Summer Rose Care Tips
Aahh, mid summer. This is the time of the year when all the annuals you planted this spring are finally blooming. And the long, warm days seem to intensify the fragrance of summer blooming Lilies and roses. It’s the time to revel in the glory of the garden.
But, then you notice a few flaws. Uh, oh, that rose plant over there just doesn’t look like it’s doing very well. What’s the deal? Mid summer, in all it’s glory, can also create stressful conditions for plants. All that heat causes plants to move water through their systems (evapotranspiration) pretty quickly. If plants don’t have enough water, they get stressed out in the heat. They can’t just pick themselves up and move into the shade or go get a drink of water like we can.
As you look a bit closer you notice there are some funny looking bugs covering the new growth on your roses. Mid summer can bring out the aphids in full force. Especially, if you haven’t had any recent heavy rains to wash them off the plants.
Then you notice that a rose in the corner has some funny spots on its leaves, a few leaves are turning yellow, and some have fallen off the plant. Oh god, blackspot!
And, then you start thinking that perhaps your roses aren’t blooming as much as they should be. If your soil is a bit low on the fertility scale, the blooms may be in short supply. What to do, what to do!! First, don’t worry. These minor problems are just that — minor. And, they’re easily fixed.
The most important thing your roses need this time of year is water. They demand the equivalent of at least one inch of rain each week. That’s about equal to one gallon of water per plant. So, if it hasn’t rained, give your roses some water.
The best way to water your roses is with a soaker hose that causes the water to slowly saturate the soil. These are usually made out of recycled tires and can be laid right on top of the soil and covered with mulch. This works great — no evaporation and the water slowly soaks into the soil. I actually run mine overnight. The mulch on top of the hose prevents any water from squirting onto the roses, so watering at night is great. Just remember to turn off the hose in the morning. Or, better yet, set it on a timer.
Water is the ultimate “fertilizer.” It moves nutrients from the soil into the plant. And a consistent supply prevents the rose from getting stressed by heat. A nonstressed, healthy rose can better defend itself from insects and disease.
Mid summer bug problems on roses are usually caused by aphids. They are almost always found on the new growth of rose plants. They seem to come out in full force in mid summer when there hasn’t been much rain. Aphids suck the juices out of your roses and can cause leaves to curl and be disfigured.
The best defense against aphids is healthy plants that have received adequate amounts of water. The second best defense is a good supply of ladybugs in your garden. I release these aphid eaters every two weeks during early summer and mid summer. They really clean up the aphid problems. Sometimes I have to wait a few days after the release to see the effects, but they do a great job in reducing aphid problems.
If the rain hasn’t come and the ladybugs haven’t done their job, then you need to stop the aphids before they take over. Insectidal soaps work great — they don’t hurt bees, fish, kids or you. But they’ll kill most soft bodied insects. It works by suffocating them.
The trick to success with insectidal soap is to apply it twice. First, spray it on the aphids (it has to have contact with the bug to work) late in the day — usually right before sunset. Spraying late in the day prevents leaf damage caused by the sun hitting the spray or heat reacting with the spray. Then, two days later go out and spray any aphids that escaped your first spray. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they reproduce! If you miss one, you’ll quickly have hundreds in a matter of days. I think they’re born pregnant.
Another quick way to get rid of aphids is to squish them between your fingers. Or, if you can’t handle that, then wash them off the plant with water — a hose set on high pressure works well (be careful not to blast the leaves off your plants).
Rose diseases are what keeps lots of people from growing roses. The idea of dragging out an arsenal of chemicals and spraying them over the entire garden once a week is enough to cause even the most undaunted gardener to wonder what the heck they’re doing.
What to do? First, decide what you’re willing to accept. Remember the words to a Joni Mitchell song, “please farmer farmer put away that DDT, leave the spots on the apples and give me the birds and the bees.” If chemical control is not for you, you can still grow roses. First, you have to select roses that are less susceptible to disease and then you have to keep them healthy by planting them in the right spot and giving them enough water and the right kind of food.
Right plant in the right place. Every garden is filled with “microclimates” that can be good for some plants and certain death for others. You know that corner spot in your garden that always has mosquitoes and slugs hanging out in the damp shade? Don’t plant a rose there. It will get disease, unless its made out of plastic. Plant your rose in sun with good air circulation and it will have what it needs to stay healthy without spraying. If it gets disease, consider replacing it with a variety that has more disease resistance.
Organic sprays. If you have a disease problem, there are organic products you can apply to your plants to prevent and control the diseases. Before World War II, there were very few agricultural chemicals used to control plant disease. And guess what, people were growing roses way before World War II.
To avoid disease problem, remember to: select roses that have good resistance to disease, plant them in the right spot, and feed and water them well.
Roses are known as “heavy feeders” (or how about gluttons) when it comes to using up soil nutrients. But, they convert all those nutrients into a ton of blossoms, which is why we grow them, right?! So, if we expect them to bloom, we have to feed them.
We’ve got lots of pages devoted to fertilizing, which I’ve listed below. But, before you leave this page, there are a few pointers to keep in mind when fertilizing.
- Don’t apply liquid fertilizers to dry soils. The roses will suck up the fertilizer quickly and it may cause the leaves to burn.
- Avoid using liquid chemical fertilizers — especially on Rugosas! These types of fertilizers cause the most leaf burn and leaf drop. You don’t want to hurt your plants with fertilizers.
- Feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants.