Hybrid tea rose tree

How to Take Care of Roses

By Steven A. Frowine, The National Gardening Association

Roses have a reputation for being difficult to care for, but actually learning how to take care of roses is somewhat simple. The main components involved with caring for roses that you need to understand are: planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and winterizing. Simply put, with the correct amount of water and sunlight and a little bit of grooming, your roses should thrive. And remember, roses are resilient plants. So, if you occasionally forget or muff something, the plants are surprisingly forgiving.

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/VladTeodor

Follow these basic rose care & maintenance steps:

  • Watering your roses regularly. The rule of thumb for watering roses is to make sure roses get about 2 inches a week. Deep soakings are much better than frequent, shallow watering. Set the hose at the foot of the rose and let water trickle in. Or if you have a big bed of roses or roses and companions, use a soaker hose or install an in-ground system.

  • Feed roses consistently before and throughout the blooming cycle and use fertilizer to support healthy growth. Use an all-purpose garden fertilizer, because it has balanced amounts of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (potassium). Fertilizers touted especially for roses — such as Rose Food — are fine but not mandatory. In spring, as the plant emerges from dormancy, you can water with a tablespoon of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) dissolved in a gallon of water to promote strong canes.

    Always water before applying fertilizer so the plant is plumped up and under no stress.

  • Groom your roses to improve flowering and keep plants healthy: Using sharp clippers, you can spruce up your rosebushes whenever something unattractive about the plant catches your critical eye.

    Here’s stuff you can cut out any time you see it:

    • Dead wood: Remove dead canes down to the ground level.

    • Damaged wood: Cut it back into about 1 inch of healthy wood.

    • Misplaced stems: Take off stems that are rubbing together (choose one and spare the other), stems that are taking off in the wrong direction, and stems that are trailing on the ground.

    • Suckers: In a grafted plant, these errant canes emerge from below the graft union (the bulge at the base of the bush). The suckers look different from the rest of the bush — they’re often smoother, straighter, and lighter in color. Another clue: They sprout leaves and occasionally mongrel flowers that look nothing like the main bush.

  • Deadhead and tidy up your roses for a cleaner, more bountiful rose bed. The plant looks better when you get rid of spent flowers. Also, because the goal of all flowering plants is to stop flowering and produce seed (in the case of rosebushes, to make rose hips), deadheading thwarts the process. So, the plant is fooled into making more flowers. Deadhead away!

    Whenever you see badly damaged, diseased, or dead leaves, remove them. To be on the safe side, throw them in the trash rather than in the compost pile. Otherwise, the leaves may spread disease.

  • Prune roses in the spring to destroy all old or diseased plant material. Early spring is the best time to prune. If it’s still winter, your overeager cuts may lead to frost damage. Pruning roses is a straightforward process: Remove all non-negotiable growth, thin the plants, and then shape them.

Experts advise cutting 1/4 inch above a bud eye so the bud eye doesn’t dry out.

Use clean, sharp clippers, and cut at a 45-degree angle. Cut near a bud eye, the tiny brownish or reddish bump on the stem (not to be confused with a thorn).

Getting started on rose trees can be intimidating for beginners and for those who don’t want to spend too much time repeating treatments.

If you feel this is your situation, follow these tips!

Choosing rose tree varieties that resist diseases

In the big rose tree family, certain cultivars are more hardy than others. For example, this is the case of most botanical and heirloom roses. Botanical roses are genetically close to wild rose trees, they are very resistant, bear charming flowers, and are covered with edible fruits come fall. For instance, try out the gallica rose.

Old roses or heirloom roses are hybrids of botanical varieties such as the gallica rose, the Damascus rose, the centifolia rose, etc. They grow into loosely standing shrubs. They are very easy to grow and pruning them is similar to the pruning of any other shrub. Rambler or vine rose trees, that can grow over 30 feet (10 meters) tall, are another option.

  • Read also: Diseases of rose trees and how they can be treated

Plant rose trees with care

Choose quality rose trees, preferably with bare roots, and plant them when they are in dormancy from November to March. Careful planting is important to ensure proper regrowth. Plant your rose tree in a hole 16 inches (40 cm) wide and deep, which allows for proper spreading of the roots. Remember to remove rocks and weeds from the soil.

Before planting, cut back the roots and branches of the plant to 12 inches (30 cm). Apply root dip to the roots, prepared from one third soil, one third well-decomposed compost, and one third rain water.

Stay true to plant spacing recommendations mentioned for each species (at least 32 inches (80 cm)): rose trees need air and sun to grow well.

  • Read also: How to plant roses

Organic rose tree treatments

Preventive organic treatments help reduce chance of disease in that the plants are reinforced.

They are particularly applicable in case of stormy, wet and moist weather, to avoid fungal diseases such as rust, black spot disease or powdery mildew.

Spray your roses with fermented nettle, comfrey, or horsetail tea or marine seaweed extract.

Read also: “I grow beautiful rose trees without any chemical products!” from Serge Lapouge and Brigitte Lapouge-Déjean, Terre Vivante publishing house.

Laure Hamann

  • Read also: Our most recent articles about roses

Grow Roses in Containers

You don’t have to have a yard, ideal soil, or perfect drainage to raise roses. All you need is a sunny location and enough room for a large container. Transform a deck, terrace, patio, or balcony into a fragrant retreat with pots glowing with color. Container grown roses live happily for years when given what they need. Just follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right rose. Fragrant, compact, disease-resistant varieties with continual bloom perform best. Avoid climbers or large shrub roses.
  2. Pick the right pot. Anything with a drainage hole will work. (1/2 barrels is a great choice).
  3. Use quality potting mix and enrich with compost to increase water holding capacity. Use a general organic soil that does NOT include any type of granular or time release fertilizer. Use of this type of potting soil may burn the roots and void our warranty.
  4. Water regularly so that soil is moist, but not wet.
  5. Feed often for more blooms. First in spring, once new growth unfurls, and then after each flush of blooms – about every 2 to 3 weeks. In colder zones, stop fertilizing 8 weeks prior to the first frost. Always use a fertilizer that begins as a liquid in the bottle, such as Founder’s Fish Fertilizer for the first year. Use of granular products in the first year may burn the roots and void our warranty.
  6. Prune as normal to deadhead, shape, and control insects and disease.
  7. Re-pot every two to three years to refresh the soil.
  8. Root prune if you’re trying to keep the plant small.
  9. Transplant into a larger container if you notice a decrease in blooms.

Get a Move On

Place your potted rose on a wheeled platform for extra convenience and increased display opportunities. This also makes winter protection easier: Simply wheel the container into a garage, shed, or against the side of a building during cold snaps. For extra protection, mulch and wrap with burlap.

Pick Your Pot

There are really only two steadfast rules when selecting a container:

  1. Bigger is better. Opt for a container that is suitable for your rose type (see below). Because roses are deep rooted, tall pots are always better than short, squatty ones. TIP: The bigger the pot, the less you’ll have to water.
  2. Drainage holes are a must. Good drainage is key. If your ceramic or terra cotta pot is hole-free, create one by drilling a hole in the bottom of the pot with a masonry bit. Plastic and fiberglass pots often have plugs that can be removed prior to planting.

Popular choices include:

  • Wood: Versatile, but may deteriorate over time.
  • Terra Cotta: Porous, offering good air circulation, but dries out fast, especially in wind.
  • Plastic: Light weight. Good for moving around temporary displays, but can tip over in high wind.
  • Fiberglass: Decorative and heavier than plastic; lighter than clay
  • Glazed Ceramic or Concrete: Heavy and long lasting. Great for permanent plantings.

Standard Roses / Tree Roses

We are very pleased to offer you one of the largest and most unique selections of Fragrant Standard Roses available in the United Kingdom. Standard Roses are also known as Tree Roses and are great for both small and large gardens or as container plants each side of the front door or on the patio, quickly adding height, character and a strong focal impact to your garden, Weeping Roses are another fantastic way to do this adding real wow factor to any garden with long trailing stems, often to the ground on some types covered all over in flowers. Plant mid to back border or in a rounded bed, alongside paths or drives or in a large heavy container using a John Innes No 3 compost, PLEASE NOTE: Standard Roses or Tree Roses can only be supplied by mail-order as bare-root roses, dispatched November to March to mainland UK, Highlands and Islands (separate delivery charges apply to Highlands and Islands, Sorry we cannot send Standard Roses or Weeping Roses to E.U or rest of world). You can also purchase Standard roses in pots from our Nursery throughout the year by arrangement or at our Garden Shows.

We strongly recommend that you also order our very strong, top quality, hand made, pressure treated stakes and ties when ordering Standard Roses to help prevent wind damage or loss, see our Sundries section for details.

Plant our Fragrant Standard roses around 90cm apart, flowering heights for our Standard roses range from 50cm to 1.80m approximately depending on chosen variety, Patio Standard roses need planting 90cm apart and are supplied as Quarter (Flowering Height 90cm approx) or Half Standards (Flowering Height 1.50m approx) where available.

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Rootstock is a portion of the stem and root system onto which a scion or bud eye has been grafted. Rootstock is also referred to as understock.

Why Rootstock is Important to Grafting

The most common way to propagate roses is through grafting, a practice whereby a bud-eye or cutting of a rose is inserted into a rootstock of another variety.

  • First, a mature rootstock plant in grown.
  • T-shaped holes are cut in an area of the bark.
  • A bud is placed into the cut and is then wrapped securely until roots are set into the bark.
  • Once the graft takes, the upper branching of the rootstock is cut off, leaving only the grafted buds to grow, forming a new bush.

This method of propagation is fast and inexpensive compared to growing rooted cuttings. However, it comes at a price. The place where the bud has been added, called the crown or bud-union, is a weak area on the plant. A hard, freezing winter can easily damage the crown, leaving only the rootstock to grow. Rootstock has tendencies to sucker and revert to its natural state, creating a constant battle in the rose garden. Rootstock suckers must be continually pruned out to maintain the original rose.

Grafted Roses

Base of a Grafted Rose

Many people are unaware that the underground portion of their rose may be different from what they see above ground. That is, until an unusually cold winter kills the top growth. Come spring, a new rose with different flowers sprouts. Gardeners with grafted roses should be aware that if left unchecked, the rootstock (usually more vigorous) has the ability to strangle out the original rose bush.Two Roses in One

Grafting Pros and Cons


  • Grafting has been the primary method of producing roses ever since the first Hybrid Tea rose was introduced in the late 1800s. ‘La France’ had a beautiful bloom but the plant was weak.
  • By budding it onto rootstock, it took on more vigor and budding soon became the method of producing the modern rose.
  • This type of propagation provides more instant gratification (being sold at a larger size than own-root roses).


  • Grafted roses have a shorter life expectancy than own-root roses.
  • Over time, a grafted rose will outgrow the bud union and need to be replaced. The bud union can become quite large, creating an unsightly “battle of the bulge.”
  • Grafted roses have less winter hardiness and disease resistance and they are more susceptible to rose viruses.
  • They have a tendency to sucker.

For hundreds of years, home gardeners have been propagating their own roses by taking cuttings and growing them on their own roots. With Heirloom Roses, gardeners can enjoy the many benefits own-root roses have to offer without having to worry about rootstock.

Beware of Imposters!

Dr. Huey Root Stock

There are a number of rootstock plants used, depending on the company growing the rose and where in the country it will be sold. If one of your roses is behaving differently and growing out of control, you probably have an imposter – it has reverted to rootstock. The most commonly used rootstock is Dr. Huey, it has a long budding season, stores well when bare-rooted, and does well in all parts of the country.

Some roses used as rootstock are:


Used mainly in warmer parts of the country. Fortuniana is very vigorous, does well in sandy soil, but is not extremely cold hardy. It is tolerant to nematodes, which are pests that invade the roots and are common in Florida.


This light pink Noisette is used extensively at companies in California. Manetti has more flexible roots that do not break as easily as Dr. Huey.


Has a tendency to pick up salts and is not happy in alkaline soil. This particular rose is very susceptible to virus.

Dr. Huey

The most commonly used rootstock. It has a long budding season, stores well bare-rooted, and performs consistently in all parts of the country.

De La Grifferaie

Used for “standards” or “tree roses” as an inner stock between Dr. Huey and the grafted rose.


Often used when grafting is done at the same time rooting of the plant takes place. Very prone to sucker and crown gall.

Making Your Own Standard Roses

This last winter wasn’t as cold as most, at least not for us, but you may still have some roses that have not survived. Sometimes you only lose the grafted rose and come spring all you see are suckers from the rootstock. Depressing, but look on the bright side – those suckers are ideal for making your own standard roses!


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A little background info on the conventional production of a standard rose:
It can take up to five years until a plant is ready for sale so the high asking prices are understandable. Here in Europe, Rosa canina ‘Pfänders’ is commonly used to produce rootstock for standards.
Generally, the production steps for standard rootstock are:
Seed is harvested in autumn (Oct) and receives 10 weeks warm and then 10 weeks cold stratification.
1st year – seeds are sown in March. The seedlings are harvested in autumn and put into storage. Selected plants should have a diameter of 8 to 12mm.
2nd year– replanted in March and grown in the field for 2 years where they can produce canes up to 2.5m. During the 2nd and 3rd growing season, all the side shoots are removed, leaving one for the stem.
4th year – the standards are budded/grafted in Jul/Aug.
5th year – standard roses are ready for sale.
So how to utilize those rootstock suckers coming off your rose that died to make a standard rose?
One option is to remove all but one cane and bud it in the second season. However, you will only have one new standard rose and all the other canes will have been wasted. The other option would be to leave all the suckers so that you have multiple canes to root.
For a standard rose you need to root very tall rootstock canes. Standards can range anything between 60cm to 180cm and even taller. Rooting taller canes the traditional way can be difficult – the taller the cane the lower the success rate.
The main problem is the sap flow in the longer canes. The internet is full of suggestions on how to do this. A popular one is the “milk container method,” whereby the cane is placed in a 2l milk container with drainage holes filled with 80/20 sand/peat mixture and laid on its side until the leaf buds start swelling and then slowly lifted as the leaves start growing. I haven’t tried this and therefore cannot comment on the success rate.
There is, however, a method which offers a close on 100% success rate: air-layering, and it isn’t difficult. This method involves removing a ring of bark/cambium layer down to the woody tissue, leaving the cane attached to the mother plant. The area of exposed woody tissue is surrounded with moistened sphagnum moss (I have also used potting soil and coir), which is wrapped in plastic and held in place and sealed, top and bottom, with ties or tape. Cover with aluminium foil to protect from sunlight.

An additional advantage of air-layering canes to make a standard rose is that rooting and budding can be done simultaneously because there is sufficient sap flow to the top of the canes, which will ensure that the graft takes.
Now, April – May, when the canes are showing new green growth, is a good time to take canes staked in the previous year and air-layer them. The canes can also be grafted now. Chip budding can be done any time of the year, but for T-budding the bark has to slip. There isn’t much bud wood around in the garden at the moment, but try some florist roses. I have had great success budding florist roses as opposed to trying to root them.
1. Prepared air-layered cane from the previous year – photo taken 25 May 2015

2. Example chip-budding grafted on 11 May 2015 – photo taken 25 May 2015

3. Example T-budding grafted on 11 May 2015 – photo taken 25 May 2015

4. Successfully grafted florist roses grafted 11 May 2015 – photo taken 6 June 2015

5. Example finished standard roses – grafted and rooted in 2014

6. Example tree roses with multiple grafts – grafted and rooted in 2014

PS: When propagating roses, please respect breeder’s rights!

Up and down the country, rose growers would have spent the summer months busily propagating rose plants for sale in winter 2019. Yes, that right, a whole two years away before they reach garden centres and nurseries.

Most of these will be propagated in a field production system where plants are grown in the ground then lifted in late autumn ready for sending out in the winter months. Most of these roses are propagated by the method of budding, a form of grafting whereby a piece of a desirable cultivar (called the scion) is attached to another with an established root system (called the rootstock or understock) that has been selected for the characteristics that it possesses.

There are several reasons why budding is used as a form of propagating roses. From a commercial view, it is a very efficient method of propagation as it can produce top grade plants in the shortest amount of time and with the least expense. Each eye is capable of producing one plant while propagation by cuttings usually requires 3 – 4 eyes per cutting.

Root formation and development is also another reason why roses are budded. With plants produced by cuttings, the development of roots is often slow and erratic, which results in a poorly developed root system and leads to problems with the establishment and growth of such roses. With budded roses, most understocks readily form a good, strong root system and this makes the whole process for the grower much easier.

Propagating roses by budding also allows different forms of roses such as standard, weeping and pillar roses can be propagated and grown with reletive ease. Without budding, it would be much more difficult and expensive to train roses into desirable plants.

When selecting a rootstock to use when budding roses, there are a number of characteristics that growers look for in order to grow the best possible plants but not one characteristic stands out in importance from any other.

In no particular order then, the desired characteristics of rootstocks include vigour, a long budding season, ease of propagation, lack of suckers, disease resistance, a well branched root system and long, straight stems with firm, thin, pliable bark that will hold the bud in.

The main rootstock used in rose production in New Zealand is Rosa multiflora or various strains derived from it and most budded plants you will encounter will be on this rootstock.

Rosa multiflora is a fast growing, high yielding rootstock with thornless stems and a fibrous root system. Plants are easily propagated by cuttings, produce very few suckers and are highly resistant to diseases.

The main disadvantage of Rosa multiflora is that it has thin bark that often results in buds being blown out by our frequent strong winds, although the bark often thickens late in the season that prevents budding.

One nursery in NZ also uses Rosa laxa as a rootstock, which is the main rootstock used in the UK and parts of Europe. Plants grown on Rosa laxa roots are more compact, have better flower colour and have good bud adherence. It also produces a good root system and throws virtually no suckers.

Although budding has been widely practised for many years, its use in the future will be limited by the avalibility of skilled people who are able to do it on a commercial scale. It is becoming harder and harder to find such people and because of this, the cost of budded roses will increase in the future.

Looking ahead, it is likely that more and more of the new cultivars to be released will be propagated by cuttings right from the time they are selected as seedlings in the breeder’s glasshouse – if they can’t be grown by cuttings, then they won’t be sold commercially.

In the Rose Garden for April

  • Test your pH of your soil. It should be around 6 – 6.5 or slightly acidic.
  • Prepare new areas for plantings. Dig over and add compost ready for winter planting. If planting where roses have been before, swap the soil for that in another part of the garden.
  • Order new seasons roses for winter planting from garden centres and rose nurseries.
  • It’s still a good time to take cuttings of roses.
  • If the autumn rain has not arrived, keep watering your roses but do not dead head now.

By Hayden Foulds

Hayden also serves as Deputy Chairman of the World Federation of Rose Societies Rose Trials Committee amongst other rose endeavors.

Read more from Hayden here.

Rose Trees

A rose tree is a rose bush that has been grafted onto another stalk for strength and stability so it will grow as a tree. The rose bush is grafted onto a central cane; sometimes they are called rose standards. A rose tree will add color and structure to your landscape. It will look terrific on a patio or front porch because of its decorative tree form and showy and fragrant blossoms. Tree roses also make terrific center pieces for a small garden, adding height and color.

Rose trees are extremely easy to care for and make terrific cut flowers for arrangements. Rose bushes are an easy plant to maintain, but a rose tree needs extra care in order for it to flourish. Pruning is a must when growing rose standards since pruning is always important when changing the natural form of a plant. Improperly pruning standards may create too much top and not enough bottom. This can cause the central cane to snap or crack; it may be necessary to provide two or three support stakes in windy or highly exposed sites.

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