Skip to main content

Gardening can be rosy

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Pink roses

Roses can offer year-round flowers. UF/IFAS Photos by Tyler Jones

Many gardeners attempt to make roses a staple flowering shrub in their landscapes. The key to success is selection. Don’t get me wrong – roses can be challenging! However, if well cared for, roses in our area can bloom all year long. With some sensible selection, maintenance and grooming, growing a rose will provide cut flowers and beauty in any setting.

Gardeners are going to be much happier with their roses if they pick types that are suited for our Florida climate.  Low-maintenance roses such as “old garden roses” and shrub roses such as David Austin Roses® and the “Knock-out®” series require minimal care. At the other extreme, high-maintenance, modern roses such as hybrid teas, require more grooming, fertilizing, irrigation and pest management. Selecting roses grafted on Rosa fortuniana (also called ‘Double White Cherokee’) rootstock will grow larger, more vigorous plants that will produce more flowers and live longer than other roses. Second to fortuniana is ‘Dr. Huey’ rootstock followed by ‘Multiflora’ rootstock which has the shortest life span here in Florida. There are some rose plants (the older shrub varieties) that are satisfactory, as are dwarf roses, un-grafted and on their own roots. Some good low-maintenance roses to try are ‘Bourbon’, ‘China’, and ‘Bermuda’. Check local garden centers and nurseries for these roses. You may also check with regional specialty nurseries and on-line sources. Also consider communicating with local rose societies and The American Rose Society at https://www.rose.org/ .

Roses need at least six hours of sun for best results. The more sun the better, but if some shade is present, it is best to plant roses so that they receive morning sunlight. This morning sun will help dry the early morning dew off which will help reduce leaf diseases such as black spot. Roses like a well-drained soil with some amendments added to improve water-holding capacity. Now, while generally we don’t recommend adding soil amendments when planting woody plants, the rose is an exception which will greatly benefit from compost mixed into the upper twelve inches of soil. Start a regular maintenance fertilizer as soon as new growth begins with a complete fertilizer including micronutrients and slow-release nitrogen for best performance. As a final touch, good organic mulch will help retain moisture and suppress weeds. When watering, it is best to apply irrigation to the soil surface so that the leaves are kept dry.

Keeping a rose plant looking its best will involve some regular grooming and pruning. Grooming is going to involve light and selective trimming such as removing dead flowers. This keeps rose hips (fruit) from developing and redirects the plants energy back into the plant for more blooms. If needed, more major pruning can be accomplished in February with a lighter follow-up pruning in August. Removal of dead, diseased, damaged or spindly growth will improve the plants form and keep the height in bounds. Flowers for the vase are best cut after the green sepals at the base of the flower fold back toward the stem and the outside petals loosen and start to unfurl. Cut the flower with a sharp knife just above a five-leaflet leaf.

Probably the biggest pest problem in our area is a fungal disease called black spot. Most low-maintenance cultivars are fairly resistant to this disease. However, removal of dead and diseased leaves will help as part of a sanitation effort. Also, mulch will help create a barrier between the rose and the soil level and minimize splashing of fungal spores back up onto the leaves. Using micro-irrigation will also help keep the foliage dry and thus less open to black spot infection. Fungicides are also available to protect new growth.

Roses are definitely worthy of a spot in your landscape – they are another Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ recommended plant! For more information on growing roses, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Don’t forget that Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is a program that our office encourages as it promotes planting the “right plant in the right place”, water conservation, common sense pest management, sensible use of fertilizers, composting, etc. that help develop a sustainable landscape. For more information on this important, over-arching program, please contact Sara Weber, FFL Education-Training Specialist, at  Sara.Weber@charlottecountyfl.gov .

Resources:
Park Brown, S. (2016) Growing Roses in Florida. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Mangandi, J. & Peres, N. A. (2018) Black Spot of Rose. The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.