The Beginner's Guide to Growing Roses
Updated: May 29
Hooray for rose season!
I defy anyone who is not captivated by roses. Their sheer variety, fragrance, romance and abundance at this time of the year is pure heaven!
In our Winchester garden we were lucky enough to inherit a glut of established roses, but the thought of growing a rose from scratch is quite intimidating. That is why I have put together a beginner’s guide to roses.
In this post I will give a brief overview of the different kinds of roses you can grow at home, as well as basic tips for planting and caring.
If you land on a rose website it can be overwhelming deciphering the names of so many rose varieties so here is a basic lowdown:
HYBRID TEA ROSE
This is an upright, single stem rose with pointed petals.
Hybrid Teas are perfect for a formal rose garden, or in a container.
They don’t work well in a mixed border.
Floribundas are colourful roses that grow generous clusters of flowers.
Few plants produce as much vibrant colour throughout the Spring and summer as Floribunda roses.
Whilst they shine in terms of colour, they are not particularly fragrant compared to other rose types.
Rather than a single stem flower, shrub roses are bushes with generous flowers that will repeat flower throughout the season given the right conditions.
They are a tough and reliable choice.
GROUND COVER ROSE
These guys do what they say on the tin, they grow low and spread wide.
They usually have smaller flowers that repeat throughout the season.
CLIMBING OR RAMBLING ROSE
These are perfect for creating vertical impact, whether that is up a wall, a trellis, obelisk, an arch or pergola.
They create a generous, abundant atmosphere which is often heavily scented.
WHICH ROSE TO BUY?
Now you know the different types available to buy, you need to think about your habitat.
Here are some ideas:
If you have a sunny spot on a balcony, you could opt for a hybrid tea rose in a container;
If you are looking to perk up a boring stretch of wall, think about buying a climber to train up a trellis;
If you want to brighten up the front of your border go for a generous ground covering rose; or
If you need to add interest to your garden fence, why not think about a shrub rose.
Once you’ve understood your habitat, the fun can really begin!
There’s so much to think about: colour, shape, size and of course fragrance. Not all roses are scented, so do your research.
Is visual impact more important than a romantic waft, or can you find a rose that provides both?
Personally, fragrance in a rose is important. That is why I adore the Gertrude Jekyll rose we have in our garden. It's heady scent captures the English summer perfectly.
It is possible to buy two types of rose to plant, either a bare root rose, or a container rose.
You can have success with both, but for ease I would start with a container rose. A container rose can be re-potted into another container, or planted directly into the ground.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR ROSE
Read on for some speedy tips on how to care for roses:
PLANTING: You can plant a rose at any point during the year so long it is not planted in frosty or waterlogged soil or during a drought.
Find a location that has access to at least 5 hours of sun a day and plant in well-drained soil.
When planting ensure the rose has at least a few inches of earth to itself. It should not have to compete for moisture and nutrients from other plants.
WATERING: Newly planted roses need all the help they can get to establish themselves. This means frequent watering especially during hot weather.
Once a rose is established you can ease the watering as they usually survive on the water present in the soil, but if you notice leaves wilting, water immediately.
Container roses need more watering than planted roses, so always check the compost with your finger and never let it completely dry out.
FEEDING: Roses react well to being nourished regularly. Watering alone is not enough to create a showstopping rose year after year.
In the Spring start a fortnightly feeding program using a rose feeder, and then once the flowering has started you can move to a potash-rich feeder like tomato feed.
Continue the feeding program throughout the season to guarantee repeat flowering and blooms until the Autumn.
DEADHEADING: Frequent deadheading is vital to encourage new flower growth. Grab some snippers and cut away any dead or dying flower heads. Try to build in a weekly deadheading routine if you want your roses to flower all summer.
WEEDING: Ensure the area around the base of the rose is always free of weeds. Get on your hands and knees and pull them out yourself. It is a bad idea to use weed killer around the base of a rose.
Weeds are bad news around roses as they pinch vital nutrients in the soil away from the rose!
PRUNING: I will revisit this later in the year as it’s a job for the winter but pruning is vital for rose upkeep.
COPING WITH ROSE PROBLEMS
APHIDS: Look out for pink or green insects that cluster on the flower buds or young foliage. They are sap sucking aphids that will handicap a rose’s ability to thrive.
There are a number of ways to get rid of aphids. You can remove them yourself with your fingers, you can order a colony of ladybirds to finish them off, but if you have a big garden opt for an organic pesticide to get rid of them. Try to avoid more aggressive pesticides which are not ideal for bees and pollinators.
ROSE BLACK SPOT: You can easily identify these by the purple or black spots that appear on rose leaves. To treat this fungal disease use an anti-fungal spray. Note that some anti-fungal sprays double up as organic pesticides, so you can kills two birds with one stone.
POWDERY MILDEW: If you spot a white powdery mould around your rose, you will need to manage the rose’s environment. Ensure there is good air circulation, the soil is well drained, and the rose is fed and pruned regularly.
So there you have it: a very speedy summary of growing roses for beginners. If you're looking to buy roses in the UK the best two places to visit are:
Have fun and let me know if you have any questions.