November 21st, 2017


At last count, there were roughly 150 known species alone, and the garden hybrids of those number in the thousands. Every year, new varieties are tested, and some are eventually introduced. A great resource for viewing roses is the Washington Park rose garden. It is actually one of several rose test gardens around the nation, and is home to some of the newest roses and also some of the oldest. Keep in mind that since these roses are being evaluated, not all may actually continue on to the retail market. And not all varieties are still available. Much like cars, roses are often “discontinued” in favor of newer models. There has been a push for “antique” roses recently, but there has been a huge number of cultivars over the years and many have been lost or misidentified, making commercial reintroduction unlikely.

Where to Plant

The planting site is one of the most crucial elements in successful rose growing. Roses need full sun! Some of the shrub roses aren’t as picky about this, but a successful rose garden starts with a sunny spot. Shade causes long, sprawling, floppy growth and invites disease.

The next element is soil. To start with, drainage is a must. Roses despise wet feet, and aren’t terribly fond of heavy clay. Roses are most successful in raised beds, as raised beds drain exceptionally well and tend to have better temperature properties than regular flat soil. The better the soil, the better the roses. If you can bring in new soil, like a sandy loam or other soil mix, you should consider doing it. Whatever soil you use should be high in organic material, fast draining, and close to a neutral pH. Clay can be used, but you must amend it with a lot of organic material. Lime generally needs to be added to counteract the acidity of our native soils. Roses love rich soil, so be sure to add quite a bit of organic material.

One of the best things we have found is composted steer manure, or something comparable. Mushroom compost doesn’t last long enough, but a heavier planting compost could be used. Try not to use a lot of bark around roses, it can have somewhat adverse effects over time. When you are ready to plant, pick a good planting site and fix it up as mentioned above.

Standard planting procedures apply, but there are a few things to keep in mind. It is beneficial to add a cup of lime when planting, as this will correct pH around the plant. Also, all hybrid roses will have a graft union towards the base of the plant, right above where the roots start to form. This union is easily recognized, it is generally swollen and looks like a knot. This union must remain above the soil level! This also includes any mulch that you put down: keep the graft union clear. Burying this will give you massive headaches and heartbreaks in the near future. You may also want to consider adding some mycorrhiza when you plant for added health.