Question a Rose

Every spring, there are two groups of plants I get more questions about than any other: People are concerned about how to take care of their hydrangeas and roses. I received a question this week regarding climbing roses, so now is a great opportunity to answer this question as well as more general rose questions. And though I am a pretty awesome rose grower, there are others with even more experience than I, so I thought I would put forth a few questions to the rosarian I go to with my questions: Jon Weaver of Martin’s Pet and Garden in downtown Elkhart.

Josh: I heard roses are really fussy. Is that true?
Jon:Some varieties of roses take more care than others. The newer garden or shrub roses are easy to grow and will bloom repeatedly with little care. Roses need at least 6 hours of sun a day and prefer a well drained soil, or soil that does not stay wet for long periods of time.”
Josh’s note: Also watch for black spot among other common disease and pests with roses. The rose family as a whole is prone to more than its share of disease and pest issues.

Josh: What should I consider when choosing roses? What about shrub versus hybrid tea roses?
Jon:When choosing a rose make sure it will grow in our zone. Many hybrid tea roses are not winter hardy around here while many of the shrub roses are hardy to -20 and -30 degrees. Many of the shrub roses are grown on their own root and not grafted like hybrid tea roses. Shrub roses are disease resistant and require little spraying.”

Josh: What are three things I should be doing right now for my roses? What is the biggest thing I should be doing to have beautiful flowers and healthy plants?
Jon: “Roses should be pruned back in the early spring, removing dead canes and thinning to 4 or 5 of the larger, healthy canes. Fertilize roses when you see the first buds starting to form. Watch for tiny holes in the leaves which are caused by the rose slug.”
Josh’s note: Wellfield uses a commonly available organic fertilizer spread around the base of the shrub roses approximately once a month through mid-summer. We spray a spinosad-based product every two weeks once the presence of rose slug larvae appear, and we continue to spray until they stop emerging from the soil.

Josh: Can I grow climbing roses in Michiana? Do you have a couple of favorite varieties?
Jon: “Climbing roses will thrive for years as long as a winter hardy variety is planted. We had one growing on the side of the building at Martins Pet & Garden for over 10 years before the -20 degree winter killed it. We replaced it with a climber called Above and Beyond, which is hardy to -30.”
Josh’s note:  You can grow climbing roses in Michiana if the right microclimate is chosen, and by keeping the root zone unusually warm, such as by planting on a side of a heated building. They simply cannot be planted on an arbor out in the landscape like you can further south in warmer zones.

Josh: Do you have a variety or two to recommend?
Jon: “The Easy Elegance rose collection from Bailey Nurseries is a collection of 25 different winter hardy, easy care roses. Two of my favorites are Sweet Fragrance, a coral and orange flower that opens up to an apricot color, and Kashmir a dark, red velvety bloom.”

Josh Steffen, Horticulture Manager, Wellfield Botanic Gardens

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