Plant Profile: Roses

Sources say that it is believed that roses have been in cultivation for nearly 5,000 years.  In a group that comprises 150 species that are spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere.  Many poets and artists have used the rose as a source of inspiration.  In Victorian times, people sent secret messages to others using floriography (the language of flowers).  Though the practice has dwindled, roses are still sent to express friendship (yellow roses), purity (white roses), and, of course, love (red roses).   Growing roses in Florida has its challenges, but with some pre-planning, you can successfully have roses.

The Challenge

Most of the year, Florida’s climate is warm with high humidity.  These conditions make it a favorable environment for one of the most severe problems for roses, fungal infections. Black spot and Cercospora leafspot are the two most detrimental to roses.  These pathogens are leafspots that cause leaves to drop and can cause the rose to die.  Other common problems with roses are aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, and thrips.  Although all these pests and diseases seem overwhelming, here are some key factors that will help you grow roses.

Right plant, Right Place

Planting the right rose in the right place can produce some worthwhile results. Photo by Julio Perez

Right Plant

Selecting the right rose starts with knowing which varieties will do well here and work with your lifestyle.  The EDIS Document Growing Roses in Florida breaks roses into two categories, high maintenance, and low maintenance.  Unfortunately, many of the sought-after roses are in the high-maintenance category.  This includes hybrid tea, Grandiflora, floribunda, and polyantha rose varieties. These roses require constant attention.  They require continual spraying of fungicides, scouting for insects, and more upkeep (watering, fertilizing, and grooming).  These roses are best for a dedicated person who can spend a couple of hours outside tending the plants.

Pink Knock-out® roses
Knockout® roses are compact and relatively easy to grow in our landscapes. Photo Courtesy of Kendra Waln.

As its name suggests, low-maintenance roses require much less attention than those mentioned previously.  Remember, “low maintenance” does not mean “no maintenance.”  Maintenance described previously is still a necessity but at a much-reduced frequency.  Rose types in this category include old garden roses, shrub roses, and “Knock-out®” roses.  The flowers of these roses tend to be less formal and more open than the high-maintenance types.

Another consideration in selecting the right rose includes choosing grafted vs. not grafted.   While many low-maintenance roses will do well on their own, it is best to choose one that is grafted.  Roses grafted on ‘Fortuniana’ rootstock will promote better growth, more vigorous flowering, and longer-lived plants.  Other factors include flower color, fragrance, and plant size.

Roses in the landscape
After you find the rose that will works for you, make sure you have a site that gets full sun, is close to a water source, and don’t forget to mulch. Photo courtesy of Deborah Eyerdam

Right Place

The optimum location for roses includes a minimum of six hours of sunlight, no nearby plants that would compete for nutrients, and soil that is well-drained but contains organic matter.  An area that gets more morning sun is preferred to ensure the dew on the leaves dries.  Remember, wet leaves increase the chances of fungal problems.  It is important to amend soil throughout the rose bed and not just to the hole dug for the rose.  Adding 2-4 inches of amendments (compost, manure, and/or peat) mixed into the top 12 inches of the bed.  Doing this increases the water holding and nutrient capacity of our sandy soil.  Don’t forget to mulch to keep the soil moist and also limits weed growth.


Watering frequency is dependent on the type of roses you get.  True to their name, high-maintenance roses require more frequent watering.  Low-maintenance roses need little irrigation but will do better if watered during extended dry periods.  How much irrigation depends on a few factors, such as your soil type, the variety of roses, the amount of sun, and if you mulch.  Wilting and leaf color changes are often signs that the rose needs watering.  Taking observations on when the plant gets water and how long it takes for it to show drought signs can be a way to know how often you water.  When you water, you should be careful not to get water on the leaves and water only the roots.  The easiest way is through micro-irrigation, which uses little sprayers to water the area.


Choose a fertilizer formulated for roses but also contains micro-nutrients and controlled-released nitrogen.  Like most plants, this should be applied during the growing season, Mid-February to Mid-November.  Generally, you can use 1 cup monthly or ½ cup every two weeks for larger rose plants.  Smaller roses, old garden roses, and shrub roses shouldn’t be fed as much or often.  No matter what, make sure you read the fertilizer label and follow the directions; the label is the law.

Growing roses can be a labor of love depending on the variety you choose.  I hope this blog gives you a better understanding of selecting a rose that works for you and increases your success.  There are many sources to learn more about roses; some are at the bottom of this post.  If you are interested in growing roses, join a chapter of the American Rose Society, and learn from experienced growers.  The nearest ones are in Gainesville or Fleming Island.

Happy Gardening!

4 Different color roses Pale yellow, pink red and light pink.
Drift® roses are a newer variety of compact and continual blooming roses. Starting upper right, Popcorn Drift®, Sweet Drift®, Red Drift®, and Apricot Drift®. ©Photos courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants.

Rose resources:


Posted: February 9, 2023

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, HOME LANDSCAPES, Horticulture
Tags: #julioperez, #plantprofile, #rosesforeveryone, Florida, Florida Friendly, Putnam, Roses

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