deep. If you want a climber, the container should be at least 45cm deep. Go for much deeper and wider containers for other roses.
Roses need at least 6 hours of sun a day. But container roses need extra conditions. Put the bush in sunshine but the container in shade, so the growing medium doesn’t get too dry.
If transferring from a nursery pot (best planted from autumn to spring) or planting as a bare root (best planted in early winter), fill container with a loam-based, acid-right mix specifically formulated for roses.
Watering is important, but so is drainage. Put a layer of gravel at the base of pots and place pots on feet.
Potted plants absorb food more quickly than bedded plants. Top up each spring with rose food, and every second year replace the top 5-10cm of mix with compost or repot with fresh mix.
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