Hydration and Feeding of Roses
By Stan V. Griep
Native Colorado Rosarian 40+ years
Consulting Rosarian Rocky Mountain Area
The Rose Society of South Australia – Honorary Member
Award Winning Rose & Floral Photographer
Two very important aspects to growing good, happy and healthy roses are feeding them and watering them well.
First we will take a quick look at watering the roses, also know as hydrating them. Some roses, such as Tuscan Sun, will let you know right away when they need a drink. Other roses will tolerate things for a long while and then, seemingly all at once, look sick and droopy. The key to the watering function appears to be like many other things in our lives, as it has to do with some good record or time keeping. Making note of the last time the roses were watered on a calendar takes little time and is a great help to our already overloaded memory banks! Some folks use a deep watering device to water their roses, some have things all set up on automatic watering systems and others, like me, water their roses with a watering wand. When I water my roses I simply fill the “banquet bowls” I have formed around each bush until the water starts to puddle a bit, then move on to the next bush. I go back to the rose I just watered, watering it until the puddling starts a second time for each rosebush. By allowing the first watering to soak in well before the second amount of water is applied the water is going deeply into the soils around each rosebush. In times of drought and as a water conserving measure on my part, I will often conduct some moisture meter tests around the rose bushes when I think it may be time to water them again. I push the water meter probe down all the way into the soils surrounding each rose in three different locations to see what moisture readings I get. These readings will give me a good indication of whether I really need to water the rosebushes then or if the watering will wait a few days. By conducting the moisture meter tests I am making sure the rosebushes have good moisture down deeply by their root systems yet not watering when the need really is not there. Such a method conserves the precious water as well as keeps the rosebushes well hydrated.
Some important items to consider in the area of watering our roses are;
- Be sure your rosebushes are well watered/hydrated before the application of any pesticide.
- When the temperatures are in the 90s to 100s keep a close eye on watering your roses. It takes no time at all for heat stress to set in. Watering daily may be in order.
- Watering your rosebushes by hand in some manner gives you a golden opportunity to look over each one well. Finding an insect, fungus or other problem early is priceless when gaining control over the problem.
- Mulch around your roses to help hold in the very important moisture.
Feeding our rosebushes enough, truly giving them all the nutrients they need, is of great importance if we want healthy rosebushes that produce a bounty of wonderful blooms. There are just about as many rose foods or fertilizers available these days as someone could think up a name for. Some of the rose foods or fertilizers are organic and will not only have food for the rosebushes in them but also materials that enrich the soils. Enriching the soils as well as taking good care of the microorganisms that dwell therein is a very good thing indeed! Healthy well-balanced soils allow the root systems to take up all the required nutrients better, thus creating a happier, healthier more disease resistant overall rosebush.
Most chemical rose foods/fertilizers have what is needed for the rosebush but need a little help with the materials to enrich and build the soils. Using some alfalfa meal along with the food/fertilizer of choice is a great way to give both the rosebushes and the soils some important nutrients. Rotating the type of chemical food/fertilizer used is recommended as well. Continually using the same food/fertilizer, or one with exactly the same makeup, can lead to a build-up of unwanted salts in the soils. (Being sure that you maintain good drainage around your roses will help prevent such salts build-up as well.) Along with adding the alfalfa meal, at the time of first (spring) feeding or my last feeding of the season (no later than August 15th in my area), I will add some super phosphate and potash. Generally, in my opinion, you want to look for a rose food/fertilizer that has a well-balanced NPK rating no matter what brand or type it may be. In the water-soluble types I have used Miracle Gro for Roses, Miracle Gro All Purpose and Peters All Purpose. Any of them for that are specifically for roses or for all-purpose use will work well as long as the N-P- K ratios are not too out of balance. (Remember: N is for Up, P is for Down and K is for All-Around.) Making the decision as to which product to use becomes one of personal choice. When you find something that works well for you, stick with it. The main thing is to keep the rosebushes well fed and healthy so that they have plenty of stamina to make it through the winter/dormant season here in Colorado (or in your location) as well as blooming nicely for us during the growing season. A good rose food here locally is one called Mile Hi Rose Food, it is getting to be a bit costly so perhaps trade off on applications with another rose food of choice, such as; Gro-Rich Rose and Perennial Food. Both are available through most area greenhouses or nurseries here in Northern Colorado and both have alfalfa meal in them. I have personally had very good results using the Gro-Rich Rose and Perennial Food. A bit of Kelp Meal seems to help with their overall performance too along with what is already in the rose foods I mentioned.
I tend to stay away from the “systemic” rose foods/fertilizers. Not because they do not have all the nutrients needed for healthy roses. The chemicals in the systemic type foods/fertilizers cause me some concern. I have stated in other articles that I do not want to drive away any of the worms or micro-organisms in the soils around about my rosebushes, as they are a major component of what make the soils environment suitable for my roses to thrive. Since I have no well-founded proof that these products will not have a negative impact on my rosebushes soils environment, I see no reason to take the risk of using them, unless perhaps overrun with an insect problem that cannot be controlled by any other means.
In our busy lives we want something simple, quick and easy to do most chores. Thus there is more time for enjoyment and less time having to work with or nurture our roses and other plants. Some parts of that thought process are okay while other parts carry some very real problems in the long run for our rose beds and gardens, such as; spotting a problem at its earliest stages when it is far easier to gain control over. So as not to get too far onto a soapbox I will let you make up your own mind on the products used.
Just be careful with the products you choose to use, spend some time not only reading the “how to apply” portion of the label but the “entire” label, preferably before buying the product.
You might just be amazed at what you were about to use on your wonderful rosebushes or place into the “root zone” environment of your rosebushes and flowers homes.
Remember to water your rosebushes well either in the early evening or morning before application of any pesticide and I highly recommend doing so before feeding time as well. Water your rosebushes well again after feeding, they will love you for it.
The time spent tending to your roses and other gardens will bring forth at least equal rewards. Even if you call it “working in the garden”, it is work that brings forth many a blessing as well.
Enjoy your roses and your gardens!