by Neil Moran (nmoran(at)

Imagine the light of a new day softly illuminating the velvet petals of a hybrid tea rose. Who hasn't thought of growing roses at one time or another? For some, it may seem like a daunting task. After all, roses do require special care and are susceptible to disease and insects. Yet, it's worth a little extra fussing to grow your very own roses. Besides, with a few helpful suggestions you can avoid some of the common problems associated with these beautiful flowers.

Before you buy anything, it is important to learn about the different types of roses and the care they require. Hybrid tea and floribundas are classified as bush roses. They grow from 2 to 6 feet tall, depending on the cultivar. Prune hybrid tea roses to nine inches. Floribundas should be lightly pruned after they've flowered to stimulate new growth. They'll reward you the following year with huge blossoms.

Climber roses include all cultivars that produce long, sprawling canes and require some type of support. They produce a nice show of flowers early in the season then a spattering of blooms the rest of the year, again depending on the cultivar. Prune these roses after they flower by removing the dead canes and live canes that are sprawling where you don't want them to sprawl. Russell's Cottage Rose is a hardy climber for cooler, Midwest climates. Choose 'Compassion,' for low light areas in temperate zones.

Shrub roses are my favorite, although they do have some vulnerabilities. Lack of hardiness isn't one of them. Rosa Rogosa, Therese Bugnet and Nearly Wild are so hardy they can even be grown way up here where I live near the Canadian border. Shrub roses grow pretty much disease and insect free. However, they lack the large showy flowers characteristic of the hybrids. The flowers are smaller (though plentiful) and they will take up some room in your lawn. Shrub roses are ideal for folks who enjoy a less formal garden like our grandmothers once grew. Incidentally, these gardens appear to be coming back into vogue.

Quality plants can be purchased by mail order, the Internet or at a certified nursery. Try to stay away from the reduced discount roses sold in department stores. Regardless of where you purchase your plants, check the hardiness zone rating. Find out what hardiness zone you're in and make your selection accordingly. It is safer to choose a plant that is rated one zone below your USDA hardiness zone than to choose one that is rated a zone above your area. A difference in one zone e.g., buying a zone 6 plant for a zone 5 region, can make a huge difference.

Plant roses in full sun. Choose a location that can be viewed from different vantage points, i.e. the kitchen window, a deck or patio. Prepare a garden bed for roses like you would any other flower bed. Remove the sod, shaking the dirt back into the bed as best you can. Add topsoil or a rich humus to the newly formed bed to bring it back up to grade.

Plant roses in the spring after the frost has left the ground. Roses are usually packaged bare root rather than potted. Check the root system for broken or girdling roots, prune if necessary. Space hybrid teas 24 inches apart. Shrub roses need to be spaced up to six feet apart. Dig a hole about 15 inches deep, leaving a small mound or cone of soil in the center to drape the roots over. Bury the bud union about 1-2 inches below the surface of the soil. The bud union is a swollen point which indicates where a rose has been grafted.

Work some superphosphate into the soil about a foot from the base of the plant. This will stimulate root growth and get your roses off to a good start. The real test for a plant's winter hardiness will be how well it does during the growing season. Feed your roses two or three times during the summer with a complete rose fertilizer. Don't fertilize in the fall when the plant is preparing to go dormant for the winter.

10 Steps to Beautiful Roses

The rose has inspired artists, writers, and composers for centuries. Now you can join the ranks of those inspired gardeners who cultivate roses in their own garden. Whether you're a novice gardener wanting to know the basics or a seasoned horticulturalist looking for tips on improving your blooms, the author's expert advice offers all the know-how you'll need.

Give your plants a good soaking during dry spells. Don't over water, however. Water around the roots rather than soaking the plant itself. It is best to water in the morning, rather than evening, to avoid the development of diseases, according to Michigan State University Extension Specialist Mary McLellan. Mulch with grass clippings, well rotted manure, ground bark or pine needles. This will keep the soil moist and discourage weed growth.

Aphids, spider mites, leafhoppers and thrips all take a shine to roses. However, they can be controlled without resorting to harmful pesticides. Proper care of roses as described above will help prevent a lot of problems. Aphids can be controlled with Soap-Shield or rotenone. Powdery mildew can also be a problem. This can be controlled by allowing good air circulation, proper pruning and a weekly spray of 1 tablespoon baking soda mixed with a gallon of water.

Hopefully, I've taken some of the mystery out of growing roses. So give a try. And just think how impressed that love one in your life will be when you give her (or he) a fresh, velvet rose that you grew!

There are thousands of roses to choose from based on your available space, climate and personal preference. Refer to the catalogs and Internet site listings below to find a rose of your liking.

Happy Gardening!

About the Author Neil Moran is a horticulture trades instructor and author of North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Gardening. Neil is also the owner and operator of Haylake Gardens, a garden center and gift shop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Questions and comments can be emailed to nmoran(at)

About this Author