How to Feed Rose Bushes


Rose bushes produce beautiful spring and summer blossoms. To create these flowers, roses rely on nutrients from the soil. They are considered heavy feeders. Maintaining a strong, healthy rose bush depends on an established annual feeding routine. Fertilizing usually starts in the spring when there is new growth on the rose bush that reaches 6 inches.

Step 1

Sprinkle the area with water. Wet the soil around the rose bush. Never apply fertilizer to dry soil. The dampness will help hold the fertilizer in place.

Step 2

Spread a half to 1 cup of general-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 around the rose bush. Start with a circle 6 inches from the crown of the rose bush and spread out to a distance of 18 inches. Do not sprinkle fertilizer directly on the rose bush because it will cause burns on the plant.

Step 3

Scratch the fertilizer into the surface of the soil with a cultivator, which looks like a small hand rake. Go to the depth of about a half inch.

Step 4

Water the area thoroughly. Fertilizer needs water to activate and be able to reach the roots of the rose bush. Gently soak the area so you do not blast the fertilizer away from the rose bush.

Step 5

Repeat the fertilizing process again at the beginning of summer between mid-June and mid-July.

Tips and Warnings

  • Nutrient deficiencies can appear in rose bushes. Yellowing rose leaves is a nitrogen deficiency. Grayish-green leaves points to a lack of phosphorus. Browning of leaf edges is a deficiency in potassium. Watch your rose bush for these signs and adjust your fertilizer to fix these issues. Do not fertilize your rose bush after Aug. 15 unless it goes dormant first. Fertilizing too late in the season can cause new soft growth that is easily damaged by winter temperatures.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Rose bush
  • Fertilizer
  • Cultivator


  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Roses
  • University of Illinois Extension: Water, Mulch and Fertilizer
Keywords: roses, feed fose bushes, fertilizing roses

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.