Spring Rose Care

When spring comes it’s time to roll up  your sleeves and  get busy and I can’t wait!

Here are some tips that I follow for getting my roses off to a good start in my Zone 5b garden.



For early April planting, I buy bare root roses from online vendors (my preferred list here). When they arrive they are “bare roots” wrapped in wet newspaper. Very humble beginnings for a plant that will be so lovely later!


A good moo poo start...
Bare roots soaking in Moo Poo Tea…

I immediately unpack them and soak them in a bucket of Moo Poo tea for 24 hours before planting.

Planting decisions are dependent on the type of rose…

Grafted Roses: Many hybrid teas, floribunda and grandifloras are grafted roses.

This means that a rose is created by being grafted onto strong, hardy root stock, creating a “bud union.” Plant the bud union (knobby part just above the roots) 2” below the soil line to protect it from harsh winters we often have.

Own Root Roses: These roses were started from cuttings and are on their own root, so there is no bud union to protect. I plant them as I would any other shrub.

Soil: We ask roses to bloom for us all summer, year after year, so it is best to give them a good start by planting them in good, rich soil. Our neck of the woods has horrible gray clay soil so we dig BIG holes–holes much deeper and wider than the root system to allow for soil amendments and deep enough to protect the bud union. (At least 18″ by 18″.) To the soil removed, we add a quality grade of top soil. And top them off with compost. Your roses will appreciate your gifts of more nutrients and better drainage and will reward you handsomely! You will never regret giving your roses a good foundation.

Roses Already in Leaf and Bloom…

If you purchased something from a garden center that is already leafed out and perhaps has buds or blooms, wait until the frost date has passed to plant them in the garden. In my zone that date is May 10. I have two beautiful roses waiting patiently in the Potting Shed as I type. I will confess to occassionally planting a little earlier than May 10, but you have to be prepared to cover them if frosty nights come!! #notpatient


First tip: DON’T BE AFRAID TO PRUNE. I’ve made countless “mistakes” through the years and the roses always forgive and come back!

Here in the midwest, it is  difficult to know when winter is really over and it is time to prune. For many years, I have let the forsythia tell me. When the forsythia is blooming, I start pruning. This year a huge cold snap came after the forsythia bloomed, blowing that theory.

Today I have seen rain, sunshine and have even heard hail pinging the window.❄️#notthenorm  MOST of the time, the forsythia plan works.

Tools of the trade…

You will need protective gloves and a sharp pair of pruners. My choices are Bionic Gloves and Barnel Pruners from Wendy Tilley, owner of The Rose Gardener Garden Shop and Harlane Garden Labels.

Different types of roses have different pruning needs, I published an article on pruning tips this week… you can read that article here.

The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild from last summer. Amazing David Austin!
The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild from last summer. Amazing David Austin


Once our roses are starting to grow, it’s time for fertilizer. Most any fertilizer will do—but do read labels carefully–too much of a good thing can be harmful! I use a combination of Moo Poo Tea, Mills Magic Mix and an inorganic fertilizer on my roses. I’m more intentional in the spring on what I do but many times it is as simple as what is on sale for summer fertilization. Fertilizer applications are about 6 weeks apart for most my roses. Old Garden Roses and Rugosas are fertilized in the spring. Shrubs and Knockouts are only fertilized twice a season–spring and summer. TIP: Never fertilize dry roses. Best to water before and after you fertilize.


Once the fertilizer has been applied, you will want to give your roses a deep watering to get those nutrients down to where they can do some good.

A good rule of thumb is to water at the base of the plant especially if you are watering in the evening, as wet rose leaves are more susceptible to fungal diseases (e.g. Black Spot & Powdery Mildew). Although, if I am watering in the morning I give them a good all-over shower. This is great way to remove dirt and any insects that have shown up for the tasty and tender buds! I think roses appreciate a refreshing shower just as we do, just don’t put them to bed wet.



This is one of my favorite parts. Mulch is so good for your roses … retains moisture, helps to keep down weeds and gives the garden that fresh, finished look!



My favorite tip is to visit your roses daily or as often as you can to enjoy their beauty and to get to know them. Getting to know them can be key in early detection of any pest or disease.

And, when you have beautiful roses outside, who can stay in!

Therese Bugnet Rugosa

The Faun

Frida Kahlo

Albrighton Rambler

3 thoughts on “Spring Rose Care

  1. Just stumbled across your website and am very interested—thanks for putting yourself out there to be found! I am a rose grower of about seven years in Asheville, NC. I get all of my roses own-root from Pat Henry down in Laurens, SC (Roses Unlimited). I have thirty roses this year, and have maintained between 22 and 30 over the years. My rose-growing area is limited, and my growing season odd, I guess you’d call it? We have unpredictable weather in these old mountains, and not every rose that thrives elsewhere will be happy here. Or it will be happy one year and miserable the next two because the weather conditions will swing drastically. I don’t neglect, but still, I’ve done a good deal of reluctant shovel-pruning. I feel I am beginning, with Pat’s help, to know what will get along. I have one close rose friend who, like me, has not given up, but cannot wait to get out in the garden in the spring, no matter how exhausted and frustrated we were by fall! I appreciate you sharing what you are doing. I love the way you tuck companions around your roses, the composition of things—and I see from your rose list that you and I have only one rose in common, the Borderer. New Dawn, which everyone else seems to grow, was a spectacular failure for me—I’m not sure what happened that year, but I was hit with thrip and a literal plague of aphids, just on the New Dawn climbers. I think I may have over-fertilized and made them too attractive to pests. I cut them back and gave them to a contractor friend who wanted to try his hand. I followed in that same year, same place, with Awakening—thought I was doing right by it, but spectacular failure again, immediately. So bad that I did not give them to anyone, just put them in the yard-waste pile. Cleaned up and started over that fall, same spot, with Westerland, and Westerland is doing very well. We are being hit with record rainfall this year—backyard tomato garden is flooded—but the rose garden is in a high spot at the front of the house, with good drainage, and I think we will be allright!
    Again, thanks for producing this lovely website. I look forward to following!

    1. So glad you stumbled by. 🙂 I love growing rosés and their companions and I love getting to share and grow with other enthusiastic gardeners! Sorry about New Dawn not working out. I’ve learned success with roses is dependent on finding the right ones for your region and there are usually plenty of roses to choose from for every region. Happy Gardening!

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