Roses often get a bad rap for being hard to grow, but that’s just not the case. Rose plants are rewarding and beautiful and by following the 10 rose care commandments, you can bet on your plants coming up roses every time.
1. Thou shalt not cut the stem willy-nilly.
Cut above an outward-pointing bud. These dormant buds look like little reddish lumps on the stem, at leaf junctions. If you cut just above one of these buds, the new growth will grow in the direction the bud is pointing. The new stem that grows will take six weeks to re-bloom.
2. Thou shalt not wet the plant when watering.
Unlike most plants, which are perfectly happy to be sprinkled with water from above, roses should be watered via the soil. Fungus love to munch on rose leaves, and a lot of these fungi need moist conditions to thrive. If you’re watering your rose foliage, you’re asking for foliar disease.
3. Thou shalt make the big cuts in winter.
Rose plants need to be chopped, hacked and reduced a lot. Roses flower best on new growth and hard pruning each winter is the best way to clear away the old stuff to make way for the new. When you’ve finished pruning, your rose plant should be about knee-high and consist of three or four evenly-spaced stems growing outways. No inward-pointing stems. No short, stubby branches. No thick, old, grey wood.
4. Thou shalt not use blunt secateurs.
Make sure your pruners are sharp and when pruning, dip the blades into disinfectant to reduce the spread of disease.
5. Thou shalt not be tempted only by the sweetest-smelling blooms.
When shopping for roses, look for disease resistance too, so you can enjoy a low-care (and perfumed) plant. Healthy, fragrant varieties include floribunda ‘Wildcat’ and ‘Desert Island’, hybrid tea ‘Dark Desire’, groundcover ‘Diamant’ or the climbing ‘Jasmina’.
6. Thou shalt not fill the hole with fertiliser and compost when planting.
Put the compost or manure on top when finished planting, but keep it away from the trunk. As for feeding, wait until the plant shows signs of new growth (e.g. new leaves) before applying rose food.
7. Thou shalt not grow roses in shade.
Rose plants need at least four to six hours of sunshine daily to thrive.
8. Thou shalt not crowd your rose plant.
Roses like a spot where other plants and trees haven’t taken over with their own roots. Your rose plant won’t appreciate being planted in the shade of a large tree, over a concrete pipe or in a tiny pot.
9. Thou shalt not discard the plant label.
This will help you identify the rose variety if you come across any issues. Knowing whether your rose is a climbing ‘Crepuscule’ or a miniature ‘Magic Show’ will help your local Flower Power sort out your rose problem.
10. Thou shalt not overfeed.
A common misconception is more fertiliser equals more blooms, but too much fertiliser can kill natural soil bacteria or lead to salt burn, both of which can harm your plant. Yellow leaves or little growth is not necessarily a sign your plant needs more fertiliser. Yellow leaves may be a sign of black spot. Sulfur can be applied to help with black spot. Puny growth can be attributed to heavy clay soil, curl grub eating the roots (use eco-neem) or insects like aphids (use eco-oil or pyrethrum) or thrips (use a spinosad-based insecticide) attacking new shoots. As a general guide, you should feed your rose plant three times a year. First at the beginning of spring, secondly at the start of summer and thirdly at the start of autumn.