Roses grow best in full sun but will grow satisfactorily if they have 6 hours of sun daily. Early morning sun is preferred to afternoon sun since it gives the foliage a chance to dry early in the day. Damp conditions favor the development of diseases.
Roses should not be planted too close to trees or shrubs where they will have to compete for light, nutrients, water, and air. Plant at least 18 to 24 inches away from buildings or solid barriers (except for climbers). Walls can be used to advantage if roses are located so the barrier provides protection from north and west winter winds.
Roses are best planted in spring, although fall planting can be successful with proper winter protection, depending on your location. The planting site for your roses should be prepared at least 4-6 weeks before planting. Fall preparation will give you a head start on spring planting.
If you plan to plant only a few roses, holes may be prepared individually. Dig the hole at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter to provide plenty of space for root growth. If a large number of roses are to be planted, roto till or hand spade the bed as close as possible to a depth of 18 to 24 inches and then dig planting holes in the prepared bed.
To provide adequate air circulation, hybrid teas, polyanthas, and grandifloras should be planted 24 to 30 inches apart. Floribundas may be spaced slightly closer together at 18 to 24 inches apart. Allow 3 to 5 feet between hybrid perpetuals and 8 to 10 feet for climbers.
Growing Bare-Root Roses
Bare-root roses must be planted while still dormant in early spring. Unwrap the protective coverings and plant as soon as possible. If planting must be delayed, keep the plants in the shipping container and moisten them every 2 or 3 days. Bare-root roses may be kept in the package for several days if stored in a cool place (35-40F). Sprouting and mold may occur if the bushes are stored at warmer temperatures. I have personally had this happen. If you are going to be delayed in planting your roses, I have successfully removed the bare root rose from it’s packing material and placed in a bucket of warm water with B1 added. This kept my bare-root roses healthy and mold free for a few extra days. For a longer delay, heel in your roses if you will be unable to plant them for several weeks. Heel in by temporarily burying the plants in a ditch that is slanted at the bottom. The roots are placed at the deepest part and then covered with a thin layer of mulch followed by soil, making sure the graft union is also covered. The trench should be well watered, but not soggy.
Just prior to planting the rose bush, use a sharp knife or hand pruner to trim off any roots and stems that have been damaged by pests, die-back, or breakage. Tops should be pruned to 12 to 18 inches. Make 45 degree angle cuts just above outward facing buds. Submerge the entire plant in warm water for a few hours prior to planting (add the B1). Dig the planting hole to 12 inches, and replace most of the soil in the shape of a cone.
Most commercially-grown roses are produced by budding a desirable cultivar onto a vigorous root stock. The bud union appears as a knob and should be used as a guide to proper planting depth. Lay the roots over the cone of soil so that the bud union is 1 to 2 inches below ground level.
Fill in around the roots with soil, and allow a gentle flow of water to settle the soil. When the water has soaked in, fill the hole with more soil and firm gently. Mound soil around the bud union and canes to 10 inches to protect the plant from drying and late frosts. Water the mound thoroughly but gently. Do not remove mounded soil until after the buds begin to swell and danger of frost is past.
Potted roses may be planted any time during the growing season. If planting must be delayed, plants can be set outdoors, but be sure to water them regularly. Remove metal or plastic pots before setting the plants into a prepared planting hole. The roots will grow into the surrounding soil faster if the sides and bottom of the pot are slashed in numerous places with a sharp knife. Complete removal of the pot bottom will prevent water from being trapped around the roots before the pot has a chance to decompose naturally.
Potted roses are often sold with bud unions left exposed, but when set in the garden, they should be planted with the bud union 1 to 2 inches below ground level.
After new growth is about 6 inches long, apply a complete fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer on the soil around each plant, scratch it into the soil surface, and water thoroughly (or use a water soluble fertilizer). A second fertilizer application can be made later in the growing season if the plants show evidence of nutrient deficiencies. I will state here that I prefer natural, organic fertilizers over chemical ones, but you decide what is best for you. If you will be using your roses for medicinal purposes, then I would suggest considering using only organic natural fertilizers. Here is an excellent book that will help you travel through the rough terrain of growing your roses organically and naturally, especially when it comes to fertilizers: Growing Roses Organically: Your Guide to Creating an Easy-Care Garden Full of Fragrance and Beauty.
- Plants deficient in nitrogen will produce yellowing leaves, phosphorus deficiency will produce greyish-green leaves, and a lack of potassium can cause the leaf margins to brown.
- Fertilizing late in the growing season may cause new succulent growth which is susceptible to winter injury. Do not fertilize after July 15 in northern States or July 31 in southern States.
Bedding roses should receive the equivalent of 1 inch of water every 7 to 10 days throughout the growing season. Water in the morning or early afternoon to allow foliage to dry quickly and help prevent foliar diseases. This is key…don’t forget. Methods such as soaker hoses or drip irrigation that never wet the foliage are preferred.
Cultivating and Mulching
Because roses are very shallow-rooted plants, cultivate only the soil surface to avoid damaging the roots in the upper soil level. Mulching with a 2 to 3 inch layer of peat moss, shredded bark, straw, or similar material will discourage weeds, minimize root disruption from cultivation, and retain moisture in the soil. Be sure that your source of mulch is free of weed seeds.
Cutting Flowers (Prunes at the same time)
Cutting roses not only can bring beautiful blooms indoors, and provide you with fresh product to use in your medicinals, but can also increase the vigor of your rose bush at the same time. Improper cutting, however, can injure a plant. Use only a sharp pruners or scissors to make clean cuts. Leaves of hybrid tea roses usually are composed of three leaflets at the top of the rose stem and five leaflets just below that. Make the cut just above the top-most leaf with 5 leaflets to ensure good growth in the future. If longer stems are needed for arranging the cut flowers, allow at least two 5-leaflet leaves to remain on the stem.
If you do not cut flowers during the growing season, remove them when their petals begin to fall. Cut them just above the top-most leaf. Late in the season, it’s best to allow the last flowers to form fruits (these are your rosehips). This signals the plant to settle into protective dormancy as colder weather approaches.
Medicinal Use of Roses
The rose was one of the most valued medicinal plants in the monastery gardens of medieval Europe. Rose petals suitable for medicinal purposes must yield a deep rose-colored, astringent, and fragrant infusion when boiling water is poured upon them. Unfortunately many modern cultivars have been chosen more for gorgeous bloom display at the cost of aromatic scent. When we consider rose as a medicinal herb today, we tend to focus only of the high vitamin C content of the rosehips, or the value the rose holds in healing damaged skin. A closer look reveals even more of the healing powers of this classic garden favorite.
- Rose bark and rose petals make an astringent skin care wash that can help cleanse wounds and stop bleeding.
- Rosewater can be used on its own as a facial toner, and forms the basis for rose cold creams and facial lotions.
- A few drops of rose oil adds depth, and an unmistakable fragrance to any skin care remedy.
- Both rose petals and rose hips can be used in herbal teas and as bath infusions, rose hips have the stronger flavor. Rose hips, the fruit left after the flower bloom falls, make tasty red tea high in Vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Rose hips and flowers can be incorporated into salves and creams.
Wild Roses and Old Garden Roses tend to be the best varieties to grow for medicinal purposes as they are more true to their nature, producing high quality blooms and abundant rose hips.
Wild roses are low-maintenance shrubs in comparison to other garden roses, usually tolerating poor soil and some shade. They generally have only one flush of blooms per year, although some species have large hips in the autumn.
The wild roses commonly grown in gardens include Rosa moschata, the Musk Rose; Rosa banksiae, Lady Banks’ Rose; Rosa pimpinellifolia, the Scots or Burnet Rose; Rosa rubiginosa, the Sweetbriar or Eglantine; and Rosa foetida, in varieties ‘Austrian Copper’, ‘Persian Double’ and ‘Harison’s Yellow‘.
Old Garden Rose
An Old Garden Rose is defined as any rose belonging to a class which existed before the introduction of the first Modern Rose, La France, in 1867. Alternative terms for this group include heritage and historic roses. In general, Old Garden Roses of European or Mediterranean origin are once-blooming woody shrubs, with notably fragrant, double-flowered blooms primarily in shades of white, pink and crimson-red. The shrub’s foliage tends to be highly disease-resistant, and they generally bloom only from canes (stems) which formed in previous years.
Look for Rosa rugosa that develops many large, bright red hips that look and taste like small apples. Rugosa roses are found in most nurseries and plant catalogs. Rosa gallica, a native of the Middle East no longer found in the wild but available from nurseries and plant catalogs, is a favored old garden rose. It will grace your garden with beauty and scent and your table with nutritious foods and beverages.
Wild & Old Garden roses, despite their beauty and usefulness for medicinals and as perimeter plantings, food, and wildlife habitats, are considered by many to be a nuisance. They do spread by suckering, and a single plant will become a thicket eventually.
If you have enough property to sustain several thickets (or even a deserted corner) where they can grow without interfering with your other homesteading or farming operations, you will have an ample source of nutritious hips and abundant blooms to nourish yourself and your family throughout the year and for generations to come.
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