3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  March 8, 2001

Growing Beautiful Roses

Nashville Rose Society's Ten Steps to Growing Good Roses



    The rose bed should be located away from trees and shrubs with at least 4-6 hours of sun per day, preferably morning sun. Good drainage is essential - consider raised beds.



    Grade #1 rose bushes that grow well in this area (Zone 6) and that are highly rated by the American Rose Society will give you the best results.



    Roses can be planted in the spring whenever the soil can be worked. Avoid buying any waxed roses. If planting bare root roses ordered by mail, soak them overnight in water. Dig holes approximately 18"W x 18"L x 18"D. Set the top 6" of soil to one side, discard the rest. To the top 6" of soil add sand and organic mater (composted manure, peat moss, rotten sawdust, leaf mold, etc.) to make a mixture of approximately 1/3 top soil, 1/3 sand, and 1/3 organic matter.

Place a shovel-full of mixture in the bottom of the hole and add 1/3 cup Superphosphate in one lump. Cover this with another shovel-full of soil mix. Place the roots of the bush fanned out over this mix, making sure that the crown of the bush will be at ground level or about 1" above ground. Fill the hole half full with mix, slightly tamping the mix as you go, then water it in. Add the remaining mix then add 2 cups of alfalfa meal on top. Water in well again. Cut canes back to 8" at an outside facing eye. Completely cover bush with dampened mulch.



    After the plant is well leafed out - around May 1 - use any balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10, Feritlome, or Ortho Food at the manufacturer's recommended rate. Osmocote and Once are timed-release fertilizers that are applied one time in the spring. Mills Mix is an all-organic fertilizer that can be used in the spring and summer. Water bushes well before fertilizing, then water again after working fertilizer into the soil at the drip line. If using liquid fertilizers like Miracle Grow, do not water after applying.


  1. WATER

    Watering is the most important aspect of growing roses. Water converts fertilizers into a liquid form that can be absorbed by the plant's roots. Water a minimum of once a week (applying a deep soak.) Water more often in the heat of the summer. Three to four inches of mulch will help to retain water and keep the roses cooler.


  1. SPRAY

    Public rose enemy #1 is blackspot (black spots on the leaves.) Start your spray program in the spring when new leaves first begin to appear. Apply Funginex, Immunox, or another fungicide every 14 days.

Use an insecticide only if you have an infestation. Orthene comes in liquid and powder form and can be added to your Funginex or other fungicide. (Check the label to make sure the chemicals you are using are compatible.) Orthenex is a product that combines both an insecticide and fungicide, but should only be used if you have an insect problem. Follow all label directions! Protect yourself with goggles, respirator mask, gloves, long sleeves and long pants when spraying.


  1. PRUNE

    Newly planted roses should be pruned very lightly (cut roses with very short stems) until after the first bloom cycle. Better yet, remove only faded blooms leaving as many leaves as possible. Leaves are like solar collectors that provide energy for the bush.

You can build a bigger bush if you have will power. Most roses will produce two side buds for every main bud. Snapping off the main bud will force the side buds to grow and will increase the size and vigor of your bush.



    After the end of August, continue watering but stop all fertilization. The plant needs a gradual entrance into dormancy - any new growth might be killed by early frost. This would be an added stress for even a healthy plant going into winter.

    One of the most important jobs in the rose garden is to get a soil test, and fall is a great time to do it. Any corrections that need to be made will have all winter to work.



    After a minimum of two hard freezes (temperatures below 28 degrees) and when roses become dormant cut them back to approximately 24-36" high. The end of November is a good time to begin winterization, completing it by mid-December. Mound mulch all around the crown of the plant to at least 10-12" high. Any organic mulch such as sawdust, manure, pine bark, etc. can be used. Check the mulch in January and February and replenish any that has washed down in the rains. Collars are useful to hold mulch in place.



    On or about the third week of March (depending on the weather), uncover the roses very carefully so as not to disturb any new growth. A hose at half speed will help remove the mulch. Prune the canes down one inch at a time until you reach all the white wood, even if you have to go down to the crown. At this time, you can work into the soil around the bush 1C of alfalfa meal or 2C Mills Mix. Spray the bushes with a fungicide and an insecticide and let dry. Re-cover the bushes with mulch. After the last frost date (April 15-23), you can begin to gradually pull the mulch away from the crown. Be careful not to damage any new growth. (White basal breaks will be damaged by the sun, so they should remain covered until the tips begin mature.)


As a Nashville Rose Society member, you will be assigned a Consulting Rosarian - an experienced rose grower accredited by the American Rose Society - who will contact you to offer help and advice. Membership in the Nashville Rose Socitey is $15.00 a year and can be established by calling Anne Owen at 794-0138.