Roses have to be one the most widespread ornamental plants used to give color in the landscape. Everyone can and should grow at least one variety of a rose and there are many varieties to choose from. Whether used in containers, as hedges, flowing on arbors, or planted in mass, roses can be a delight in the garden. If you chose a cultivar that does not do well in your garden then you probably have a cultivar that is not suited for your garden. With over two thousand cultivars available, I am sure I can help you find one or two that will grow well in your garden. In this article I will go over some of the different varieties of roses and give you some named cultivars which will do well in this area. This will help give you a starting point in finding a good quality rose. I will also go over a few steps you need to understand on proper selection, growing, and pruning techniques. Finally, I will tell you how control pests and diseases of roses so you can enjoy their fragrant blooms.
The Hybrid Tea roses are probably the most widely known for their long stems and uses for cut flowers. However, many homeowners complain that they do not produce enough flowers especially after cutting a few for use in the home. The problem I have with the Tea roses is that unless you have several varieties or you are fertilizing constantly, your flower production is limited. Now there are some newer varieties that will give you more blossoms but you need to find a rose grower which carries the varieties you are looking for. Fortunately, in our area you can attend one of the many local garden shows where growers have booths to sell their roses. I strongly recommend you attend these shows to learn more about roses or contact your local rose society for availability of the cultivars mentioned in this article and to ask about placement or color. The Hybrid Tea roses I recommend for this area are the Paradise, Paul Shirville, Gemini, Silver Jubilee, Tropical Sunset, St. Patrick, and Sutter’s Gold.
Floribundas are roses that produce multiple flowers on a single stem. This ready made bouquet of flowers is wonderful for use as a garden plant. Floribundas are a cross between the Hybrid Tea rose and the Polyantha. These roses come in a variety of colors and as stated above will produce many blooms over a long period of time. Floribundas grow to a height of about four feet tall and bloom from spring to late fall (some longer). Although many people grow roses for cut flowers, Floribundas are typically grown for their flushes of color in the landscape. The Floribundas I recommend for this area are the Apricot Nectar, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Miss Ada, Betty Boop, and Sun Flare.
Grandifloras Roses are similar to the floribundas because they also produce multiple blossoms on a single stem. But this is where the similarity ends. Grandifloras produce large flowers similar to the Tea Rose but not quit as distinct. They also tend to grow taller then the floribundas, about five feet. I like the Grandifloras because I can still use them for cut flowers even though the stems are shorter than Tea Roses. I use small display vases to show off my blooms of this variety. Use Grandifloras in the rear of the rose garden because of the height they will attain. Smaller roses in front of these will give balance to the garden. My favorite cultivars are the Violette Parfumee, Queen Elizabeth, Tournament of Roses, and Gold Medal.
According to the American Rose Society, Old Garden Roses are roses which were introduced before 1867 but many rose growers consider those roses that are at least seventy five years old or older to be eligible for this class. One of the easiest ways to tell if the rose falls into this category is the true rose perfume the flowers give off. Old Garden Roses are also not as colorful as newer hybrid roses. Roses of this variety are commonly used as shrubs or trained to a trellis. Unlike newer roses, Old Garden Roses are grown on their own rootstock (which is easily propagated) and depending on the cultivar you want, thrive right here in Central Florida. Look for Louis Phillipe (my all-time favorite), Mutabilis (easily my second favorite), Sombreuil, and if you want a great climber use either Souvenir de la Malmaison or Lady Banks.
Now that you have learned which varieties to plant in your garden you need to prepare the soil. Make sure you pick a sunny spot and improve the soil with compost, peat, and perlite for drainage. Use a tilling machine or shovel to work this material into our Floridasoil to a depth of six to eight inches for best results. I have found that the more time you give to improving the soil, the better your plants are going to do and reward you with bigger blooms and a healthier plant. Next, lay out your garden with the taller plants to the rear and smaller growing roses in the front. Spacing of roses is also important so be sure to follow directions on the plant label. Be sure your planting hole is at least as deep as the outstretched roots. Roots wrapped around the bottom of the hole will never spread properly leading to a weaker plant. Do not bury the bud union (the point where your rose was grafted) as this should be above the ground. In cooler areas the bud union is planted below the surface.
Depending on the time of year you plant your rose garden you may need to shade your new plants to conserve water around the roots. Newly planted roses demand frequent watering so watch your plants daily. The addition of mulch around your plant may help retain water. Feed your roses at least a half cup of a good quality 10-10-10 fertilizer monthly and spray foliar fertilizers such as Peters or Miracle Grow during the summer months to give your roses a boost. Be sure your plants are well watered before feeding.
Pruning roses is an essential part of growing quality roses. I recommend pruning your roses in mid February after the threat of any late frosts disappear. All pruning cuts should be made with sharp pruning shears (I use only Felco pruning shears) and your cuts should be made to eliminate any inward pointing, dead, or diseased growth. Next, you need to remove any stems which rub against each other and remove the stem which is weakest completely. Next, prune into wood that looks healthy. Look at the pith in the center of the cut. If the pith is brown or off color continue cutting down the stem until you see completely white pith. If the pith is clear, make your final cut at an angle with an outward pointing bud one quarter inch near the high point of the cut. You should have at least two buds below this cut so do not cut too low to the ground.
All remaining one year old wood should be pruned back by one third. All lateral branches should be cut back to six or seven inches and you should limit lateral branches to only two or three per branch. Remember, cutting too much from your plant will make your plant thin and weak. Some people like to cut back some stems hard and others lightly to encourage a longer bloom time. This is up to you. Always remove suckers which originate below the graft or on the roots. These growths need to be cut off as soon as they are detected. Now we need to talk about pests and diseases.
One of the most damaging pests I have found on roses to date is the Chili Thrip. Thrips damage roses by means of their rasping sucking mouthparts which tear the leaf or flower surface. Once tore, the plant juices seep out and the chili thrip feeds on this. Roses are particularly susceptible to this pest. I have seen rose bushes of the variety “Knock Out” completely killed by this pest. Look for distorted leaves and flower buds or flower buds that do not open or look burnt when they do open. You may never find the Chili Thrip as Chili Thrips are so small you will need a microscope to find them. I recommend if you think you have Chili Thrips you should treat your roses with a product called Conserve (available at some garden centers) immediately. For black spot of rose you will need to spray your plant with Bayer’s Three in One Rose Care monthly.
(Photos by Jim Small – ARS Consulting Rosarian).
I hope you enjoy growing roses as much as I do and I encourage you to experiment with the cultivars I have mentioned above. Good luck and remember, without plants we would not be here.