Rose gardening is not difficult. The proper location, sunlight exposure, watering and fertilizing are important for any plants, including roses. The same general care is needed for all roses, whether they are climbing roses, hybrid tea roses or miniature rose bushes. No matter how large or small your space, a rose exists to fill it.
Buy Good Stock
The finest roses grow from the best plant stock. Purchase rose bushes that have been raised for your locale. In northern regions, you need winter-hardy stock or the roses will not make it through the winter. Roses in the Explorer series, such as John Cabot or George Vancouver, are winter hardy. Two Parkland series roses that are winter hardy are Morden Blush and Winnipeg Parks. These varieties also display resistance to diseases; consider planting resistant varieties if you have growing conditions that contribute to fungus diseases or mildew.
Spacing between plants is important, and so is moving air because roses need air circulation. Roses should be planted away from buildings in open, sunny areas for optimum air flow. An enclosed garden where breezes and air flow are restricted may harbor insects and disease pathogens.
Make sure roses receive at least six hours of sun daily. Rosa alba and Rosa multiflora will tolerate partial shade, but other roses need full sun. Older rose bushes that have developed dense cane growth will benefit if you prune out the excess canes. This opens the rose bush so sunlight and air can penetrate.
Water roses with a drip irrigation system or with a soaker hose to keep the water close to the soil and away from the foliage. Avoid overhead watering with sprinklers, which wets the foliage and encourages fungus and disease. Roses should be watered early in the morning so the foliage has plenty of time to dry during the day.
Compost is ideal fertilizer for roses. It adds nutrients as well as humus to the soil, improving the soil condition and feeding the rose at the same time. Add compost in the spring and work it into the top of the soil around each bush. Use additional compost as mulch, keeping it three to four inches away from the base of the rose bush. Roses also benefit from foliar feeding, done by spraying a water/nutrient solution onto the foliage. Do this early in the day so foliage has time to dry. Add liquid nutrients to a drip irrigation system or mixed in a watering can and applied to each bush. If you use dry pelleted or granular rose fertilizer, follow instructions carefully. Apply only the amount specified, and work it into the soil's surface well. Dry fertilizer needs water to dissolve and become available to the roots, so feed roses just before watering them. Any fertilizer should be applied exactly as directed, or fertilizer burn damage may result.
Mulch is important for keeping down weeds and for retaining soil moisture in a rose garden. Use additional clean mulch in the fall to protect roses through the winter. Fungus spores and insect larvae may winter over in mulch. Remove old mulch in the spring and replace it with clean, fresh mulch to get your roses off to a healthy start.