Roses are often condemned as hard to grow. I have seen this so many times on some garden sites (really click bait farms with post titles like Ten Worst Plants for your garden) that I really feel badly for new gardeners that fall for that tripe. The internet, including Pinterest is so full of misinformation that it can be quite confusing for some. I assure you that roses are easy to grow!
I mean it, they are not hard to grow and you don’t have to use chemicals to keep them looking nice or keep the bugs at bay. Some areas do contend with some really nasty critters that will eat their roses to a nub but there are some natural traps and deterrents that will help.
#1 clue to ease with roses is pick a rose that is suited for your area! I cannot emphasize that enough. Roses are easy to grow if you plant roses that like the conditions of your garden. Climate, location and soil all make a difference in how they perform but most of all the type of rose you plant can make or break your success.
My History with Roses
If you have been around here long you know I love roses.
I have successfully grown roses for the past 33 years. Like my other gardening techniques, I don’t follow the traditional so called “wisdom” of caring for them.
You may ask why since this “wisdom” has been around for ages and ages.
Well quite frankly, I have found that many times it is just plain wrong for my area and climate. Gardening is not an exact science. What works for a plant in Ohio would not be correct in California but you can successfully grow that plant in both locations.
There is no one size fits all method in gardening.
(Just click here for the start of my series Lazy Gal’s Garden guide, for the atypical gardener. )
Not all Roses are Create Equal
Many plunk all roses into one box and think they are treated the same. In fact, there are hundreds of species of roses. Some originated and flourished in colder climes while others came from warmer areas. Crosses of these were made to harness the best attributes of each.
For a great in depth look at the History of Roses click HERE.
Hybrid Teas are a cross of the tender, ever blooming Tea roses with the hardier Hybrid Perpetuals. The majority of pruning “rules” were developed for the Hybrid Teas. And Hard Pruning is employed to encourage long stems for exhibition. Do you exhibit your roses?
Me neither so really that rule does not suit us, so learn to prune roses so they love you!
Firefighter is my only Hybrid Tea, it is so sweet smelling. Most Hybrid Teas do not flourish here therefore I don’t usually bother with them.
Do You Have to Follow the Rules?
I grew quite a variety of Hybrid Teas when I lived in the San Joaquin Valley and they thrived.
Did I follow the rules then?
I didn’t even know what the rules were for a long time.
Most Hybrid Teas do well with the traditional methods but there are actually some that don’t. This article says it well and it seems they have had the same experience as I with roses… Off with their Heads or How I Learned to Stop Pruning and Love the Rose
What did I do? I observed them and learned what they needed and when, though I kept in mind the general guidelines of care. That is a huge key to successful gardening, not just with roses, with all plants.
I now grow mostly David Austin English Roses and Antique or Heirloom Roses, many of which have different care requirements than Hybrid Teas.
It may help to know why you should prune:
1. Disease and Pest control. Diseased or pest ridden canes will suck energy from the plant trying to fight. Prune it out. It does not matter when.
2. Improve air flow through the plant which reduces fungal and pest problems.
3. Force Dormancy, in warmer climes it is beneficial to force your roses into dormancy since they won’t go into it themselves. Click here for a great article on that.
4. Shape the bush, (this is for the upright growing roses, not ground cover roses which can be treated differently) Climbers also need a different approach for shaping than bush type. (click here for how I prune my climbing roses)
I also decided to write this post as I have been seeing a lot of advice on garden sites say DON’T PRUNE IN FALL, that is not correct information for everyone.
Being that we get snow, the heavy, wet stuff that is called Sierra Cement, I have to do some judicious pruning in late Fall. The roses have gone dormant and will not put on new growth until it warms up so I don’t worry about new growth getting zapped by the cold or if they have not yet gone into dormancy my hard pruning forces it. If I didn’t do this pruning before snow flies, then I would end up with some severely damaged roses. Pruning in late Fall is essential for me to get the best from my roses, if I waited until early Spring as many say you should then it would be much too late.
Heirloom Roses has the most sensible post on rose pruning I have come across. They give many variables you may face including different types of roses and why to prune in different seasons.
Their photos show you what they are talking about, they do a much better job than I ever could. CLICK HERE to read it.
My take away advice for today is, get to know your plants rather than follow rigid rules that may not apply to you and that includes pruning. Even moving a rose from one area of your garden to another can affect how it performs. I have moved quite a few plants that floundered in one area and had them thrive in another.
One other misconception about roses is they take a lot of water.
Because of our severe drought the past 4 years I have found that to be completely untrue. See the pink rose just above, that is Sceptre’d Isle from David Austin.
This rose is growing on a back hillside, tossed out in the back of beyond of my garden because I had no where to put it but I wanted to get it in the ground. I used to have a soaker hose along the hillside but removed it 3 summers ago.
This rose has been on my list to move since then but I have either forgotten or just not had the time, so it has been neglected to an extreme degree.
It has gotten only one deep watering per summer and it has bloomed like crazy. Big, luscious, sweet smelling flowers all summer long.
Despite severe water restrictions, all of my roses did just fine, many in the front garden were watered with gray water from our shower. You wouldn’t believe how much water is used in a your daily shower.
Most of my roses get a good solid soak of 1 inch per week. I use soaker hoses but others find drip systems work well too. A good mulch helps to retain moisture during hot spells.
There are many folks who think roses are too high maintenance to have in the easy care garden but that is not true in the least.
Roses are a sheer delight to grow and take no more work than any other plant if you plant what grows best in your area.
I wish you happy Rose pruning and glorious blooms ever after!
Resources for Hardy Roses
The David Austin website has many that are rated very Hardy for colder areas and some for warmer areas. (not an afilliate, I just love them, this is the link for the US branch, there is also links for other countries)
Heirloom Roses have some lovely varieties of old roses that are hardy as well. (they also have gift certificates for gift giving)