basic Rose care

Site Preparation

Place plants in the best spot. This is the mantra of
the Master Gardener, put the right plant in the right place.
Almost all roses will grow and flower best where they receive 6-10 hours of sun daily. Some are more tolerant of light shade than others but they are exceptions.

In our region of the country, a site where the rose receives morning and midday sun then a bit of evening shade is optimal. Roses also greatly benefit from proper spacing, 12 or more inches apart when mature (not when first planted). Ensure adequate room for each plant in the landscape,
considering its growth habits and mature size before hand.
Proper placement allows beneficial, natural airflow and will help prevent or minimize fungal diseases in our typically humid climate.


prepare a growing bed of native soil that incorporates lots of rich organic matter. Carolina soils include rocky Appalachian slopes, the red clay of the piedmont plateau and he loose, quick drying sand or boggy wetlands of the coastal plain. Almost any soil, almost anywhere in the Carolinas will benefit from the addition of organic materials.

All roses grow and flower best in nutrient rich soil. Some are more tolerant of nutrient deficiencies than others but again, they are the exceptions. Most Carolina soils are acidic to some degree. This benefits roses which generally appreciate a mildly acidic root environment. Extremely acidic or extremely alkaline soil will need modification before planting. Sampling the soil of a planned landscape area and having it tested by your local Cooperative Extension office is free and highly recommended.


ensure that plants receive the proper amount of water.
Almost all roses prefer well drained soil and an average
of 1 inch of rainfall per week once established. Some are more tolerant of drier soils and others tolerant of wetland boundaries but once more, these are exceptions. Almost no roses like wet feet or consistently boggy environments. Extended periods of drought and hot temperatures in summer, common in our region, can stress roses.

Judicious use of supplemental water will likely be necessary for the best health of landscape roses at some point, especially before plants have become established (i.e. the first season). Once the perfect sunny spot has been picked out, availability of a reliable source of water within a reasonable distance ensured and the soil amended with vegetable compost, cured manure or humus (or all three) the fun part begins- picking out and planting the roses!

Selecting your Roses:

Selecting Globally, roses are planted and cultivated more than any other garden ornamental. Thus, there a huge number of ways to acquire them: local garden centers and nurseries, big box retailers, mail order nurseries and distributors or by taking a cutting of grandma's favorite heirloom. I will cover propagating roses from cuttings in a later entry.

The vast majority of market roses sold in America come either as bare root specimens or potted plants. There are advantages and disadvantages to both forms. Bare root plants, usually offered by mail order nurseries, either own root grown or grafted tend to be less expensive. They may require a little bit of research before ordering. Pot grown plants offer the buyer more immediate information- size, bloom color, shape, etc. but will likely be more expensive than bare root roses. They are also available in own root and grafted forms. Always buy or order from a reputable vendor with a proven record of quality plant offerings and service guarantees. That super inexpensive rose on the bargain shelf at the end of the season is rarely a good bet.

The old proverb is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Bare root roses should arrive packaged safely in moist media such as peat moss, sawdust or damp paper. The root structure should appear healthy with several main leaders. Concurrently, the top growth should also have several main stems/canes. A good rule of thumb: main roots and canes should equal at least the diameter of a standard pencil, preferably larger. Roots of these roses should be soaked in water for 8-24 hours before planting.

A clean bucket or plant pot will do just fine. Potted roses should have a firm, moist root system. The plant should be slightly mobile in its pot and not be root bound. Foliage should be evenly balanced, green and sturdy, not droopy, diseased or malformed. Any blooms or buds present should evenly cover the plant. Pot grown roses should be tagged appropriately including information regarding the plant name, cultivar or variety, bloom and foliage habits, mature size, shape and hardiness.

Lynn Cochran member of American Rose Society.