Updated: Feb 28, 2019
Roses are probably the most loved and hated of all shrubs. Everyone wants roses, but not the problems that go along with them. Fortunately, there’s a class of roses that’s very low maintenance: Knockout shrub roses. They start blooming heavily in April and will continue until a hard frost with no deadheading. Most years, they will still be blooming in mid-December.
Another new class of roses that have hit the scene are the Drift Roses. They perform like the Knockout Rose but are much more compact for smaller spaces.
And the newest addition of shrub roses to the line up at our nursery is the Brindabella Rose series- a FRAGRANT shrub rose! Breeders finally achieved a long-time goal, to develop a low maintenance shrub rose with strong fragrance. Read more about them on our Rose Page.
You should prune your shrub roses hard in late February to early March, leaving about 8- 10” of canes, no matter how tall they are. This keeps the plants full and bushy from the ground up. Don’t worry; they’ll be full size again by summer. Hybrid Tea and other fragrant roses are pruned differently that shrub roses.
It’s true that Japanese Beetles love roses but remember that with shrub roses, you get about 32 weeks of blooms and the Beetles are only around for about 6 weeks, 8 at the most. Sevin Dust works very well on Japanese Beetles and will actually repel them as long as it’s on the leaf, but it's lethal to many beneficial insects so use with caution. Systemic insecticides such as Bonide rose Care work well to kill Japanese beetles, aphids, whiteflies and many other pests.
If you love the fragrance and large blooms of the hybrid teas, you can be successful in growing them but you must make time for the regular maintenance that they require. Spraying for diseases and deadheading spent blooms are the two most important tasks that you must perform on a weekly basis. Spray for blackspot disease every 7-10 days as a preventative maintenance even if you don’t see it on the leaves. Or use the newer products with systemic fungicides, such as Bonide 3 in 1 Rose Care. The 3 in 1 formulas include a systemic fungicide that is very effective on blackspot disease. Modern hybrid roses also need lots of organic matter added to the beds. They like moisture but not “wet feet”. Topdress every year with compost or aged manure to keep the soil around the rose loose and rich. And don’t forget to add 2-3” of mulch every year. This keeps the soil moist and the temperature around the roots cooler in the summer.
Good Healthy Soil Is An Ecosystem
Soil is more than just dirt. It is more than clay, silt, sand, and dead plant matter. It is a complex pile of fungi, bacteria, worms and other organisms working together in a continuously changing environment. What are they all doing? They are all eating and reproducing. The byproducts of this activity produce the nutrients that plants need to grow. The plants and their roots are an intimate part of this system. When you have a complete and healthy soil, all of these things are working together and the plants are performing at the peak of their abilities. Nine tenths of gardening is creating nutritious healthy soil. Give them the right home and the plants know what to do from there. Healthy soil will reduce plant fungus diseases and reduce insect infestations. Why? Because their predators will be present there as well. The Soil ecosystem has developed over hundreds of millions of years, and so you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to help it along. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have good soil. Without it, roses will not perform at their best.
Adding Organic Materials And Soil Amendments
Almost all soils can benefit from the addition of more organic matter. If you are starting with an empty bed, now is the time that you can make a difference. Add as much composted (rotted) organic material as you can afford. It is almost impossible to add too much. We sell compost in bulk amounts that we can load on your truck with a tractor. Shovel the compost onto the beds and then dig it in with a shovel or better yet, a roto tiller. If you are amending the soil in the fall, you can add materials such as manure, grass clippings or leaves, because they will have all winter to rot into the composted material you want.
All roses are heavy feeders so apply a good quality, slow-release granular fertilizer around the base of each rose every 6-8 weeks. If your roses look lean with pale green leaves and few blooms, they’re probably hungry. Consistent fertilizing will keep the blooms coming. Good rose fertilizers have an NPK ratio of 1:2:1. More phosphorous leads to better blooming. Adding too much nitrogen will result in too much foliage and too few blooms. We use, sell and recommend Bonide granular rose fertilizer that is combined with a systemic insecticide. This product feeds the plant and kills pests in one easy step. We apply it in March, followed by another application in mid- summer.