7 Steps For Better Roses
1. Location: Roses need full sun, at least six hours each day throughout the growing season, and preferably morning sun as afternoon sun can be too intense. Allow room between roses and other plantings to avoid potential diseases.
2. Soil: A good soil for roses is one-third clay, one-third coarse sand and one-third decomposed organic matter; but no matter what type of soil, roses prefer to be grown in rich, well-draining slightly acid soil, with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. This allows for the best uptake of major nutrients. When planting, mix organic matter, such as compost or ground bark, into the top soil.
3. Food: My roses have really improved since I have been using 'Nana's Rose Recipe': Epsom salts (adds magnesium and sulfur to the plants) + baking soda (acts as a fungicide, eliminate mildew on your plants) once a month. Some people have recommended alfalfa tea, using alfalfa pellets you can purchase from a pet food supply, and soaking to make a diluted tea; alfalfa supplies nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and other nutrients, including a fatty acid known to promote plant growth. I haven't tried this yet, but will do so this summer after each burst of blooms. And then for a midsummer boost, I copy my grandma's garden wisdom and tuck old tea bags under the mulch. When you water the plants, the nutrients from the tea will be released into the soil, spurring growth. Roses love the tannic acid in tea - they told me so themselves! They like tea almost as much as I do. Lol. My grandma, my original green thumb mentor, would also chop up banana skins and gently dig them along the edges of the drip zone of each rose plant. It may be an old wives' tail but Grandma Elsie was known for her small but lush rose garden!
4. Mulch: Adding a 2 or 3 inch layer of coarse, organic mulch over the soil around roses helps reduce foliage diseases because it reduces the amount of water splashing onto leaves (splashing water drops can spread fungal diseases).
5. Water: Irrigate roses deeply but infrequently, ultimately applying water directly at the base of the rose, in the morning, using soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Water needs vary based on weather and soil, so check soil with your finger. Water often enough to create consistently moist soil – not overly wet, not bone-dry. To prevent powdery-mildew diseases on the leaves, keep foliage dry, especially if you water late in the day. Like most of your garden watering, two long soaks per week is better than many shallow waterings.
6. Inspect: Check roses frequently for insects or disease outbreaks as catching problems early makes them easier to treat. At the first sign of blackspot—a common leaf disease for roses in humid weather—pinch off affected leaves and protect those that remain with a baking soda spray: 2 teaspoons of baking soda mixed with a few drops of liquid soap in a gallon of water. Spray the whole bush with the mixture. Reapply every four or five days until the spots disappear and the weather becomes drier. Cinnamon is also great natural fungicide. Mix it in with your growing media when repotting roses.
7. Prune: I used to prune in the autumn, but I noticed that I would need to prune even more in early spring from the die-back the roses experiences after our harsh winters. So now I wait until spring to prune. Regardless, roses need regular pruning. Cut back all the dead wood, any crossing branches, and thin, weak canes - basically anything thinner than a pencil.