Preparing the Rose Bed

It is best to always group roses for easy care.  Choose a spot that gets full sun for at least 6 hours a day and is away from encroaching trees or shrubs. Make sure the soil drains well. It is a good idea to add soil to raise the bed up 8-10 inches for good drainage.  Landscape timbers around the bed will hold the soil and blend with almost any setting.  A good soil mix for roses is about 1/3 existing soil or top soil, 1/3 organic matter like pine bark, compost, or manure and 1/3 sand.


Hybrid teas and grandifloras should be planted 3 feet apart, floribundas about 2 feet apart, and minis 1-2 feet apart.  Old garden roses require more room as some can get very large.  Check with reference material on the potential size of a specific rose.  To plant a container rose, first water the bush and let it drain.  Next dig a hole about twice as large as the container.  Cut off the bottom of the container and discard it.  Set the bush in the hole, positioning it so that the bud union is about 2 inches above ground level. Now cut the sides of the container all the way down in 2 or 3 places and remove.  Fill in the hole with soil and water well.  Don’t tamp down the soil with your feet.  This breaks the roots.  Add about 2 inches of mulch.  For bare root roses, dig a hole larger than the root system and spread the roots over a cone of soil for support.  Add soil and water to eliminate air pockets and then follow the procedure for container roses above.  Keep your newly planted roses well watered and do not fertilize until they form new growth. 


Roses need about 1-2 inches of water per week.  Plan ahead to have soaker hoses or an irrigation system, especially if you have a large garden.


When you cut off flowers, generally cut to the outside of the bush about a quarter inch above a bud, or right above a 5 leaflet leaf.  That’s where a new rose blossom will start to grow. Wait until the bushes are well established to cut long steamed roses because new bushes need time establish a good root system.  Always leave at least two 5-leaflet leaves on the stem when cutting blooms.  Prune your roses on Valentines Day and Labor Day for the best blooms cycles.  At this time, clean out the centers, cut off the dead canes and cut the bush back at least 30%.


To encourage rebloom, roses need regular applications of fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.  You can use a balanced granular like 8-8-8, a time release or a natural fertilizer like alfalfa or fish meal.  Water before fertilizing and follow the directions on the label.  

Disease Control

The main disease of roses here is blackspot, a fungus causing feathery black spots on leaves.  Except for a few highly resistant varieties, blackspot is bound to appear in your rose garden.  To control the disease, spray your roses with a fungicide following the label directions.  Funginex, Daconil, Immunox, Mancozeb, Fertilome products, and Bayer products are all good but they must be applied on schedule to be effective.  Begin spraying right after spring pruning and continue throughout the growing season. 

Downey mildew may also strike the rose garden.  Downey mildew causes purple areas on the leaves and stems along with yellowish areas on the stems.  Special fungicides must be purchased to combat downey mildew.  Prune off the growth infected with downey mildew and destroy.  Call a consulting rosarian to help identity and treat any rose diseases that may appear.  

Insect Control

For environmental reasons, we recommend that you spray with insecticide only when you see damage and not weekly as with blackspot.  Insect spray, when used, can be mixed with fungicide spray unless the label states otherwise.  Many pests may be controlled with non-toxic insecticidal soap sprays available at garden centers.  If flower edges start turning brown, thrips are probably the cause.  Spray just the buds and flowers with Orthene.  No need to spray the entire bush and kill the beneficial insects in the process. Spider mites attack in hot, dry weather. If leaves turn pale and dry, starting at the bottom of the bushes, mites have probably arrived.  To detect mites, remove an infected leave and tap it over a piece of white paper.  You’ll probably see tiny white mites about the size of a pin prick crawling around on the paper.  Washing the underside of the leaves with a water wand or a forceful spray of water will deter the mires.  For serious attack use a special miticide like Floramite.


It is important to protect yourself from exposure to chemicals. Read the entire label on any product before you decide to use it. When spraying, always wear goggles to protect your eyes, as well as a face mask, rubber gloves, and all-over protective clothing.  It is a good idea to shower after spraying. A pesticide hotline, funded by the EPA, will answer any questions you have about gardening chemicals.  The line, operated by Texas Tech School of Medicine, is open 8 AM to 6 PM weekdays.  Call 1-800-858-7378.

Rose Care Overviews

Monthly Rose Care

October 2011 

April May June 2013