Hydroponic gardens are not a new idea; they have been around for millenniums. The Babylonians, Aztecs and Chinese are a few of the historic cultures that used some form of hydroponic gardening. Since World War II, scientists and horticulturalists have been experimenting with hydroponic systems for areas where there is no land or soil adequate for traditional gardens. The latter part of the 20th century saw the commercial gardener (fruits, vegetables, herbs and ornamental plants) turn to this type of gardening, as well as the home gardener. Hydroponic gardens produce high-quality plants and produce, reduce the effects of pests and disease in crop production, and encourage faster growth in most plants. Roses have been no exception to this. Many rose producers use hydroponic systems with great success. N.F.T. (nutrient film technique) is one of several systems for hydroponic growing. N.F.T. is the most common hydroponic growing system used in rose production.
Purchase your N.F.T. grow system. Your local garden center carries these systems; you can also purchase them through online vendors. Include tables designed for a hydroponic grow system, grow medium, rubber stall mats and grow lights in your purchases.
Decide what type of roses to grow. There are a number of different cultivars that do well in hydroponic systems: climbing roses (require installation of a trellis system), shrub roses and modern roses (hybrid tea roses or long-stemmed roses).
Choose your location for setting up your grow system. This can be a porch, basement, sunroom or greenhouse. A location that receives direct sunlight with little draft is optimal.
Lay down rubber stall mats (available at your local feed store). This will keep the area surrounding your hydroponic grow system from becoming slippery when wet.
Set up the tables and N.F.T. grow system, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Install grow lights above the grow system. These are necessary to supplement sunlight. Roses do well with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Growing in a basement presents the need for more light; 10 to 12 hours may be necessary to encourage growth.
Soak the roots of the seedlings in distilled water for at least 15 minutes. This will help remove any soil from the root systems. Plant in net pots. Your grow system should include some; purchase additional ones through your supplier.
Mix and add grow medium to your N.F.T. system, according to the package directions. Grow medium specifically for roses are available through garden centers and online suppliers. Keep a daily check on the grow medium content of the water. If your hydroponic system did not come with a pH analyzer, you can purchase one from your local garden center. Roses prefer grow medium (hydroponic and soil) that is rich in nutrients; however, they do prefer a neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
Install a free-standing trellis system for climbing roses. They will grow toward the grow lights.
Prune roses with hand pruners. Prune roses to remove dead, damaged branches and stems. Prune to shape shrubs and modern rose plants. Cut stems just above a healthy bud that faces the outside of the plant. Keep pruners clean and sharp to ensure smooth, clean cuts. Avoid tearing stems.