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Learn: Frequently Asked Questions
this page, we'll try to answer some of the more frequently asked
questions about roses that we've heard from our customers.
When you're faced with uncertainty about what to do with your
roses, read as much as you can about roses and ask your gardenings
friends for advice. But most importantly, relax -- remember, you're
doing this because you want to!
Taking care of roses is alot like taking care of anything -- you
have to pay attention to them so you know when something is not
quite right. Learn the basics about what plants need. A little knowledge
about plant science can't hurt, but you don't have to become a botanist
to grow good roses. And don't forget to learn from those who have
been growing things for awhile. I've always found that gardening
friends who use their "instincts" can be some of the best sources
If you have a question that isn't addressed here, please drop
us a note.
Question: What does winter hardy
First, we don't give our roses any winter protection. By spring,
some plants will have various degrees of winter die back or no die
back of their canes that determine our measurement of winter hardiness.
We have three categories of winter hardiness: hardy to the tip,
hardy to the snowline and hardy to the crown.
- If a rose is hardy to the tip, its canes didn't die back at
all during the winter.
- If a rose is hardy to the snowline, the canes above the average
snowdepth -- between 10 and 20 inches -- are dead, but everything
beneath the snowline is alive.
- If a rose is hardy to the crown, its canes die back all the
way to the ground like a perennial; but, the crown and roots are
hardy and it regrows readily in the spring. For roses that are
crown hardy, it's important to purchase them on their own roots,
or the rootstock may be all that the survives the winter.
do I get my hardy roses ready for winter?
If they're healthy and well-watered, you don't have to do anything
if the rose is hardy in your Zone. If
you're growing tender roses, you may have to give them complete
protection to get them through the winter. All roses will benefit
from a shovel-full or two of well-rotted manure or compost placed
over the crown of the plant. Apply this material after the first
hard frost, so it doesn't prompt the plant to put on new growth.
I've heard that the manure will keep those nasty little bark-chewing
rodents away. Seems to work for me! The most important thing to
help your roses get ready for winter is to stop feeding them about
6 weeks before the first frost of fall. That stops new tender growth
from forming, which is really susceptible to winter damage. The
second most important this is to keep them healthy and well-watered.
Water is the best fertilizer, and as long as your roses are not
standing in mud, they will be happy with lots of water.
You can learn more about winterizing roses in our In the Garden
article on Getting Your
Roses Ready for Winter.
Question: I live in deer country.
What can I do to keep the deer from eating my roses?
Deer will anything if they're hungry enough, but
you probably already know that.
There is alot of homegrown and official advice on what you can
do to keep deer from eating your plants. There's also lots of things
you can buy that claim to repel deer. But, deer will anything if
they're hungry enough.
You can spend alot of money on repellants. People have mixed results
with repellants, which seem to be affected by deer populations and
food supply (deer will eat anything if they're hungry enough), to
operator error -- oops, forgot to reapply after it rained.
Repellents include home remedies like dial soap, eggs and garlic
or human hair; and expensive commercial sprays. Check with your
local garden center to see what they have or recommend for your
area. Be prepared to pay a hefty price for the commercial mixes.
And, be prepared to reapply them after heavy rains (in most cases).
Low cost solutions work best when the deer first start to show
up. They include:
- Attaching dial soap in cloth bags to the rose plants.
- Playing a radio outside near the roses -- especially at night.
A really obnoxious talk radio works best.
- Make your own solution of garlic and raw eggs and apply it to
But, one of the most effective method is to put up a fence around
your garden. There are new fences available made of black plastic
mesh that are about 9-feet tall and really keep those dang varmints
out of your garden!
Question: What type of fertilizer
would you recommend for roses, and how much and how often?
There are about as many special recipes for rose
fertilizer and techniques for feeding roses as there are rose growers.
All you need to know is that for a rose to produce a good show of
blossoms, it needs to be fed. That food may come in the form of
compost or well-aged manure, or come in a bag or bottle of ready-to-use
fertilizer. We prefer a mix of both. We apply a shovel-full of compost
per rose in early spring and late fall. Then, we apply a well-balanced
(3-5-3) organic fertilizer once a month to each rose starting in
early spring and ending 6 weeks before the first frost date of the
fall. For more complete information on fertilizing, visit our page
on growing roses.
Question: How much water
does a rose plant need each week?
Roses need the equivalent of one inch of rain per
week, or about 1 gallon of water. Roses love water, but can't stand
to have their roots standing in it. It's been said that water is
the best fertilizer, since it moves all the nutrients through the
soil and into the rose plant. To keep your plants healthy, they
also need consistent moisture. The best way to do this is to water
your plants deeply once a week (if it doesn't rain at least one
inch), and then apply a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch to hold that
moisture in the soil. When the soil stays consistently moist, then
that moisture is always available to your rose. A well-watered rose
is better able to produce a consistent show of blossoms and to fend
off pests, such as spider mites when the climate gets dry.
Question: I live in USDA
hardiness Zone 4A and would like to grow roses in containers
on my patio. What kind(s) of roses would be suited for this, how
should I plant them, and what should I do with them in the winter?
Roses that don't get very large and that repeat their bloom all
summer are your best choices for container growing. Some options
include: All miniatures, The Fairy, Chuckles, Charles Albanel, Henry
Hudson, Schneekoppe and Winnipeg Parks. Plant the rose in a large
container -- preferably 3 to 5 gallons in size. The larger the container,
the more soil it contains and the less often you have to water it.
Make sure the container has drainage holes. Then, place 2 to 3 inches
of gravel in the bottom and fill with a light, well draining soil
mix that contains perlite to keep the soil from compacting. Ask
your local garden center for a good container soil mix. Mix into
the soil a balanced, slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote 14-14-14.
This will keep your rose fertilized all summer (read the package
for recommended application rates). Remember to keep the plant consistently
watered. At the end of summer, you'll need to give protection to
the container-grown rose or its roots will freeze beyond repair.
The best way to get a container-grown rose through a Zone
4a winter is to bury the container in the ground and mound up
soil 4 to 6 inches over the crown of the plant. The second best
way is to cover the container with a sandwich of white plastic-straw-white
plastic, but be aware that this attracts mice. If you have indoor
plant lights, you can overwinter most miniatures inside under these
lights. Be on the lookout for spider mites. These can be washed
off or killed with insecticidal soap.
Question: Which of the roses that
you sell are the most fragrant?
Answer: Almost all of the Rugosa
roses are very fragrant -- and they're easy to grow. In addition
to the Rugosa's the following roses are also fragrant: Cuthbert
Grant and Rosa mundi. For more information about using the roses
we offer, visit our online catalog.
Question: What are some suggestions
for companion plants for roses that do well in a northern climate?
We have our favorites, of course, which biases this answer, but
here's our suggested list for Zone 4:
- Lilies of all kinds: particularly orientals. Pastel colors
work very well.
- Phlox (get ones that are resistant to powdery mildew)
- Echinacea -- purple and white
- Veronica -- blues and whites
- Achillea (they spread quickly)
- Campanula (short ones, like blue or white clips are great for
- Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
- Dianthus -- especially useful at the base of "leggy" roses
- Clematis -- they work very well intertwined with climbing/pillar
- Garlic (theoretically, the sulphur in garlic helps prevent
- Digitalis (foxglove)
This list can be expanded, depending on your preference and favorites.
You're always safe with pastel, white and blue colors with roses,
since most roses are pink. There are lots of books
with good suggestions for landscaping with roses. Ask your local
rose club or garden clubs if they have suggested lists of plants
that go well with roses for your area.
Question: I have many roses in my
yard, but one in particular grows exceedingly tall and has only
had one flower on it in three years! What's the deal?
Well, as my mechanic always says, "it could be any number of things..."
First, make sure that rose is getting enough sun -- at least five
hours each day is needed to produce a good show of blossoms.
Second, make sure that rose is well fed. Roses are what they call
"heavy feaders" that need lots of plant nutrients to produce all
those blossoms that we expect from them. Use a well-balanced, slow
release fertilizer that has plenty of phosphorus -- this helps promote
blooms. Bone meal or rock phosphate are good sources of phosphorus.
More info about feeding roses is available on our growing
roses page on this Web site.
Third, and this is probably the most likely cause, all you may
be growing is the rootstock from a budded rose. Most roses available
commercially have been budded onto a rootstock of a different variety.
This is because budding roses is the most cost effective and efficient
way to mass produce roses. But, budded roses have a downside for
the gardener. When the top part of a budded rose dies (which happens
frequently during cold winters), the rootstock usually lives. However,
rootstocks are chosen for their vigorous growth, not their blossoms.
They usually shoot up 5 or 7 feet and have single blossoms that
appear only once in early summer. Then, you're left with a large,
rangy plant with lots of foliage and no blooms.
What to do? Be ruthless -- dig it out, compost it, and replace
it with a rose grown on its own roots.
live in Zone 7 or 8 and my Mom wants
some floribunda roses. What would you recommend for our area?
Living in Zone 7/8, you've got almost
unlimited options for growing roses -- most roses shouldn't die
from too much cold in that hardiness Zone. And, since there are
currently over 4,000 rose varieties available in commerce, the recommended
list could be really long. But, you're asking the wrong person about
what to grow in your area. Our nursery is in the northern part of
Zone 4 -- way colder than where you live. Your best source of info
on what to grow is from your local rose society and gardening clubs.
You can find your local rose society through the American
Rose Society. Check with your local nurseries to see what they
would recommend. And, keep your eyes open for beautiful roses that
catch your eye. Don't be afraid to ask the gardener about them --
gardeners love to talk about their plants, and they may even give
you a cutting!
Question: What roses, if any,
would be suited to growing in a shady spot in a container?
Answer: This is a tough question
-- most roses are real sun lovers and need at least 5 hours of sun
each day to perform well. Roses that get less sun than they need
have fewer blossoms and leggy growth as they try to reach for the
sun. And sometimes shady spots also are more moist, which can lead
to leaf spot and mildew problems.
Generally, the thing to do is find a rose that blooms prolifically
in full sun and has good disease resistance. With all that bloom
potential, you're quite likely to still get blossoms even in a spot
with light shade.
Some of the rose classes that can tolerate light shade are: Alba,
Hybrid Rugosa and Musk. There are always certain varieties in all
classes that do better than others. Ask your gardening friends if
they've had any luck with growing roses in shade. Or, just be brave
Question: I'm just starting to dig
up an area of my lawn to turn it into a rose bed. What types of
things should I add to get the roses off to a good start?
Ooh fun -- a new rose garden! It's always exciting
to start a new garden. Getting the bed ready before you plant is
really important. As you haul all those wheelbarrow loads of compost,
keep in mind -- it's easier to fix a problem now, than later.
First, you'll want to get rid of all the weeds
-- especially the perennial grasses and clovers. This may be a pain
now, but it will be worse later if you don't take care of it before
you plant your roses.
Second, get your soil pH tested. It should be
around 6.5 or so. If it's acidic (less than 6.0) add some lime.
If it's alkaline (above 7.0), add some sulfur. Be sure to follow
the directions on the lime and sulfur packages.
Third, add as much organic matter as you can
find (within reason, of course). This applies to any type of soil.
Organic matter is essential for making healthy soil, which results
in well fed and healthy plants. Compost is one of the best sources
of organic matter. Organic matter loosens up the soil, improves
aeration and drainage, and provides food for all living organisms
in the soil.
Fourth, if you have clay soil, add some gypsum,
sand and organic matter to help loosen it up. If you have sandy
soil, just plan on adding more organic matter or even some black
topsoil to increase its water-hold capacity and fertility.
Remember: proper prior soil preparation is key to growing good
Question: I'm having trouble sorting
through the innumerable choices of roses. What roses would you recommend
that: are strongly fragrant, hardy to Zone 3 or 4, have continuous
or good repeat bloom, and are resistant to powdery mildew and blackspot?
The characteristics you describe can be easily found in many of
the Hybrid Rugosa roses. They're
some of the most winter hardy roses we can grow, easily surviving
-35 degrees with no winter damage. Most have very fragrant blossoms.
Almost all of them repeat their bloom -- a few of them almost continuously.
Many of the varieties available are very tolerant of blackspot and
powdery mildew. An extra bonus with Rugosas is that most set rose
hips, which are colorful and edible. Some will also show fall colors.
Question: I want to grow clematis
with my roses. What colors of clematis go well with hardy roses?
which colors go well with others can become a science if you let
it. We've all seen the familiar "color wheel" that shows complementary
and contrasting colors. Reviewing the fundamentals behind complementary
and contrasting colors can help you choose which colors to select.
But other factors also affect our sense of color. This includes:
color brightness, color area (how big/small), color saturation,
proximity of colors to one another, light and how we feel about
We've put together lists of complementary and constrasting colors
in our Gardening with Roses section
on this Web site. This should help show you some options.
One last thing to remember is to make sure you consider the time
of bloom for your clematis and rose. If they bloom at different
times, it won't matter how carefully you selected the colors! When
it comes to colors, do what pleases you.
There is a great book called "The Rose and The Clematis: As Good
Companions." It has lots of good ideas on how the two plants can
be grown together beautifully in your garden. They both have similar
needs, which makes them well suited for each other. You can order
this book through our link to Amazon.com.
Question: What do the color of roses mean?
We get this question alot! I guess it's important to those of you
giving roses as gifts -- you don't want it to send the wrong message!
As far as we can determine, this is what the following rose colors
Red: Pure and lovely; love; I love you.
White: Innocense and purity; I am worthy of you;
you're heavenly; secrecy and silence.
Red and White together: Unity.
Yellow: Decrease of love; jealousy.
Pink: Perfect happiness; please believe me.
Dark Crimson: Mourning
For more information on rose color, especially the names used to
describe the color, visit the American
Rose Society Web site.
Question: You call a rose "mauve," but it looks
red to me. Why?
Rose colors are very difficult to identify sometimes. Blossom colors
can vary depending on air temperature and age of the blossom. And
what may look red to you on your computer monitor may actually be
more of a purple red in real life. So, to help standardize colors,
the American Rose society identified 18 official color classes,
which we use in our color descriptions of roses. These are listed
below along with their abbreviations:
w – white, near white or white blend
ly – light yellow
my – medium yellow
dy – deep yellow
yb – yellow blend
ab – apricot and apricot blend
ob – orange and orange blend
or – orange red and orange red blend
lp – light pink
mp – medium pink
dp – deep pink
pb – pink blend
mr – medium red
dr – dark red
rb – red blend
m – mauve and mauve blend
r – russet
Question: This question and answer
page is o.k., but it didn't answer my question. Where can I find
One option is to send us your question through e-mail
and we'll send you an answer and maybe list your question on this
page. Another option is to visit The
Rose FAQ, the ultimate Q & A page compiled by many dedicated
and generous rosarians.