Iowa is a great place to grow Roses…great soil, warm summer months, cooler spring and fall months with usually adequate rainfall. Some may argue Roses are difficult to grow. Not so…remember, these are not your grandmother’s Rose bushes.
Today you can choose from a number of different types of Roses and they are much tougher than yesterday’s Roses. Own-root Roses like the KNOCK OUT® or Easy Elegance brands of Roses are grown on their own root, giving them greater disease resistance. A David Austin®, Hybrid Tea Rose, is a beautiful, fragrant way to add some color (think yellow, peach, bi-color, etc., single bloom per stem) to your garden or landscape. There are also Shrub Roses that stay low to the ground as well as Climbing Roses (if you can’t go out, go up!).
Plant roses in sun
Plant roses where they’ll get plenty of sun, especially this far north where the sun is less direct. The recommendation is for roses to get 10 or more hours of direct, unfiltered light a day—not just 8 as so often is recommended. Morning sun is best, by far. It dries off morning dew quickly to prevent fungal diseases.
At planting time, work in several spades of compost into the soil. Compost is magic, improving texture, fertility, and overall soil health in wonderfully intricate ways.
Wait to prune
In spring, don’t prune too early; wait until the leaf buds are a half inch or so long so that way you know more precisely what’s dead and what’s not.
Plant the graft or bud union (the knobby part right above the roots) 1 to 2 (yes, 2!) inches below the soil level. Some national companies will tell you to plant the graft union at ground level, but in Iowa, go deeper. It protects the rose from harsh winters.
Fertilize roses 2 to 3 times during the growing season. Fertilize the first time in early spring, just as the plants are starting new growth. Fertilize again at bloom time in early June. Fertilize one more time, if desired, in early July. If you choose to use chemicals, consider a combination rose fertilizer-insecticide. Bayer makes an excellent one in a big blue jug. I also like Osmocote, a slow-release granular fertilizer that’s easy to apply. Otherwise, fertilize with any chemical or organic fertilizer, and if it’s made for roses, so much the better.
But don’t overfeed your roses
Always stop feeding roses in early August (a tip from Reiman Gardens’ Nick Howell). This prevents tender new growth that will get zapped by winter.
Spray for mildew
Spray all but rugosa roses with a mixture of 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid soap, and 2 quarts water. Do this three times, 10 days apart, in early spring before daytime temperatures hit 80 degrees. This will prevent powdery mildew.
Brace for winter
In fall, mound all your roses (except the rugosas they don’t need it) with compost or good-quality soil after the first frost to a depth of 8 inches or more. But I’d not bother with wrapping and certainly not with those white cones, which may do more harm than good. Plus, they’re really, really unattractive. Gently push away the soil in spring when new growth starts.
Cedar River Garden Center carries several varieties or roses.
~ Cedar River Garden Center staff & The Iowa Gardener