Spring Rose Care

When the ten-day forecast shows that nighttime temperatures are going to be above 34 degrees, it is time to wake up your roses!

Take off the Styrofoam Rose cones, or burlap, etc.  Don't be in a hurry to remove the mulch that is piled up around the canes. (Slowly remove it as the temperature warms up.)  When you see new leaves starting to grow,
it is time to start your spring pruning.  The overall picture is to create a balanced framework of canes.  The following five steps will get your roses off to a great start!

  1. Cut any obviously dead canes down to the ground.  (If you're not sure, leave it for a few weeks.  If it still doesn't have any new growth on it, it is dead.  Cut it down.)
  2. If there are two canes that are crossing, or rubbing, decide which cane will better add to the balanced structure of the rose bush, and keep that one.  Cut the other one down below where it crosses.  Cut 1/4" above an outward facing bud.  This will encourage the rose to produce canes that point out of the bush, rather than into the center of the bush.  (This action will allow more air circulation into the middle of the rose bush, which is desirable.
  3. Now it is time to trim the tops of the canes.  Ideally, English Roses should be nice, full, well-balanced shrubs.  You are looking to keep these early canes as long as you can, while maintaining an attractive, rounded shape.  Try to keep the canes about the same length as each other.  (Try to avoid one long cane and a bunch of small ones.)  On each cane, cut 1/4" above an outward facing bud or leaf.   If you think you made a mistake, don't worry, English Roses are very forgiving.  Pruning gets better with practice.  :)
  4. Once you have pruned your rose, clean up any pieces of rose cane or leftover dried leaves from the ground around the rose.  Keeping the area under your rose clean from debris will help with the overall health of your rose.  (Fallen leaves can harbor disease that can be transmitted from the soil to the rose.)
  5. Now it is time to feed your rose.  I use about a cup to a cup and a half of Rose Tone by Espoma, but there are other balanced fertilizers as well.  I spread it around the soil at the base of the rose, gently scratch it into the soil, and water thoroughly.  I repeat this monthly, and am rewarded with happy rose bushes.  Although books will often recommend that the mulch be pushed away first so the rose food can be put directly on the soil, I have found that  if I wait to do that, I never get around to feeding my roses!  The rose food will filter down through the mulch with watering and rain, so it is better to get them fed on top of the mulch rather than to not to do it at all! 

Once the leaves start to develop, it's time to start a proactive spraying program to minimize pests and disease.  I make up a nice cocktail for my roses and apply it twice a month throughout the growing season.

This little bit of extra time spent with your roses in the spring will get them off to a great start!  You will be rewarded with satisfying results:  

Happy bushes = Happy roses!