Best soil for roses

Soil Preparation

Give your roses the best possible start by preparing their new position well in advance of planting, at least two months prior. The position should be in a sunny spot with little competition, have good drainage and plenty of nutrients.


Choosing where to plant your roses:

  • All roses require an open, sunny and well drained position.
  • Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, preferably more. Although shaded areas will allow roses to do well, the quantity of the flowers will diminish with the percentage of shade.
  • Protection from wind is essential for good blooms but remember to allow for movement of air.
  • Avoid planting too close to established shrubs and trees as they will compete for water and nutrients with your roses.
  • Consider the type and variety of rose that you are planting as roses grow in all shapes and sizes. Make sure to allow enough room for the rose to grow without becoming over crowded, including the root systems. Remember whatever grows above the soil is mirrored below the soil in the root growth (just like a tree).
  • If planting roses in groups, take note of the recommended distance that they should be planted. Most roses need to be planted a minimum of 1m apart, however some smaller roses, such as miniatures, can be planted closer together.


Roses are very adaptable and can be grown in almost any soil type given it is well drained, deep and full of humus (decayed organic matter). However, the best soils are those of a medium to heavy loam to a minimum of 35cm, over a good clay sub-soil. This type of soil is ideal as it has the natural advantage of retaining moisture and nutrients and requires little preparation.
Your first step into preparing your soil is to ensure it is well drained. To ensure the soil is well drained, dig a test hole and fill with water to see how long it takes to drain away. Wait approximately 15 minutes, if the water is not significantly draining away or has not completely drained within an hour there is a drainage problem. If so, you now have two options, select a better location to plant your rose or improve the drainage in this location.
There are many options in improving the drainage, the method you select will depend on the severity of your issue. If the issue is not servere you can work in organic matter and/or lighter soils to break up your existing soil; or, raise the garden bed and add in fresh garden soil. In more severe cases adding drainage channels with agricultural piping will be the most successful alternative.
Before adding anything to the soil, perform a soil pH test. Testing kits can be purchased from hardware stores / garden centres and are easy to use. The soil pH for roses should sit between 6.5 and 7. Variations of this can result in the nutrients binding with the soil and becoming unavailable to the plant. This can result in many health issues from nutrient deficiencies and in some cases, death.
To increase the pH add agircultural lime to the soil. To decrease the pH add organic matter, iron chelates or powdered sulphur. The quantity you add will depend on your soil type, pH level and product. We suggest you do some of your own research regarding the quantities and various types of products.

Changing the pH of your soil is a gradual process and can take several months, depending on your application it can take as long as six months. Be patient and retest the soil after a couple of months.
Once you have ensure the drainage and soil pH is adaquate it is time to prepare the soil.
Soil should be prepared at least a couple of months ahead of planting and given 4 to 6 weeks to settle in. Soil preparation involves the addition of organic matter, a small amount of blood and bone to the soil and moisture. The soil type will determine the proportions.
Build up the soil with organic matter, water in, turn it over a few times and let it sit. Dig over and water the rose bed multiple times during the next few months, the soil should come to a fine tilth.
Roses can adapt to almost any soil type except light, sandy soils. One of the biggest problems with this soil type is water retention, with water and nutrients quickly draining through it before the rose has a chance to absorb what is needed. Sandy soils require more preparation for this reason. To prepare the soil introduce copious amounts of organic matter, digging it through thoroughly. Applying a good layer of mulch will also help retain moisture. It is important to remember that light, sandy soils require lighter, more frequent fertilizing and watering. Be careful as very sandy soils can become Hydrophobic and will not allow water to penetrate the ground but rather let it run off to lower areas of the garden.
DO NOT replant into old soil where roses have been removed. If a rose has recently been removed, you have two choices. Either allow the soil to rest for an extended period of time or replace the soil in this position with fresh soil (at least a large wheel barrow load). Ensure you test the pH and prepare the soil as normal before planting.
DO NOT FERTILISE AT TIME OF PLANTING. Wait until the rose has formed significant growth and blooms before applying the first application. Generally this is late Spring for most newly planted roses, depending on the climate, variety and planting time. If you have sufficiently prepared the soil there will be no need to fertilise prior to this. Fertilizing at the time of planting will not only change the soil pH and burn the new roots but may encourage them to grow during the dormancy period. This is not ideal as the new growth will easily become damaged by frosts and extreme Winter weather.
Organic matter is added to the soil during the preparation of a garden bed, before planting roses and can consist of a combination of any of the following:

  • Well rotted compost
  • Worm castings
  • Mushroom compost
  • Old manure – it is important that it is well rotted. Avoid chicken manure and any manure from animals that eat meat, as these are too acidic for roses.

A handful of blood and bone added to the soil during prepartion will also be benefical.

Rose Soil Preparation: Tips For Building Rose Garden Soil

By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

When one brings up the topic of soil for roses, there are some definite concerns with the makeup of the soil that make them their best for growing rose bushes and having them perform well.

Rose Soil pH

We know that the soil pH is optimum at 6.5 on the pH scale (pH range 5.5 – 7.0). Sometimes the rose soil pH may be either too acidic or too alkaline, so what do we do to effect the desired change in the pH?

To make the soil less acidic, the common practice is to add some form of lime. Typically, ground agricultural limestone is used and the finer the particles the more rapidly it becomes effective. The amount of ground limestone to be used varies with the current soil makeup. Soils higher in clay will typically require more of the lime additive than those lower in clay.

To lower the pH level, aluminum sulfate and sulfur are typically used. The aluminum sulfate will quickly change the pH of the soil for roses where sulfur will take longer, as it requires the aid of the soil bacteria to make the change.

For any pH adjustment, apply the additives in small amounts and test the pH at least a couple of times before adding any more. Amendments to the soil will have some effect on the overall soil pH. We need to keep this in mind and keep an eye on the pH level. If the rose bushes start to change in their performance or even have an overall change in natural foliage coloration or natural shine, it could very well be an out of balance soil pH problem.

Preparing Soil for Rose Bushes

After considering the soil pH, we need to look at the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. We must keep them healthy in order for the proper breakdowns of the elements that provide the food for our rose bushes to take up. Healthy micro-organisms will crowd out pathogens (the disease making bad guys…) in the soil by competitive exclusion. In the process of competitive exclusion, the beneficial micro-organisms reproduce themselves quicker than the bad ones and sometimes even feed upon them. Keeping the micro-organisms happy and healthy will usually involve adding organic materials/amendments to the soil. Some good amendments to use for rose soil preparation are:

  • Alfalfa meal – Alfalfa meal is a good source of nitrogen and is nicely balanced with phosphorus and potassium, plus it contains Triacontanol, a growth regulator and stimulant.
  • Kelp Meal – Kelp meal is a slow release Potassium source providing over 70 chelated trace minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and growth promoting hormones.
  • Compost – Compost is decomposed organic matter that increase microorganism activity and improves the overall quality of the soils.

These, along with some peat moss in it, are all wonderful soil building amendments. There are some great organic composts on the market in bagged form; just be sure to flip the bag over to read what all is actually in that compost. You can also make your own compost fairly easily these days with the compost maker kits at local garden centers.

Roses prefer a rich loamy soil that drains well. They do not like to have their root systems in soggy wet soil, but cannot be allowed to dry out either. A nice pliable moist feel to the soil is what is desired.

Nature has a way of telling the gardener when the soils are good. If you have been successful at building rose garden soil, the earthworms come into the soil and are easily found there. The earthworms help aerate the soil, thus keeping the oxygen flowing through it and keeping the entire biological process in good balance, working as a well oiled machine so to speak. The worms further enrich the soil with their castings (a nice name for their poo…). It is like getting free fertilizer for your roses and who does not like that!

Basically, a good soil makeup for roses is said to be: one-third clay, one-third coarse sand and one-third decomposed organic matter. When mixed together, these will give you the right soil blend for providing the best of soil homes for your rose bush’s root systems. Once you have felt the texture of this properly blended soil, it should go through your hands and fingers, and you will easily recognize it from then on.

Rose Planting 101

Q. Dear Mike: My husband and I love your show! We also love roses and used to have 48 bushes. Now we’re starting over in a new home, where the soil is very rocky with a lot of clay. Can you provide some advice on planting in these new conditions?

    —Terri in Cumberland, MD

Mike: Love your show! I would like to transplant some roses this spring. In the past I have not been very successful with this; they don’t seem to grow much afterwards. In fact, several have not grown more then a foot since I moved them three years ago. I use transplant shock activators and water well. Hope you can help.

    —Michele in Mt Laurel, New Jersey

A. Well, your problem is obvious, Michele; you should have bought transplant shock PREVENTERS, not activators! (Sorry, but that was just too juicy to pass up.)

Anyway, roses are pretty easy to transplant; I move mine around as if they were annual flowers and the only ones I’ve lost were the ones I forgot to put back in the ground at the end of the day. And even some of them turned out to be revivable.

The big key to success is to plant them properly. But I was recently astonished (and a little chagrined) to see that we had not yet covered those basics in a Question of the Week. So let’s review the ten essential steps for rose planting success:

1. Soak bare roots in water for a few hours first. Bare root roses can be pretty dried out by the time they reach gardeners. So before you do anything else, place each bare root in a bucket of water for a while to re-hydrate the plant. This isn’t necessary for transplants (unless you don’t replant them right away, like SOME people I know) or roses purchased in containers.

2. Dig a wide hole in a spot that gets morning sun and good airflow. Because of their genetics (many ‘parent plants’ came from desert environments) some roses are highly disease-prone, especially when their leaves get wet. Placing them where they receive the very first dew-drying rays of the morning sun can mean the difference between rosaceous happiness and bad news black spot. Good air circulation is also important. If necessary, prune away overgrown trees and shrubs nearby. If you can only plant in a crowded area that only gets afternoon sun, grow hostas instead. Oh, and make the hole nice and wide so the roots can spread out—not deep; you want the stalk to be nice and high, not buried.

3. If you garden in clay, break up the soil at bottom of hole for drainage. Use a garden fork, pry-bar or small explosives to make sure the roots don’t sit in water.

4. Build a ‘cone’ of compost in the center of the hole. This provides some nice natural nutrients at the root zone, insures that the plant is elevated in the hole, and—most importantly—is also good luck, which we gardeners need more than normal people.

5. Spread the roots out overtop of the cone and plant the rose high, not low in the ground. Unless it’s raining, do this in the evening; NEVER first thing in the morning, so that the plant can acclimate a bit before its first day of broiling sun. The planted rose should look like an octopus sitting up on a rock; this is the proper way to plant, continues the good luck thing and looks cute as all get out. If you use wood mulch, take a picture; this will be the best it ever looks. And did I tell you to plant at the same height as in the container or higher? Good; are you listening yet?

6. Fill the hole back up with native soil. Follow the modern advice for planting trees and DON’T surround the rose’s roots with an island of rich soil. By filling the hole back up with what you have in the rest of the yard, you’ll encourage the plant to send its roots outward instead of staying nested in a little bubble of good stuff.

7. Cover the soil around the planted rose with a one-inch thick mulch of compost; don’t touch the stem and don’t use any kind of wood or bark mulch. The compost will prevent weeds, feed the plant, slowly improve your soil, and prevent the breeding of disease spores. No wood chips, ‘triple premium shredded bark’, root mulch or that God-awful dyed stuff! Diseases like black spot and mildew LOVE wood mulch; its like an incubator for them. And if you use rubber mulch you’re not allowed to listen to the show anymore.

8. Let a hose drip gently at the base of each plant for a few hours after planting; repeat three times a week if we get no rain. Never wet the plant when you water; always water at the base. Deep, slow waterings are ideal. Don’t water if we get lots of rain, but be prepared to soak the root zone this way all summer long during droughts. Most first year plant losses are due to UNDERwatering. But water normally (that’s one long deep watering once a week; see THIS PREVIOUS QUESTION OF THE WEEK FOR DETAILS) in subsequent years. Most established plants are lost to OVER watering.

9. Use no chemical plant food. Toxic chemical fertilizers like Miracle-Grow and Osmocote cause rapid weak growth that is very attractive to pests and disease. Instead:

10. Freshen up that compost with another inch every two months the rose is actively growing. If you’re in the mid-South or lower, make it two inches. And remove the old mulch and put a new inch of compost down once a month if disease is or has been a problem, it’s a wet year, and/or the plants are in a less than ideal location.

You’ll find lots more rose-disease-prevention info in THIS PREVIOUS QUESTION OF THE WEEK.

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Soil Preparation for Roses

Preparing your soil before you plant will greatly improve your plant’s performance and promote healthy, vigorous growth. It is a good idea to have your soil tested to determine if it is lacking in any essential minerals and nutrients. This can be done through your County Extension Office or with one of our digital meters.

The goal of soil preparation is to replenish vital minerals and nutrients, as well as break up and loosen any compacted soil.

NOTE: This is part 5 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow roses, we recommend starting from the beginning.

When To Prepare Your Soil

Soil preparation can be done at any time that the ground is not too wet or frozen. Your trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

How To Prepare Your Soil

  • Roots grow faster when they’re spread out. Dig the hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.

  • To loosen the soil, mix dehydrated cow manure, garden compost or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. Make sure the peat moss you get is either baled sphagnum or granular peat. You can also add our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or 2 or more inches of organic material and work in evenly with the existing soil.

Your lawn can provide you with ideal organic materials such as grass clippings and shredded leaves. Not only will the grass and leaves break down to provide soil nutrients, but they will help loosen the soil as well. You can gather these in the fall with spring planting in mind.

Common soil amendments:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss

Adding organic materials, such as our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium and compost will improve most every soil type. Organic materials bind sandy soil particles so they retain moisture and nutrients better. They also break apart clay and silt particles, so that water can infiltrate and roots can spread.

Soil Types

  • Clay and silt soils are made of very small particles. They feel slick and sticky when wet. Clay and silt hold moisture well, but resist water infiltration, especially when they are dry. Often puddles form on clay or silt soils, and they easily become compacted.
  • Loam soil is a mix of sand, silt or clay, and organic matter. Loam soils are loose and look rich. When squeezed in your fist, moist loam will form a ball, which crumbles when poked with a finger. Loam soils normally absorb water and store moisture well. Loam soils can be sandy or clay based, and will vary in moisture absorption and retention accordingly.
  • Sandy soils contain large particles that are visible to the unaided eye, and are usually light in color. Sand feels coarse when wet or dry, and will not form a ball when squeezed in your fist. Sandy soils stay loose and allow moisture to penetrate easily, but do not retain it for long-term use.

In This Series

  • Introduction

Getting Started

  • Acclimate
  • Location
  • Planting
  • Soil Preparation

Care & Maintenance

  • Fertilizing
  • Pest & Disease Control
  • Pruning
  • Spraying
  • Watering
  • Winterizing

Preparing Soil for Bare Root Roses

Plant your roses ASAP! Prior to planting, we suggest you soak the roses for 24 hours, tops and all, in water. This helps hydrate the plant and will help it get a good start in its new home.

Select a location in your garden that gets a minimum of six hours of direct sun, preferably afternoon sun…global warming is good! So, dig that hole about 2′ deep and 2′ wide, build a cone in the bottom of the hole to spread the roots over. If you are replacing an established rose in your garden with a new bush, remove all the soil and roots completely. Then refill the hole with a good planting mix and some of your own garden soil. Water the new planting thoroughly and top it off with a good mulch.

Rose Type – Planting Distance

Select a location in your garden that gets a minimum of six hours of direct sun, preferably afternoon sun…global warming is good! So, dig that hole about 2′ deep and 2′ wide, build a cone in the bottom of the hole to spread the roots over. If you are replacing an established rose in your garden with a new bush, remove all the soil and roots completely. Then refill the hole with a good planting mix and some of your own garden soil. Water the new planting thoroughly and top it off with a good mulch.

Spring is the time of colors and blooms. There is no better way to add color to your gardens by planting some rose bushes. Roses, after all, add color and fragrance to any garden. If you have planned to include roses in your garden, you need to consider choosing the best soil for growing roses. Preparing the soil for rose bushes is very important. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Choosing the Rose Soil: While choosing the rose soil, look for soil with organic materials, air, and water. Loam is one of the best choices of soil for rose bushes. As this soil includes all these four main elements and 50 percent of air, it is a perfect soil choice for rose bushes. Loam also contains 46 percent inorganic material such as sand, clay, and silt, and 4 to 6 percent organic materials in total. This porous soil absorbs water adequately and fast.

2. Maintaining the pH: Maintaining the pH of the rose soil is equally important. The optimum pH to grow rose bushes is 6.5. If the soil pH is too alkaline or acidic, it can affect the growth of the rose plant. If you notice any foliage coloration or change in the plant growth, it could be because of the soil pH level. Maintain the pH at an optimum level by adding agricultural limestone. This helps to make the soil less acidic. If the loam you have for your rose bushes contains more clay, you will need to add an adequate amount of ground agricultural limestone for maintaining the pH level. To lower the pH level of the alkaline soil, you can choose sulfur or aluminum sulfate. The latter one is a better choice as it changes the soil pH effectively and quickly. Adjust the amount of the additives to maintain the pH at an optimum level.

3. Enriching the soil: Use peat moss to enrich the loamy soil if it contains more clay. Mix in organic compost, peat moss, dried leaf mold, and manure to amend the soil. If you are using a pot, then add the organic matter to the bottom before planting. If not, then prepare the rose bush bed as per the following instructions.

4. Keeping the soil healthy: The role of micro-organisms in the soil is very important. They keep the soil condition healthy by breaking down the organic materials and releasing nitrogen. To keep the soil microbes happy, add in alfalfa meal, decomposed organic matter or compost, and kelp meal. These ingredients will provide nitrogen, phosphorus, amino acids, potassium, and necessary vitamins to the micro-organism population in the soil. In addition, these materials will improve the soil condition and quality too.

5. Preparing the potting mix: Roses grow well in an airy and light soil. You can look for a good potting mix of loamy soil in your local garden center or prepare the soil by adding adequate portions of all the ingredients that loamy soil usually includes. Usually, a good loamy mix contains two shovels of mulch, ¼ cup sulfur, and ¼ cup treble superphosphate. If you are using organic matter, then add in a mix of peat moss with organic compost and cow dung. To make the soil airy, you need to add 1/3 cup of sharp sand and topsoil to the above mix. As roses prefer the soil that drains well, adding sand to your potting mix makes it suitable for your rose bushes.

6. Moistening the soil: Adding a layer of mulch on the top layer is highly recommended. A 2-inch layer of mulch helps to keep the rose bushes healthy by keeping the soil moisture level at an optimum level.


Whether you grow them in beds or in containers, roses appreciate soil that’s loamy with a pH of about 6.5. Just what does that mean and how do you achieve it? Read on and I’ll tell you.

What is Loamy Soil?

A loamy soil contains three particle sizes in relatively equal proportions – clay, sand and silt. This mix makes the soil just porous enough to allow good water retention and drainage as well as air and nutrient circulation.

So get to know the composition of your soil. Is it sandy? Heavy clay? Grab a handful and squeeze it in your fist. When you open your fist what happens? Good soil will crumble not clump (too much clay) or slide off your hand (too sandy).

What is Soil pH?

Soil pH tells you the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. A pH of 3.5 is highly acidic and 9.0 is extremely alkaline. Roses prefer a soil pH closer to the middle, around 6.5. You can determine your soil’s pH with a home soil test or send samples to your local cooperative extension for more thorough results.

Getting the Soil Right in Your Rose Garden

So how do you transform what Mother Nature supplied you into something that will make your roses happy?

If you’re planting roses in containers or raised beds, you’re in luck. Just mix up a batch of this rose soil.

    1/3 potting soil
    1/3 compost
    1/3 bagged manure

Amending garden soil will take a little more effort because digging is required.

    1. Dig 12 inches deep into the soil, setting the removed soil to the side.
    2. Mix 2 parts garden soil with 1 part compost and 1 part bagged manure.
    3. Return the soil to the area as you plant your roses.

Good to Know

Organic matter releases nutrients into the soil as it decomposes. To kick start the process, enhance the soil with Jobe’s Organics Rose and Flower fertilizer. It contains microorganisms that aggressively break down materials into basic nutrients and trace elements that plants can readily absorb. Good stuff for the garden!

Right before springtime, and just after pruning, you may need to make some adjustments to your soil, especially if you are planting new roses. One of the important elements of growing good roses concerns soil pH. Since I’m a chemist by training, I could bore you to tears with a lengthy explanation of what pH is. However, simply put, pH is the amount of acid (H+) or base (OH-) in the material. Numbers 0 to 6.9 are acidic, with 0 being extremely acidic. 7 is neutral (deionized water). Numbers 7.1 to 14 are basic, with 14 being extremely basic (caustic and alkaline are also commonly used terms for basic). Although most references differ, roses generally enjoy a pH of 6.0 through 6.9, with about 6.5 being ideal. In other words, the soil should be just slightly acidic. For pH outside this range, the availability of nutrients to the plant is greatly affected. For example, at a pH of 5.0 or less, phosphorous is ‘trapped’ by aluminum ions and rendered insoluble which cannot be absorbed by the plant. In the 6.0 to 6.9 range, all nutrients are in a form that is available to the plant. The more basic the soil, the less nutrients, such as iron, nitrogen, and manganese, can be absorbed.

The right pH level is vital for healthy roses

The key to healthy productive roses is good, fertile soil. A healthy soil retains water and also drains well. It contains organic matter, adequate nutrients and an optimal pH. This last component is vital to the release of nutrients in the soil to the plant.

Soil pH is defined as the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and pH is an abbreviation that gauges a substance’s “potential for hydrogen.” It basically determines the amount of hydrogen ion activity occurring in the soil at the microscopic level and it is expressed as a pH number ranging from 1 (extremely acid) to 14 (extremely alkaline). A pH of 7 is neutral. Generally, soils in the eastern part of the United States are acidic, whereas soils in the western states are alkaline. The correct pH level of our garden soil makes a huge difference to the health of our plants, with most plants growing best in slightly acidic to neutral soil (a pH between 6 and 7).

The ideal pH for roses is a soil that tests between 6 and 6.5.When the pH falls below 6, the soil will hold potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus molecules captive. When the pH level is higher than 7.5, many plants will struggle to get enough phosphorus, iron and manganese. So, a less-than-ideal pH can prevent our plants from properly taking nutrients from even a nutrient-rich soil.

In addition to a tendency toward an alkaline pH, our San Diego garden soils may have the additional challenge of high salinity resulting from our irrigation water and the overuse of chemical fertilizers. The remedy to combat high salts is to apply enough water to leach away excess salts from the root zone. Of course this highlights the importance of a well-draining soil. There is a triple bonus for the practice of regularly adding organics such as worm castings and compost to our soils, and applying a 3-to-4-inch organic mulch cover to the soil annually. First, we improve the fertility of the soil; second, the organics lower an alkaline pH; and third, organics help to improve the soil’s drainage.


The Master Gardener website has a list of Agricultural Testing Laboratories. Soil testing by these companies can provide information on your soil’s texture, pH, salinity and the level of essential plant nutrients and fertility. If you get your soil tested, request a report to interpret the results and ask for recommendations on how to correct any problems they may have discovered. The soil testing will not tell you if poor plant growth is caused by pests, diseases, improper irrigation, or poor cultural practices.

You can also test your soil pH yourself with a simple pH meter and test kit, which are available at local nurseries or from mail-order companies. They can be an easy and inexpensive way to determine your soil pH, but be careful to exactly follow the directions on their packages. When you collect your soil for testing, mix together samples from 10 or more places throughout your garden. If the results show your soil to be too alkaline, add either sulfur or aluminum sulfate. If it is too acidic, add lime. Be careful to follow directions for application, and don’t add too much!

When your roses are growing and blooming beautifully, it is not necessary to determine the pH of your soil. But if you are adequately watering your roses, and fertilizing them with applications of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and they are still doing poorly, don’t give up on them. Go ahead and test the pH of your soil. Getting your soil in the ideal pH range will give your roses the opportunity to absorb all the nutrients they need to flourish.

Fiesta of Roses

In one long weekend at the end of this month, you will have the opportunity to see, smell and even buy a multitude of roses.


The San Diego Rose Society is hosting a “Fiesta of Roses” to celebrate the installation of San Diego Master Rosarian Bob Martin as the president of the American Rose Society. The four-day national convention includes garden tours of the top rose gardens in San Diego. There also will be a huge rose show with entries of roses from around the nation at their peak of perfection, on Saturday, Oct. 27, and Sunday, Oct. 28. In addition, the California Coastal Rose Society will have a live and silent auction of old, rare and hard-to-find roses on Sunday, Oct. 28.

Registrants for the four-day event can attend presentations by renowned rose experts, a photography seminar, delicious banquets and dinners, and a Mexican fiesta in Bob and Dona Martin’s gorgeous rose garden.

Registration is still open, and details can be found at The rose show and the rose auction at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley are open to the public without registration.

Perwich is a member of the San Diego Rose Society, a Consulting Rosarian and a Master Gardener with UC Cooperative Extension.

Soil pH – what you need to know

High Soil pH? Bin the test kit and don’t panic!

Phil Barnet from ProAg is a very clever Adelaide based soil professional that Jeffries calls upon when we need to know even more about soil!

I regularly hear from stressed gardeners and landscapers who have tested soil themselves and found pH levels so high that they are above the ranges recommended for the plants they intend to grow. Because pH is the one soil factor gardeners and landscapers are able to test themselves with a purchased pH kit*, it can become the central focus for their soil management and they invariably want to take extreme action to correct it.

Is pH important? – of course it is…BUT

The acidity or alkalinity of a soil can have an impact on the uptake of nutrients into plants as some of them get rapidly bound up in unavailable compounds at both high and low pH. Acidic soils are relatively easy to deal with by applying the right amounts of ag-lime or dolomite which are also beneficial for supplying deficient soil calcium and magnesium. However correcting alkaline soils is much more difficult. I do not recommend adding high rates of elemental sulphur or aluminium sulphate simply to lower pH as it is rarely economical and because high sulphur can affect the plant uptake of other elements like selenium.

Soils are complex, living systems where balance is important and too much of any element will always have an effect on the availability of others. The answer is to treat the soil as a whole system and not concentrate on just one aspect of it.

Consider the following:

  • Adelaide and South Australia in general have many areas with alkaline to strongly alkaline soils, however there are gardens and crops thriving in all these conditions.
  • Commercially blended organic loam soils often have elevated pH when they are freshly made but in most cases the alkalinity will decrease over time. This tends to occur after they have been watered or irrigated for a while and have started to develop into living soils.
  • Recent testing I have conducted shows that our iconic Adelaide Botanic Gardens has soils ranging from pH7.1 to pH 8.31 – all moderately to strongly alkaline yet it is our state’s premier garden.
  • Many references and textbooks (and some TV garden shows) are written and produced for acidic soils in other states and often by people with limited understanding of our alkaline soils. Be careful when following general recommendations from these sources.
  • pH is only one of 24 different soil factors that can be measured or calculated with a comprehensive horticultural soil test so it makes no sense to make significant changes to soil management to address one factor, without knowing the whole picture.

So you have Alkaline Soil – don’t stress and read on………

Case Study: National Rose Trial Garden Adelaide

The National Rose Trial Garden was established in 1996 to test and rank new roses submitted by breeders from Australia and overseas. It was originally planted in a dedicated area of the Botanic Gardens with space for wide rotations, however in recent years has moved to a more restricted space which needed to be continuously planted. As a result the trial management decided to remove soil from the beds every three years and replace it with fresh manufactured organic sandy loam. I became involved in 2013 after the imported soil was tested and found to have pH 8.0 or higher. An eastern state rose expert strongly advised that roses would not thrive in soils with pH greater than 7.5 so there was concern about the future of the trial. With the trial committee we embarked on a program of comprehensive testing, balanced nutrition, building organic matter and stimulating soil microbiological activity. After nearly two years the pH is still above the upper limit recommended for roses but the trial plants are thriving and this year there is a 100% establishment rate. Committee members consider that the current crop of first and second year roses just beginning to bloom, are the best they have had since the trial began.

Use these strategies to manage your alkaline soil

  • Don’t be discouraged by published pH ranges as there are many plants worth trying. However be realistic as there are some acid lovers that you won’t be able to grow in your alkaline soil – avoid planting rhododendrons and blueberries.
  • Throw away the pH kit and conduct a full horticultural analysis on your soil. Full tests are available locally at Apal Laboratory or Microbiology Laboratories Australia and cost about $200/sample for a report that includes interpretation of results and recommendations.
  • Balance soil nutrients based on the test results. Don’t follow general fertiliser programs and only ever apply elements that are shown to be needed. (Remember that an excess of one element will always create a deficiency of another)
  • If fertilisers are needed, always use the more acidic products like Sulphate of Ammonia for nitrogen and MAP (mono-ammonium phosphate) for phosphorus. This will keep nutrients available for plant uptake.
  • Build soil organic matter. This is a critical strategy for alkaline soils, because the organic materials can hold nutrients in a form that remains available to plants and protects them from being “locked up” into unavailable compounds. Increase organic matter by incorporating well made compost, using organic based fertilisers and by growing and turning in green manure crops. The breakdown of organic matter can also slowly reduce pH over time.
  • Apply biological stimulants to fire up soil microbial activity. The beneficial organisms teeming in the soil will provide disease protection and turn over organic matter to give a steady release of nutrients to the plants. Stimulants include molasses, humic and fulvic acid, kelp solutions and fish fertilisers. These can now all be found in single products like the appropriately named “Go Go Juice”
  • Spray on regular foliar fertiliser. Feeding plants through the leaves will by-pass soil uptake problems caused by high pH and supply most of the trace element requirements and top up the major elements.
  • If you see leaf symptoms of deficiency have leaf samples analysed to determine what is missing.
  • Any identified deficiency can be addressed by foliar fertilisers or through soil application of chelated (protected) trace elements. Classic leaf symptoms seen in alkaline soils are general yellowing and inter-veinal chlorosis (yellowing between green veins).

The first step in creating healthy, balanced, biologically active and productive soils is to understand exactly what amendments are needed. This can only be achieved by thoroughly testing them – measurement must come first for successful management.

Contact Pro Ag Soil Management anytime to discuss your alkaline soil or any other soil issues.
Phil Barnett Soil Consultant

Tips and Tricks growing Roses

Preparation for the arrival of your new Rose

Where best to plant: Roses like full to part sun. Depending on the region in which you live, select a spot free of frost or prepare yourself to protect the plant from frost damage. Roses do grow in a range of temperatures from very cold to quite hot. They really are tough and hardy plants with the right care. Too much shade they will struggle quite poorly. They need the sunlight to draw energy through their leaves to nourish the plant. If it’s a dry spot mulch with a thick layer of organic mulch. I like mushroom compost or mulching hay as they break down without causing nitrogen loss to the plant too much. Other mulches will work equally well. This keeps the soil evenly moist and preferable to the roses.

For best results the soil will be well prepared to a depth of about 30cm or 1 foot deep. Dig over until the soil is soft enough for the plant to push the new roots out into the surrounding soil. In pots apply similar principles although bearing in mind generally pots will dry out faster and require more watering. We tend to use a mix of good potting mix and mushroom compost which improves the water holding capacity of the mix. The compost is also great in the garden. Check with your supplier that the compost is not sprayed or salted to prevent the regrowth of mushrooms.

Best to do prepare well ahead of time to allow any fertilisers or manures to age before planting the rose into it. Fresh manure or fertilisers may burn the roots of your new plant. Once burned the plant cannot take up water and will not survive. With any plant, rule of thumb is err on the side of caution. Safer to add the fertilisers after the plant is well established. A weak liquid seaweed solution such as seasol or natrakelp is best while the plant is young.

If planting in clay (roses do like a clay based soil) you may need to add some gypsum (clay breaker) to the soil. Clay based soils are often more acid than dry stony soils. There is much to know about soil PH. Please find below an interesting article which clearly explains in layman’s terms all about soil PH. Roses are not particularly fussy when it comes to soil type but they do prefer soils that are well-drained but hold moisture well and not allowed to dry out too much. In a dry or sandy soil the addition of well-rotted manures and compost can be a worthy addition to the soil.

Balancing Your PH for Growing Roses

By Steve Jones
Master Rosarian
Fiddletown, California

Right before springtime, and just after pruning, you may need to make some adjustments to your soil, especially if you are planting new roses. One of the important elements of growing good roses concerns soil pH. Since I’m a chemist by training, I could bore you to tears with a lengthy explanation of what pH is. However, simply put, pH is the amount of acid (H+) or base (OH-) in the material. Numbers 0 to 6.9 are acidic, with 0 being extremely acidic. 7 is neutral (deionized water). Numbers 7.1 to 14 are basic, with 14 being extremely basic (caustic and alkaline are also commonly used terms for basic). Although most references differ, roses generally enjoy a pH of 6.0 through 6.9, with about 6.5 being ideal. In other words, the soil should be just slightly acidic. For pH outside this range, the availability of nutrients to the plant is greatly affected. For example, at a pH of 5.0 or less, phosphorous is ‘trapped’ by aluminum ions and rendered insoluble which cannot be absorbed by the plant. In the 6.0 to 6.9 range, all nutrients are in a form that is available to the plant. The more basic the soil, the less nutrients, such as iron, nitrogen, and manganese, can be absorbed.

So how do you test the soil? There are two methods commonly used for testing soil pH. In both cases, you need to collect a representative soil sample. Do not take a small sample, and don’t take one when there’s a lot of organic material. Scrape off the topsoil and collect a small hand shovel full of soil from ten to twenty places throughout the rose garden. Mix these together and let the soil dry. At this point you can send a portion of the soil to a lab for full or partial analysis, or you can purchase a home pH kit from a local nursery. If your soil is too acidic, add lime. If it is too basic, add either sulphur or aluminum sulfate. (Our Southern California soils tend to be on the basic side.) Don’t be too generous with the application, it doesn’t take much. Nurseries and rose supply catalogs have various pH test kits or meters available, ranging from $5-$15. They should also carry a supply of sulphur, lime, and aluminum sulfate.

This article was originally published in “Rose Ecstasy,” bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor. For more information please look up the website

Once Arrived and Ready to tuck into the Garden or Pot

bare-root and potted roses it is essential that they be soaked in water prior to planting. Some references do suggest roses are hardy to dry conditions which up to a point is true. However, when they are newly planted or removed from their soil it is important to rehydrate the plant until it is well established in it’s new home.
Plant your roses according to the directions on each individual label as varieties of rose plants will vary in size and vigour. About 1 to 1.5 metres apart is good for larger roses, for smaller bushes or hedges you might want your holes only 60cm centres.

Roses may be started from cuttings having their own root system or they may be started by cuttings of a stronger plant which then the individual varieties are grafted to. This may be helpful in difficult soil conditions as the root system will be stronger or more suitable for various soil types.
If you look at your rose it will have a root system, graft union and leaf buds, etc.

Best to plant with the graft union the piece where the lowest side branch meets the main stem or the ball like join onto the stem about 2 to 4cm above the soil level. This will prevent the graft union from rot. Anything that grows below this union is growing from the root stock if it is a grafted plant. This is not desirable because it will be much stronger growth and different from the plant you purchased. It will be so hardy it will consume your original plant and the graft over time will die and the rootstock take over. Simply snip off anything that grows below the graft union.

Anything that grows from the graft union itself is called a water-shoot. These are valuable new growth that will give you flowers with lovely long stems and big heads. Do not cut these off. Completely different to something that grows below the graft.

Be sure to carefully compact the soil around the plant and water in well. Continue watering to keep the soil at consistently moist until the plant is well established.

So.. by now I have filled your head with a lot to learn if you’ve only just started.
Let’s summarise:

  • Prepare the soil, well dug with lots of organic matter, gypsum if required to break clay.
  • In pots a large pot with again lots of organic matter to hold moisture
  • Check the soil PH, essentially the moisture holding capacity of the soil. If it’s too dry, the plant will die. Add lime or sulphur if required but this must be done weeks prior to planting. There is no turned back from a burned plant.
  • Not too much fertiliser at this stage. Weak seaweed type solutions are best.
  • Dig the hole and plant with union about 2cm above the soil.
  • Carefully compact the soil around the plant and water.. and water… and water. Every day!

_How to Care for our young plant _
Are roses easy to maintain? The simple answer is yes; but they do require a little know how.


Roses like their food. Like you would feed your children, feed your roses often. Not too much or they will get a tummy ache. Too much of a good thing is not good. At the farm here we use liquid manures, natrakelp, trace elements and condies crystals. I’ve been told Epsom salts is also great!

Initially I recommend water, that’s all. Better to be safe than sorry. When the plant shows it’s leaves coming out of dormancy is a good time for nitrogen rich fertilizers like the liquid manure which is going to give the plant it’s healthy green leaves. These will feed the root system and give the plant strength. Seaweed based fertilizers are also great to do this. NOT TOO MUCH at a time. The biggest mistake made other than too little water is too much fertilizer in one hit. It’s like giving a baby 5 meals in one go and force feeding it. It’s going to be one very sick little bubba. Depending on what you fed it, it may live or it may not. If you don’t feed it at all, like that little baby it won’t survive on air either.

If your plant has yellow leaves or stems and looks like it may be lacking in something, chances are it either has something making it sick or it simply needs some food or medicine. Working out which is like trying to decide what is wrong with a baby. It can’t tell you. You’re going to need to go through a process of elimination. Go through all the factors mentioned above and if you come up with nothing, try adding a weak trace elements solution according to it’s instructions. (you can buy a box of trace elements from your local plant supplies store)

The plant now has healthy green leaves and moving on into flower buds. It now needs potassium. Many people have told me they give their banana peels and rotted bananas to their roses. Great idea because bananas are full of potassium. That’s going to work for sure. Another tip is to use condies crystals (potassium permanganate) just a touch, remember less is best, touch on the end of your finger to a bucket full of water, just very slightly pink. Feed that to your roses at flowering time. It will intensify the colour in the flowers; and just quietly I think that along with our soil PH of 5.5/6 is what gave us that stunning purple rose we posted on facebook. DON’T OVERDO IT. It will burn if too strong.

Sprays and Pest Resistance

Personally, I like to promote plant health rather than disease control. A healthy plant tends to repel its own pests and diseases within reason.

Black Spot: If you see black spot don’t stress too much. It isn’t absolutely detrimental to your plant. It’s not great, but it isn’t going to kill all your roses. It means the plant is lacking in something. Sometimes it’s a more susceptible variety but I’ve found in many cases more regular watering is a big part of the solution. Sometimes it’s a lack of nutrient after the plant has been abundantly flowering. Give it a good drink and a feed and it will generally come good without too much else. I tend to collect and dispose of diseased leaves and stems, just in case. As for fungicide sprays, we don’t use them so I don’t recommend anything in particular. I’d rather put up with a few issues, none major than use the spray; personal preference.

Dusty/Downy Mildew/Botritis: Generally too wet or too dry, lack of air movement. I just remove the damaged foliage, but if the problem is significant, best to seek further advice.

Die-back: Normally caused by lack of water, part of the stem will start to turn yellow and die. It can be caused by damaged roots that can’t take up water or a lack of nutrient. Generally diagnose and treat the cause and remove the dying part of the bush with sharp secateurs cutting at just above a healthy leaf bud. The plant should shoot from there if it has no other reason to die.

Bugs: Well… Let’s start with aphids, crawly little sap suckers; if you squash them early it tends to kerb the spread. Ladybugs are the best, they eat hundreds of the little blighters. Whatever you do look after the good ladybeetles. There are bad imposters these days. I call them honey beatles that come in swarms of thousands. They eat the plants to death. Horrid creatures. There is also another with different spots. Read up below and know the difference. We definitely want the good guys!

Scale Insect: Another of those dreaded sap-suckers; treat with white oil or to prevent them or a solution of dish water will often deter them. Generally I find the sap-suckers are worst when conditions are dry.
Grasshoppers: Hmmn.. My grand-daughter told me we can kill the big ones but not the little babies. Well, that’s a bit hard to cope with so I eliminate the big ones humanely and the little ones get thrown to the words of “you can live if you go and eat grass”. We try to do things as organically as we possibly can here as some of our roses are sold as edible flowers.

Grubs: There is a tiny little grub that burrows into the bud and eats volumes more than it’s own body weight. For those about once or twice a year we need to spray. We use lanate. Others suggest dipel. I don’t like using anything and strongly recommend protective clothing and spray when it’s still and the ladybeetles and bees have gone to bed. I try really hard not to spray when I see ladybeetles because we don’t know what harm we might be causing to eggs and larvae we don’t see. They are super precious.

Spiders: There is a hideous little green and yellow spider, really tiny, that sits in the middle of my roses and kills the bees. It lies and wait and then jumps out and the bee dies. I’ve watched them in absolute fascination as this tiny little thing only about a quarter the size of your little finger nail, attacks a full-size bee. Bit of a worry!!!! ☹
Pruning and cutting your rose plants

Generally, if you have a very young plant, 1 year old, etc, not too much pruning needed and best to keep the top in tact to help to feed the new root system. Remove anything broken or damaged and when cutting always cut just above a leaf bud, preferably a bud facing in a direction away from the centre of the plant if possible. When cutting flowers also apply this principle to prevent the plant dying back to it’s nearest leaf bud. Generally, we will be aiming to produce a vase shape with the branches all heading away from the centre. On a mature plant anything growing to the centre should be removed. Remove anything too spindly and remove anything too old to produce flowers. With standards, a little different approach; always visualize where the shoot is pointing to and aim to have the flowers come in that nice even sphere shape.

We will expand on this over time. If anyone has any other information they would like to give to fellow rose lovers drop me an email to [email protected] and we’ll consider the material for inclusion on our page.

Many thanks and very happy Rose Gardening,
From Lyn and Barry.

Eumundi Roses

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