Growing Roses Successfully

There are three important requirements that are key to the success with roses: Good air circulation, good sun exposure (at least 4-6 hours a day) and good soil drainage.

The planting area should be thoroughly prepared with 18” x 18” of soil composed of up to 50% bark mulch and 50% good soil. Add one cup of bonemeal per rose. Remember, the better you prepare the hole and plant the rose, the better it will grow for you. If you plant it in ‘poor soil’ expect it to grow poorly.

Remove pots carefully and place the plant so that the soil level in the pot is at ground level. Ensure that the graft is just below ground level. Be sure to water in the rose using liquid Transplanter fertilizer. Note: If you purchase a rose in a fibre pot in March, April or May, do NOT remove the pot. Plant the rose, pot and all. After May the roots should be established enough that the pot can be removed, but it must be done so very carefully. Gently break the pot away, then plant.

Planting Distances
  • Miniature 12-18” apart
  • Hybrid Teas 3-4’ apart
  • Floribundas 3-4’ apart
  • Grandifloras 3-4’ apart
  • Climbers 6-8’ apart
  • Shrub Roses 5-6’ apart
  • Groundcovers 3-5’ apart

Year Round Rose Care


Plant dormant roses. Be sure to water them in with Transplanter fertilizer to get them off to a good start, and remember to leave roses in fiber pots IN their pots when planting. Roses can be transplanted in very early spring. When roses leaf out, begin fertilizing with rose specific fertilizer.


Enjoy! Monitor plants for pest or fungus problems and address as appropriate. When watering, water good and deep so that the roots continue down instead of staying close to the surface of the soil. When cutting bouquets, try to cut them early in the morning as opposed to hot afternoons. Remove blooms as they fade and continue your fertilization schedule.


Remove and dispose of any fallen leaves and prune out any weak stems or branches. Apply 4-10-10 fertilizer to help harden your rose off for winter. In late fall, mound mulch or soil to a height of 12” to act as insulation to prevent freezing and thawing on the graft.


Dormant Spray your roses three times, ideally once in each December, January and February. In late winter/early spring, prune your roses when the Forsythia shrub blooms. Forsythia is the yellow blooming shrub you see all over town! Encourage wildlife, such as birds, to your garden as they will help take care of pests naturally.


The best time to prune is in late winter/early spring. Prune after the last hard frost but before new growth is 2-3” long. Pruning requirements vary slightly based on species:

  • Modern Roses, Hybrid Tea, Floribunda and Grandiflora Roses: Prune lightly after blooming to clean up old blooms and any dead or weak wood. Prune by 1/3 the shrub’s existing size when the Forsythia (the early yellow blooming shrub) blooms in early spring. Try to prune to develop a ‘vase’ shape – this improves air circulation which helps reduce fungus development.
  • Shrub and Antique Roses: Require mostly thinning and training rather than hard pruning each year. Remove dead or weak wood after blooming. Prune when the Forsythia blooms to maintain shape and size and to remove unproductive canes.
  • Climbing Roses: For the first 1-2 years, during the growing season train canes to desired shape, pruning out dead or weak wood and finished blooms. Once established, when the Forsythia blooms prune out old, unproductive wood and cut back each productive lateral stem to 2-3 buds. Best blooms develop on 2-3 year old lateral wood.
  • Ramblers: Prune lightly after blooming to clean up old blooms and any dead or weak wood. Prune by 1/3 the shrub’s existing size when the Forsythia blooms, cutting out all canes that show no signs of new, vigorous growth. As canes mature, train them into position. Train annually for best appearance.

General Tips:

Always use clean, sharp shears and clean tools before, during and after with a 10% bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease. Pruning paint should be applied to major cuts to prevent problems.

The ideal pruning cut is made about 1/4” above an outward facing bud at a 45° angle sloping away from the bud to shed water. Cutting too close may destroy the bud, and cutting too high will promote die-back and thereby a breeding area for pests and disease. When pruning, ensure the cutting blade moves from the bottom to the top to avoid tearing.


The biggest deterrent to folks adding roses to their gardens is the worry of pests and diseases. Many varieties of roses today are bred to be resistant to more common diseases, so check the tag to determine what it will stand up against.

Here are a few of the more common challenges you may be up against over the life of your rose. If ever in doubt, bring in a sample for identification. Remember, if you are ever applying a product to treat an issue, be sure you are using the right product for the job, and read the directions and safety precautions before applying.

  • Aphids: Small insects, usually green or black, that gather mostly on the underside of leaves and on new growth, leaving a sticky ‘sap’ on plants. Solution: use a strong stream of water and thoroughly hose them off the foliage. Insecticidal soap can also be applied to control aphids.
  • Black Spot: A notorious fungal problem for roses that results in yellow, brown and finally black spots on foliage eventually causing leaves to fall off. Prevention is key– ensure roses are planted and pruned to maximize air circulation and try to keep moisture off foliage when watering. Solution: Remove and discard affected leaves, then alternate sprayings with two fungicides (so that the fungus cannot build up a resistance).
  • Canker Die-back: Rose canes turn dark brown or black and die down progressively down the stem. Solution: Remove the damaged part of the cane then apply pruning seal on the wound. Follow with a regular fungicidal spray/dust program.  
  • Mildew: Leaves are distorted and covered with fine white fungus growth. Follow the same prevention tips as with Black Spot. Solution: Control with a fungicide spray that controls mildew and leaf spot disease. Improve air circulation.
  • Thrips: Buds turn brown and do not open, or are distorted. Thrips are feeding on the plant juices. Solution: Control with an insecticidal spray applied directly into the opening bud.
  • Yellow Leaves: Leaves turn yellow and fall off. Solution: Discolouration is likely a result of poor drainage, in which case carefully apply fine bark mulch around the roots. Remember to dig in lots of bark before planting!
Helpful Hints
  • Dormant Spraying three times over winter can help prevent about 80% of pest/disease problems in roses and other deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • Growing organic? The following is a recipe for an organic fungicidal spray: Mix 8 grams of baking soda and 3 drops of Safers® Insecticidal Soap to one litre of water. Spray to thoroughly coat the affected area to the point of runoff. Another terrific option is GreenEarth® Biofungicide ‘Rose & Flower Disease Control’.

Some Common Rose Gardening Terms

  • Climbing/Rambling: Canes reach upwards of 20’ to clothe arbors, trellises etc. Flowers are generally smaller and more prolific but bloom over a short time.
  • English: Often thought of as the large, full blooming types with the best fragrance. David Austin Roses have become synonymous with Old English Roses.
  • Floribunda: Cluster-flowered roses that have the flower form and foliage of Hybrid Teas but a lower growing habit, slightly better hardiness and continual flowering habit. Great for cutting and nice perfume.
  • Grandiflora: Introduced in 1954 as a cross between Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. Medium to large blossoms, excellent flower form, increased hardiness and a more continuous flowering habit.
  • Groundcover: Low growing, low maintenance roses.
  • Hybrid Tea: Exquisite blooms on long, single stems -the ideal cutting rose. Needs winter protection below Zone 7. Bloom in waves from late spring through fall.
  • Miniature: Ideal for container gardeners.
  • Shrub/Tree: A rose that you treat like a flowering shrub. Good disease resistance and great as hedges. Rosa rugosa and bonica are popular shrub roses.