I Throw Like a Girl

WFMW ~ Caring for Your Roses

Posted by Carol on April 16, 2008

I hate to admit it, but when we moved to California from Colorado about 12 years ago I went kicking and screaming all the way. I loved living in Colorado. We were close to family and our neighbors were our best friends. Plus, Colorado is a wonderful place to live. There are lots of things to do as long as you don’t mind freezing being a tad bit cold 6 months out of the year. When I thought of southern California, all I could picture were earthquakes, riots, and wildfires. No thank you.

After we had been in California about 6 months (yes, I was being a BIG baby) I woke up one day and looked around me and noticed something. I noticed how absolutely stinkin’ beautiful southern California is. The weather is just about perfect.  The kids could play outside year ’round without being bundled up like the Michelin man, and did I say it was absolutely stinkin’ beautiful? 

Some of the things that make California so beautiful are the many varieties of fragrant flowers that grow everywhere. They even grew in my new backyard. There were hibiscus, bird of paradise, yucca, jasmine (I miss the smell of jasmine to this day), oleander, bougainvillea, an orange tree that produced the most delicious oranges I have ever tasted, an apricot tree, and more I’m sure I’m forgetting about. Among the flowers that lived in my new yard were at least 20 rose bushes that were just gorgeous. 

I had found my reason for living in California.  I needed to keep those roses alive.  The problem was that I can’t even keep house plants alive.  I most recently killed a cactus that belonged to my son.  He left it in my care when he left for college.  I don’t expect he will let me babysit my future grandkids based on how his cactus made out. 

Anyway.  I knew I had no clue what to do with those roses, so I took a gardening class that covered caring for roses. And you know what?  I didn’t kill a single rose bush!  I even bought and planted some new ones and they all did just fine.

So, for those of you who have some roses you don’t know what to do with or would love to have some in your garden this year, here’s what works for me. 

The following advice does not apply to climbing roses.  They are a whole ‘nother ball game as far as pruning goes, and I don’t have a clue about them.

1. When the forsythia start blooming, it is time to prune and fertilize your roses. (Forsythia is that beautiful bush with bright yellow flowers growing all over each stem).  Forsythia is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.  If you live in the south or Southwest, you probably should have done this in February.  But for those of us in the north or cooler regions, now is the time.

2.  When pruning your roses, don’t be afraid, you are helping them be their best. New growth produces more flowers. Use very sharp pruning shears, the kind you hold in your hand like scissors. You want to cut them down to 1/3 of their current height. Then take a good look at the bush and cut off any dead stems, stems that are thinner than a pencil, and stems that criss-cross each other.  Imagine that you are trying to make a “vase” out of the stems that are left, leaving it open in the middle.  This is to promote good air flow.

3.  Now you are ready to fertilize.  I prefer a granular systemic fertilizer that you only have to use about once a month.  I use Bayer Advanced Care 2 in 1 Systemic.  It fertilizes and protects from insects that love to eat the rose buds and flowers and suck the life out of the stems.  (It’s too bad we can’t sprinkle this stuff around ourselves to protect against things that suck the life out of us.)  Take a claw-type tool thingy and loosen the dirt around the base of each rose bush.  Follow the instructions on the bottle and apply the appropriate amount to the dirt at the base of the bush.  Then take the claw-thingy and mix it in the dirt. You don’t have to be too precise with this.  Give your rose bushes a nice drink of water. Do this about once a month until the first hard frost.

4.  Deadheading – The purpose for deadheading is to encourage the rose bush to produce more flowers.  Once the rose starts to wilt, it’s time to remove it.  You want to take take your pruners and look at the stem the fading rose is on.  Cut it back just above the first group of leaves below the rose.  If the stem where the rose was is thinner than a pencil, cut it farther down to a thicker area, but still above a group of leaves.  The new growth will start at the group of leaves.

We don’t live in southern California anymore, but I have been able to grow roses in the Northeast using this same method.

I hope this helps.  Please feel free to ask any questions. If I don’t know the answer, I will try to find it for you!  For more helpful hints, go to Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer!

Happy Gardening,





7 Responses to “WFMW ~ Caring for Your Roses”

  1. Kim said

    Oh, you are too sweet. Your e-mail was very thoughtful and made my day.

    We have a garden full of roses here in sunny “almost” southern California. Pruning them mercilessly this winter made them grow and bloom like CRAZY! We are so enjoying the beginnings of a riot of blossoms!

    We also pruned our lime tree within an inch of its life at about the same time, and it is looking better than it ever has!

    Thanks for the rose tips!



  2. Corrie said

    I think I’ll have to bookmark this for future reference. I can’t wait to start planting some roses.

  3. CC said

    Since I live in Rose City, I haven’t been able to kill my roses. But it’s been close some years!

    I’ve been pruning, but that’s it. Thanks for the tips, especially about “dead-heading”.

  4. Beverlydru said

    My conclusion is the best method for growing roses is to reside in Southern California, therefore I am exempt from this advice. I hear cultivating roses in the steam and humidity of Florida is quite a feat. Happy blooms to you, though!

  5. GiBee said

    Thanks for these tips! I live on the East coast, and my hubby gave me a landscape rosebush last year, and I didn’t know how to care for it. My FIL pruned it back almost to the bottom in the fall, and it is starting to grow back now. I appreciate these tips!!!

  6. Stacey said

    I have 5 thriving rose bushes and I will be applying this advice this spring.

    Question though: my rose “bushes” look more like rose “poles” because they are tall and lanky and I can’t seem to get them to fill out width-wise. Any advice? Is it how I am pruning?

  7. Carol said

    Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for the question. It may be the way you’re pruning if you are not cutting them down to at least 1/3 of their height in the spring. Also, don’t be afraid to aggressively dead-head. Cut the stem way back after the bloom has faded. If you are doing that, it just may be the type of roses they are. Tea roses are tall and lanky with just one rose per stem. I believe that’s where the roses used for bouquets come from. If that’s the case, then all you can do is either enjoy them outside, or cut a bunch and put them in a vase for fresh flowers all summer long. Hope that helped. ~Carol

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: