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Rose Care and Pruning Guide for St Louis gardens


Roses belong in every garden. They grace us with luscious blossoms of exquisite forms, colors and scents. Although some require a bit of care, many are disease resistant and continually bloom. In our ‘Rose Care and Pruning Guide for St. Louis Gardens’ we’ll teach you proven techniques to give your roses a healthy home. Your reward will be some of the most magnificent blossoms in the world. Read on to see rose care and rose pruning tips.

1. Start With Good Soil
If your soil isn’t rich in organic matter, or heavy with clay and doesn’t drain well, then amend it with compost, leaf mold, or some other organic material. We prefer coton bur compost, it is light-weight and easy to apply. When planting, dig a hole that is about three feet in diameter and deep enough so that if your plant has a bud union it is at, or slightly below the ground level. Mix in the organic matter with the soil surrounding the roots, and top off the planting with compost or mulch. Water in well. To give your roses a quick boost apply a light (about 1/4-1/2 strength) liquid fertilizer feed.

2. Find A Sunny Spot
Most roses require a minimum of six consecutive hours of daily sunshine to optimize their flowering capabilities, unless you’re planting one of the low-maintenance ‘Knock-Out’ Roses or others, which will bloom in four hours of sun. You can get away with a little bit less than six hours if the available light is from the strongest light of the day, between 12-3 p.m. However, it is useful to know that varieties that have fewer petals in the bloom will tolerate the shade more than heavily petalled roses which need ample amounts of heat and light to open properly. The color of the bloom is also affected by the amount of sun…the more sun, the brighter the color.

3. Water!
Roses require plenty of water. It is difficult to over-water roses that suffer through typical droughty St. Louis summers. How much is enough? Don’t let the soil dry out completely at the base of the plant. In cooler weather, water a couple of times per week. In the heat of the summer, every day is not too much to keep your roses in full bloom. But dear gardeners beware if your roses don’t have adequate drainage – they don’t like “soggy feet,” and will suffer if the soil has too much clay or poor drainage. It is much better to give the plant a deep soaking, four to five gallons, twice a week than to lightly water every day. You want to train its roots to grow deep into the soil. If you’re watering from above, do it early in the day to allow moisture on the leaves enough time to evaporate. This helps prevent powdery mildew and black spot.

4. Feed your roses
Roses need regular feeding all season. Start fertilizing when new spring growth reaches an inch or more and continue through August, then stop. Apply a balanced fertilizer that provides the essential elements of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium that roses need for robust health. We recommend the slow release granular Espoma Rose-Tone, apply following manufactuer’s directions. Supplementing with liquid fertilizer at half strength with give the plants the extra boost for beautiful flowering. Nature’s Source liquid fertilizer works well.

5. Control Insects And Diseases
Prevention is your best treatment! Make sure there is adequate air circulation around your roses. Before susceptible varieties become infected with disease or pests, apply preventive treatments. At the first sign of black spot, remove infected leaves immediately and pick up any damaged leaves from the ground so they don’t re-infect the plant.

Insects can be controlled with products such as Garden Safe’s Rose & Flower Insect Spray. Attack Japanese beetles in the larva stage in the soil with milky spore, such as St. Gabriel Laboratories Milky Spore Grub Control. This takes time but has long-lasting positive results.

Rose pruning for St Louis gardens6. Pruning
Pruning is important because it encourages new growth, removes dead wood and opens up the “skeleton” of the rose bush to improve air circulation. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a bud that is facing toward the outside of the plant. Remove all broken, dead, dying or diseased wood. Remove any weak or twiggy branches thinner than a pencil. Pruning should be done in late winter after plants have gone dormant, or in early spring. Following are some additional pruning guidelines:

⦁ Modern Shrub Roses: These are repeat bloomers, blooming on mature, but not old, woody stems. Leave them unpruned to increase vigor for the first two years. Then remove 1/3 of the oldest canes and any dead, diseased or dying canes.

⦁ Modern Ever-Blooming Roses & Floribunda: These bloom best on the current season’s growth. Prune 1/3 in the spring, or to about two feet tall or so. No fancy pruning is needed, but for a nice shaped shrub leave healthy canes evenly spaced around the plant.

⦁ Hybrid Teas & Grandiflora: These bloom on new wood and should be pruned in early spring.

⦁ Climbing Roses: Climbing roses bloom on two year old wood, and care must be given not to prune off flowering wood in spring. Prune in spring to remove winter damage and dead wood. After flowering, prune lateral branches to six inches. On older plants, remove thick woody stems yearly.

7. Winter care
Many shrub and ground cover roses do not need extra winter protection, but some roses do. In November or December, roses that need to be protected are ready to be covered for winter. Use shredded hardwood or leaf mold about a foot up the base of the rose to help protect the bud union from the freezing and thawing cycle that occurs throughout St. Louis winters. The mulch can be held in place by chicken wire or a thick section of newspaper stapled together to form a circular “coat” around the base of the rose.