The first Roses I ever owned were inherited from the homeowner before me. Rife with neglect there were 3 gorgeous almost tree like Gladifora stems in a small garden in front of my stoop. I quickly took them in, nursed them back to health and for years I was rewarded with showy red roses throughout summer and into the fall. One year they lasted until the first week of December! Certainly we had our problems, aphids were a constant battle and there was a year of never ending blackspot, but we got along great and I loved those plants. Then it was time to move, and sadly with a likely a twenty year rootstock I just had to leave them behind. I drove by to check in on them once. Only to find them hacked to the ground by an overzealous rose newbie. I never drove by again, it was just to hard. Tragic I know, and perhaps a little dramatic but I’ve always had a thing for roses. Long stem roses are linked to everything passionate and romantic, so who can blame me for waxing a little poetic? But I wanted to talk specifically today about my next and perhaps greatest love, which I discovered upon moving into my new house. Shrub Roses! They are prolific and can fill a empty space in a garden like no other. Not only do they grow wide, certain varieties can reach up to 8′ tall. So this week I thought I’d talk about proper care of shrub roses so you too can enjoy them as much as I do.
Plant all shrub roses in full sun in well-drained soil. The addition of peat moss to a very clay or a very sandy site will aid in drainage and nutrient availability to the plant. Adding some bone meal at planting time will help them establish. Plants should have plenty of space to grow so they will get good air circulation around the plants to decrease incidence of disease. Mulch the base of plants once the weather gets hot to aid in water retention.
Use an organic fertilizer the first year like MYKE Organic Rose Food 5-3-8. This will prevent over fertilizing and the possibility of burning the roots of the plant.
Pruning and Deadheading
Deadheading old blossoms should be done once the flowers begin to fade if the plant is a repeat bloomer. They will keep delivering if you are vigilant and I assure you the vigilance is just! Yearly pruning should be done in the spring. Cut out any dead or unwanted wood and shape the plant at this time. Don’t get carried away like my rose newbie, and never cut more than 1/3 of the plant at one time.
Some plants will experience some die back from the tips of their canes otherwise some will die back to the ground after winter. These plants are considered crown hardy and will not need to be protected.
There are some shrub roses that need some winter protection, but I find rose collars require to much pruning of the canes. A wide Rose Cone can work but I would suggest to cover any shrub rose at the base of the plant with a layer of mulch rather than prune them to fit into any sort of apparatus.
Insects and Disease
Shrub roses are more resistant to insects and disease than their hybrid counterparts. No treatment is needed unless an insect or a fungus is spotted. It is best to space the plants out to decrease the incidence of fungus and make sure the plant is not under any undue stress. A common pest like aphids can be dealt with a variety of simple ways like attracting lady bugs or an insecticidal soap.
Good luck and happy Rose Gardening!