“I purchased rose seeds on [online] and didn’t know they were from China till they shipped (rose image above). I’d love it if you could tell me if they are or are not rose seeds. I’m new to roses, and knowing if these are or are not rose seeds will be very helpful. Thank you so much! :)” Question from Bradley of Cleves, Ohio
Answer: You can plant your rose seed, but they will not mature, as shown in the picture. Many misleading plants and seeds are sold online, and this is one of them. The rose shown in the advertisement is a rambling hybrid climber with beautiful double red roses. It is not seed-grown. All hybrid roses available today are specially bred varieties grown from rooted cuttings or cuttings grafted onto a rootstock (probably a bit too much technical information). To put it plainly, rose cuttings are snipped off stem tips taken from hybrid roses. These are then dipped in a hormone that helps them root, and placed in lightly moist soil until they root and can be potted up and eventually planted into the ground.
Growing roses from seed is rare unless you are a rose breeder. Seed-grown plants will be variable in appearance and take a long time to grow. There are a few reliable seed vendors that sell rose seed, such those of ‘Angel Wings’ miniature roses from Renee’s Garden Seeds, but these sources are not common. Buy full-grown plants instead. They may be a bit more expensive but well worth the investment.
Choose Reputable Companies
Buying from a trusted seed or plant source means everything. Here are my four favorite rose growers proven to provide healthy, beautiful plants.
1. David Austin Roses – This English rose company is famous for selling some of the most beautiful, vigorous, disease-resistant roses. (They are the best!!!)
2. Star Roses – If you want attractive, highly disease-resistant shrub roses, this is the go-to source.
3. Weeks Roses – Weeks is a famous American rose company with excellent varieties. You can’t go wrong with their selection and quality.
4. Jackson & Perkins – This old-American rose company has lots of wonderful varieties.
For a little extra information about choosing roses and growing them organically, watch the video below.
Starting Roses from Seed
If you want to try starting your rose seeds, they need to be chilled to enable them to sprout. Plant them in pots or a small tray of vermiculite that is just moist, not wet. Place the pots or vermiculite in a plastic bag and then chill them in the refrigerator fr 10-12 weeks. Then remove them and place them under grow lights or in a sunny window. Keep the vermiculite just moist. Ambient room temperature is ideal. They may take several weeks to sprout. Placing them on a heat mat can encourage faster germination.
Potpourri is a mixture of aromatic plant parts that captures the essence of the growing season for yearlong enjoyment. To create your own, gather leaves and petals that are attractive as well as fragrant. Preserve them by thorough drying, and mix them to heighten their aroma and looks.
Some classic dried potpourri additions with exceptional fragrance include lavender flowers and leaves, rose buds and petals, and elderflowers. Pot marigold petals are also a favorite for orange-yellow color.
A lavender that performs well in almost any climate is Phenomenal™ (Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal™, 2-3 feet high), a true hybrid hedge lavender. French lavender (Lavandula stoechas, 1-3 feet high) is another easy-to-grow species with its showy tufted flowers, strong scent, and good drought tolerance. This one is a little more tender, surviving to USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10. (Click here to learn how to grow your own lavender.)
Roses with fragrance and pretty color include the easy-care, reblooming, peach-colored shrub rose At Last® or the bi-colored (strawberry and cream) hybrid tea Double Delight™. These roses yield both small buds and petals. Cut small tight buds and harvest rose petals by gripping the full-blown flowers, pulling gently, and catching nicely separated petals. Keep the petals whole. (Click here to discover more tough, fragrant roses.)
Tiny elderflower blooms also dry nicely and add a sweet, summery scent to potpourri. There are many ornamental elderberries for the garden with nice flowers or you can pick the flowers from native elderberries along roadsides.
Scented geraniums are another essential ingredient with aromatic leaves that retain their scent. Different species and cultivars have different scents including rose, citrus, and mint as well as those with the subtle smells of fruits and chocolate. (Click here to learn more about growing scented geraniums.)
Mints and lemony herbs of all sorts will also offer bright flavor to potpourri. Some of the more pungent than others. Lasting options include lemon verbena and lemon balm. (Click here to learn more about lemony herbs.)
Growing Potpourri Plants
Most of the summer plants for potpourri are common garden plants that thrive in full sun and well-drained, fertile garden soil. In-ground soils should be fortified with quality compost for best performance. Tender potpourri plants, such as scented geraniums, grow very well in containers. For these, a porous potting mix, such as Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, is a good choice.
Drying Potpourri Plants
Thorough drying is absolutely crucial for the creation of a potpourri. Moisture in leaves or petals may cause mold and put a damper on their scent quality. Adding drops of essential oil (lavender, rose, etc.) can help fix a stronger fragrance.
You cannot make potpourri until all plant parts are thoroughly dry. There are several drying methods to try. Here are four:
Hang herbs in a cool, dry place until fully dry.
Spread the plant parts on newspaper or paper towels on a tray in a single layer. Allow all to dry completely in a cool dark place. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Dry materials in an oven set at 180 degrees F for about two hours or until the various plant parts are completely dry. Larger, thicker material takes longer to dry. Check frequently and remove the plants as they become slightly brittle.
Use a food dehydrator for fast, efficient drying.
Potpourri possibilities are endless and depend upon personal preference and what plants are available in your yard and garden for harvesting. Here are two reliable, wonderfully fragrant recipes. They can be used for linen or drawer sachets or home aromatherapy.
Classic Summer Potpourri
½ cup dried rose petals
½ cup dried lavender flowers
1/3 cup dried small rose buds
1/3 cup dried scented geranium leaves
one orange peel, cut into thin slices and dried
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 drops of lavender or rose essential oil or both, mixed with a teaspoon of water.
Mix all of the plant parts together in a bowl (make sure they are thoroughly dry).
Sprinkle or spray dried plant parts with the cinnamon and essential oil and water mixture and mix gently.
Seal the potpourri in a glass jar for at least a week to allow the fragrances to combine.
When the potpourri is strongly fragrant it is ready to use!
Many landscape evergreens—pines, spruces, junipers, and Japanese cedars—give off spicy, resinous scents that evoke the spirit of the holiday season. Let these be the base of your winter potpourri.
1 cup of dried evergreen needles or greens
1 cup of dried bayberry leaves or berries
1 tablespoon of whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 orange rind cut into narrow strips and dried (orange slices also work)
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon nutmeg
10 drops cedar essential oil mixed with a tablespoon of water.
(You can also add the dried berries of holly, beautyberry, or pyracantha as well as rose hips and small pinecones for interest.)
Mix all of the plant parts together in a bowl (make sure they are thoroughly dry).
Spray or sprinkle them with the mixture of the cedar essential oil and water.
Seal the potpourri in a glass jar to fix the fragrance.
Set it out in bowls to scent your rooms.
These are two of many potpourri recipes to try. You may even create your own to suit your senses. The key is growing your own components for freshness and longer lasting scent.
3. Prune roses to promote aeration. Moisture on the leaves helps fungal diseases, like black spot, take hold. (That’s why roses grown in dry climates have fewer disease problems.) Prune off extra branches and sprouts to open up plants and help prevent black spot. (Click here to learn more about how to prune roses.)
4. Space roses to promote aeration. Space your roses according to nursery recommendations. Overcrowding can encourage foliar moisture and subsequent fungal problems.
5. Plant roses in full sun. When you plant roses in full sun, their foliage dries faster, which creates a less favorable environment for black spot to proliferate.
6. Water roses from the bottom. Bottom water your roses to help keep their leaves dry.
“I have a beautiful pink rose bush, but the flowers are starting to look like they are dying as soon as they open. What can I do?” Question from April of Dresden, Tennessee
Answer: I bet you have had a cool, wet spring because this is when rosebud problems appear. Climatic changes can roses to turn brown on the stem, but fungal disease is the most common cause. In general, the common name for this phenomena is called rose balling.
Climatic Causes for Rose Balling
If your flower buds looked normal, but then developed dry, papery outer petals and healthy looking inner petals, the cause could be due to a physiological response to weather changes. When weather is rainy and cool and then is quickly followed by hot, sunny weather, the water-saturated outer petals can fuse to one another and dry on the outside–disabling the flowers from opening normally.
Fungal Causes for Rose Balling
Fungal rose browning/rot is caused by Botrytis Blight (Botrytis cinerea). In most severe cases, the buds will turn brown before opening. You may even see signs of grey mold on them. In less severe circumstances, the flowers will open with brown petals or brown patches on the petals. This is most likely your problem, especially if your weather has been consistently cool and moist and you see signs of mold.
Managing Botrytis Blight in Roses
Here are three easy, all-natural steps to managing botrytis blight in roses.
Remove all dead or dying flower buds, being sure to remove all the brown parts. This will reduce the spread of the disease. Be sure to sterilize your pruners after cutting any diseased plants. Dipping them in a 10% bleach solution works.
Increase airflow via pruning. Dense bushes with too much foliage can encourage fungal disease by discouraging air flow. By selectively removing overgrown branches or young suckers, you can really reduce fungal disease problems on your roses.
Use liquid copper fungicide sprays, which are OMRI Listed for organic gardening. These are safe to use and will help prevent further rosebud attacks.
Roses have a bad rap when it comes to pests and diseases—causing ecologically minded gardeners to avoid growing these seemingly needy, unsustainable garden beauties. But this need not be so. With the dawn of more resilient rose varieties and better rose-care products, it is easier than ever to successfully grow roses naturally.
There are four rules of thumb for sustainable rose cultivation: 1. Choose resistant roses; 2. Follow good rose cultivation techniques; 3. Establish an IPM regime (monitor your roses); 4. use OMRI Listed products to manage pests and diseases.
Choose Resistant Roses
Newer roses are bred to withstand all the most common rose problems in addition to having good fragrance and old-fashioned appeal. Sometimes older varieties are also surprisingly tough and resistant. Here are top selections for resistance, habit, and good looks:
A new introduction for 2015, Take it Easy™ is a beautiful floribunda rose that bears many clusters of velvety dark red flowers throughout the season. Hybridized by Christian Bédard, Research Director at Weeks Roses, this tough rose is described as having a “naturally self-maintained habit.” Its shiny dark green leaves are said to remain attractive and unhindered by foliar disease.
Old-fashioned looks and good disease resistance make the Romantica® Roses by Star Roses great selections for gardeners seeking classic garden roses for modern gardens. Many, such as the palest pink, fully double Colette™, also boast exceptional fragrance as well as highly disease-resistant foliage.
An AARS-award-winning floribunda rose with old-fashioned looks, Julia Child® is another Weeks introduction that bears fragrant double roses of palest amber. Its ultra-glossy leaves have excellent disease resistance, and the vigorous plants keep blooming all season long.
The compact heirloom polyantha rose ‘Gabrielle Privat’ (1931) is a top performer in my garden. It becomes covered with fairy-pink clusters of small double roses that bloom most vigorously in early summer.
Named for the famed English garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll® is a rich double pink David Austin rose with outstanding fragrance and disease resistance. The classic English shrub will add effortless heirloom charm to any garden.
A great hybrid tea is Hypnotized!®, the Jackson & Perkins 2013 Rose of the Year®. Its highly fragrant flowers are bright shades of pink with streaks of white and stand above very disease-resistant glossy foliage.
Follow Good Cultivation Techniques
Good site selection and pruning are at the heart of smart rose care. Choose a planting location with full sun and soil with good drainage and ample organic matter. Roses grow best in slightly acid to neutral soil (6.5 to 7.0), so check your pH before planting. Amend with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss at planting time as well as a fertilizer formulated for rose growing. I suggest alfalfa meal.
There is an art to rose pruning. First, time it right. Prune in spring right before branches have begun to leaf out. Forty-five-degree angle branch cuts should be made with clean, sharp bypass pruners. Cut stems around ¼ to ½ inch above outward-facing buds to encourage strong outward branching. Keep a bucket of water with 10% bleach on hand to clean pruners between plants, to protect against potential cross-contamination of diseased plants. Also, be sure to invest in a good pair or rose gloves to keep thorns from your hands and arms.
Start by removing any dead or unhealthy looking branch material. Next, cut back any crossing or large, ungainly branches that negatively impact the overall shape of the plant. Finally, promote airflow by pruning out any small, densely arranged branches. Good foliar airflow will helps keep foliage dry, which helps protect plants from certain foliar diseases. Read more about good rose pruning techniques by clicking here.
Establish an IPM Regime
Catching early signs of pest and disease damage can help you tackle small problems before they become big problems. Powdery mildew (white spots on leaf tops), downy mildew (purple, red, or brown spots on leaves), black spot (black spots on leaf tops and bottoms), rust (orange bumps on leaf bottoms and tops), and anthracnose (red or brown spots that turn gray or white in the center) are the most common foliar diseases cause by fungi. The best practice is to remove disease foliage immediately, in addition to removing foliage that may have fallen to the ground. Keeping plants physically clean will do wonders. The application of safe, OMRI Listed rose fungicides is also recommended (see below).
Viral diseases are a different matter. Leaf and branch distortions, leaf line streaks, unexplained leaf curl, and mosaic patterns are the surest signs that your roses carry a virus. Unfortunately, viral diseases cannot be cured, so the best action is to remove infected plants entirely. This is most imperative with rose rosette disease, which spreads and kills roses fast. It is also smart to choose “virus-free” plants at planting time.
Most insect pests love roses as much as we do. Some of the most common and destructive pests include Japanese beetles (skeletonize foliage), rose aphids (suck leaf juices from new growth and flowers), spider mites (suck leaf juices from mature leaf undersides), and thrips (attack flowers in bud causing bloom distortion). Several organic solutions are available for their management (see below). Native leafcutter bees are also known to cut rounded notches from rose leaves, but these friendly pollinators don’t do serious damage and don’t require management.
Nutrient deficiencies are common in roses but easily remedied with recommended doses of a good, OMRI Listed rose fertilizer.
Learn more about common rose diseases here, common rose pests here, and Japanese beetles here.
Choose the Right Products
There are lots of effective, environmentally friendly rose-care products to choose from. For fungal foliar fungal diseases, there are lots of OMRI Listed options (see the full list here). I recommend GreenCure® for powdery mildew and Garden Safe Brand Fungicide 3® for all other foliar fungal diseases. Both are reliable and safe.
Early applications of insecticidal soap, dormant horticultural oil, or neem oil will help tackle problems with aphids, spider mites, and even thrips. As a protective measure, it is always wise to treat roses with dormant horticultural oil early in the season before plants leaf out. Neem oil and insecticidal soap can be applied through the season as needed. Larger pests, like Japanese beetles, are best picked off by hand and squashed or thrown in a bucket of water. In years when populations are high, smaller roses can be protected with summer-weight insect row cloth.
Follow these rose care guidelines, and you will have a beautiful rose garden. Your roses may still have thorns, but they will look and smell sweet through the season.