Some rose experts recently shared their tips on growing gorgeous blossoms.
Q: What kind of site do roses require? A: Good drainage is very important. A loose, well-drained soil is best, but roses will grow in a variety of soils. If you have a lot of heavy clay, replace it if that's practical. If not, add gypsum pellets to break down clay over time and allow water to penetrate to the roots. Also, have a soil test done. Roses prefer a pH of 6.3-6.8.
Q: How about light conditions? A: Full sun is ideal. The plants need at least six hours of sun a day. We have some partly shaded areas that get early-morning and late-afternoon sun. Even though they're not getting six continuous hours of sun, they do okay. If you have high, bright shade, like that under a limbed-up tree, roses can do all right, but direct sun is best.
Q: Are there any cultivars that will take more shade than others? A: 'The Fairy,' a Polyantha rose, will take quite a lot of shade. Another is 'Gruss an Aachen,' a light pink Floribunda.
Q: Any exciting new rose developments to talk about? A: We like the Canadian roses in the Parkland and Explorer series. These come from research done by Ag Canada in Ottawa and Morden Station in Manitoba. They have marvelous hardiness for Northern gardeners, and good disease resistance. One of our favorites is 'Morden Blush,' but we have quite a few others. We also like the French 'Generosa' and 'Romantica,' and the Towne & Country series from Denmark. All of these are similar to David Austin English roses -- Old Garden roses hybridized with modern Hybrid Teas and Floribundas.
Q: Where can gardeners learn about other good cultivars? A: The American Rose Society publishes "The Handbook for Selecting Roses." It has results and ratings from growers on hundreds of roses that are commercially available. The ARS magazine, "The American Rose," is another excellent source.
Q: When is the best time to plant roses? A: Bareroot roses should be planted in spring, by April 15 in Zone 5. Spring planting in the South is in January and February. Planting times will vary considerably throughout the many USDA plant-hardiness Zones. Container-grown roses can be planted anytime during the growing season.
Q: You mention both bareroot and potted roses. Which one is better? A: Some mail-order nurseries ship container plants, but most catalog orders are bareroot plants. Newer varieties are likely to be bareroot, too, as nurseries haven't had time to pot them. Many container plants come from local nurseries that buy bareroot plants and pot them up to grow larger. Either bareroot or container plants are okay, but with containers, you have to rely on the reputation of the nursery and whether they know what they are doing. The roses have to be potted correctly to grow.
Q: Are there any other factors to consider when selecting a rose? A: In the last few years, it's become more important to know whether to plant own-root or grafted plants. Some varieties may be available only as one or the other, but where there's a choice, we like own-root. If a grafted plant gets winter-killed to below the bud union, you'll just get the rootstock variety coming back up. An own-root plant might die in winter, but it will grow back from the roots as the same cultivar. Own-root plants will be smaller than grafted ones at a given age, but they'll catch up. If you get own-root plants, ask for two-year-old ones.
Continued on page 2: Caring for Roses