Americans have a long-standing love affair with the rose--so much so, that it is our national flower. The rose, to the gardener, presents elegance, beauty and satisfaction in a plot of dirt. Looking at the large amount of rose products on the nursery shelf can lead one to believe that roses are difficult to grow. They are, in fact, quite easy as long as you know which products to buy and how to use them to keep the rose plant healthy.
The importance of mulch in the rose garden cannot be overestimated. A layer of mulch around the base of your rose plant helps to conserve water, reduce weeds, and protect against black spot. Popular mulch materials include compost, lawn clippings and ground pine bark.
Supply roses with nutrients via fertilizer. Generally, fertilizers are composed of varying amounts of primary, secondary and micro nutrients. The numbers on a package of fertilizer, such as 10-5-10, identify the combination of the primary, or macro nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen promotes healthy foliage, while phosphorous is important in the building of a strong root system and healthy flowers. Potassium increases photosynthesis, breaks down starches and acts as a type of regulator for how the plant uses water. In general, roses require a fertilizer with a higher phosphorous and lower nitrogen level, such as 5-10-5.
There are a number of insects that love to feed on roses. Aphids are tiny, light green insects that are active in the spring, and will gorge on tender new growth. They reproduce very quickly, so it's important to deal with them as soon as you spot them. A spray from the hose every few days will usually wash them away. Petals and leaves that appear to have been chewed on is usually a sign of earwigs. They are large, brown nocturnal insects with pincers. Earwigs produce a conundrum for the rose gardener in that they are also beneficial because they eat aphids. They can, however, overrun the garden and, in that case, an insecticide applied to the soil around the base of the plant will usually get rid of them.
Black spot, caused by a fungus, is one of the most troublesome diseases for roses. It manifests as round, black spots on the leaves of the plant. Researchers at Auburn University say that high humidity promotes the disease, so persistent dew and frequent showers create an environment for an infection to take hold. They suggest using an application of baking soda mixed with horticultural oil to control black spot.