Is It Too Late to Prune My Roses?

“I live in Kitsap County, Washington (state); is it too late to prune my roses?” Question from Jennifer of Silverdale, Washington

Answer: It’s not too late! Many gardeners advocate pruning roses when they are dormant, usually in late winter, but you can prune them at any time. Whether you have a shrub rose, climber, or hybrid tea, you can make strategic cuts throughout the growing season.

I recommend using very sharp bypass secateurs (pruners) or loppers. The best cross at the cutting junction like scissors. Just be sure to clean your pruning tools between roses to avoid spreading any potential diseases from rose to rose. I recommend cleaning them in a 10% bleach solution with a drop of washing liquid.

Please watch the video below created by Mike Darcy of Portland, Oregon. It highlights rose pruning in your area.

Happy gardening!



Best Time to Transplant Roses in Georgia

“What is the best time to transplant roses in Georgia?” Question from Jacqueline of Statham, Georgia

Answer: The best transplant window in your USDA Hardiness Zones 7-8 location is from November to February, when your roses are largely dormant. Choose a mild winter day when the soil is warm enough to dig. Here are the steps needed to transplant your roses:

Steps for Transplanting Roses

  1. For easier transplant, prune rose bushes back before moving them (see our rose pruning how-to video below).
  2. When digging up a rose for transplant, remove as much of the rootball as possible, while retaining as much soil around the ball as possible.
  3. Dig a new hole that’s just a little larger than rootball, and amend the backfill with quality compost, like Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, before planting.
  4. Plant the rootball so the top of the ball meets the top of the soil line, and fill in around it with the backfill, being sure to remove any air pockets. All roots should be covered.
  5. Feed your roses with natural alfalfa meal fertilizer (great for roses!), and water your rose well.
  6. Add a topdressing of 2-3 inches of compost or bark mulch to protect your newly planted rose.
  7. If weather remains dry, continue to keep newly transplanted roses watered until they break bud and their roots have become well established.

Happy rose growing!


Best Soil for Roses

“What is the best combination of soil/amendments when building a rose garden flower bed?” Question from Nancy of Denton, Texas

Answer: It’s an excellent question. A great part of successful rose growing is getting the soil right. The best soil for roses should have a good balance of porosity and water-holding ability in addition to a slightly acid pH between 6.5 to 7. Basically, roses need good drainage and ample organic matter, so plant them in a raised area with soil that drains well and then add lots of good amendments.

I fortify my soils for roses with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, which has a lower pH, and Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. The combination of the two is perfect. Before planting my roses, I like to add a 1:1:2 ratio of peat to compost to garden soil.

I also fertilize the soil at planting time. My favorite natural rose food is alfalfa meal, which has the perfect balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for roses. It really supports good growth and flowering. But, this is just one of many commercially available rose fertilizers to try.

Mulch really helps roses during the heat of summer, and I know it gets hot in Texas. My favorite mulches for roses are leaf mulch (chopped, partially composted leaves) or pine straw. Both look sharp and work well.

I also recommend you watch our recent Black Gold Video, Organic Rose Growing in Nine Steps  (below)! I hope this helps!

Happy rose growing, Jessie



Growing Miniature Roses

Pots of miniature roses brighten up a nursery display.

Miniature roses are perfect for small-space gardeners that love the look of classic roses. They come in all colors, and newer varieties are disease resistant and bloom continuously through summer.

There is a cloud of mystery concerning the exact origin of the miniature rose. It is most likely a descendant of the Chinese rose, Rosa chinensis var. minima, and for some unknown reason it made its way to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where it was found growing in a botanical garden. An Englishman who found it growing there brought it back to England in ~1815. It then seemed to disappear until an officer in the Swiss Reserves found it growing in a window box in Switzerland in the 1920’s. Rose hybridizers quickly recognized the marketing potential of the miniature rose.

What is a Miniature Rose?

Miniature roses are everblooming and make fine container specimens.

Initially, to be classified as a miniature rose it had to fit under a teacup. However rose growers realized that to be a recognized class in rose shows, a better definition was needed. Today for a rose to be classified as a miniature, the leaves, stems, thorns and flowers must be miniature versions of a full-sized rose plant.

According to the American Rose Society, miniature roses now can range from just inches to 2 feet. A newer miniature class, mini-flora roses, are like shrubby floribunda roses in miniature and can reach up to 3 feet. The flowers can range from less than 1 inch to several inches across with the colors being the same wide array as any regular garden rose.

Good Miniature Rose Varieties

Image by Weeks Roses

All a’Twitter™ (2012 introduction, 18-24 inches)

This bushy miniature produces loads of orange blooms on plants with glossy dark green leaves. This is a very disease-resistant selection from Weeks Roses that flowers best in milder weather but will also tolerate warmer growing conditions. Its delicate double flowers open as they mature to show a golden plume of stamens.


Be My Baby™ (2011 introduction, 20-28 inches)

Image by Weeks Roses

Marked by excellent diseases resistance, this bushy miniature from Weeks Roses and produces loads of deep pink blooms all summer.

This one is a high performer that will bloom well all season up until frost. It’s perfect little roses look very much like those of a hybrid tea rose, but in miniature.


Busy Bee™ (1994 introduction, 18- 22 inches)

Image by Greenheart Farms

This cold-hardy, disease-resistant miniature produces lots of coral pink and peach blooms on bushy plants. Offered by Jackson & Perkins, Busy Bee™ is also a vigorous bloomer that will go all season!

This exceptional beauty was originally bred by F. Harmon Saville of Greenheart Farms.


Red Sunblaze® (1989 introduction, 12-15 inches)

Image by Meilland Int.

Developed by Meilland International, Red Sunblaze® is a miniature red rose with attractive foliage and frilly deep red blooms that look great in containers. This is a truly small rose, but its high blooming capacity makes it a standout in the garden.


‘Sun Sprinkles’ (1999 introduction, 18-24 inches)

Image by Jackson & Perkins

The delicate yellow blooms of this 2001 All America Rose Selections Winner look like mini hybrid tea roses and have a light fragrance. ‘Sun Sprinkles’ is an exceptional Jackson & Perkins introduction. The shrubs are heat tolerant, disease resistant, and everblooming. Plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 6.

Growing Miniature Roses

As a general rule, miniature roses are as winter hardy as other garden roses, with some being bred to be a bit hardier than others. Since they are grown on their own roots and not grafted, they can withstand quite a bit of winter cold.

In our maritime Pacific Northwest climate, I have never heard of instances of them being killed by our winters. They should be treated just like other roses in the garden with at least six hours of sunlight, regular rose fertilizer, summer water and possible disease and insect control. They like a rich soil, so at time of planting, work in some Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. Most miniatures will bloom continuously throughout the summer months if the old flower buds are cut just as would be done on a regular rose bush.

Sometimes miniature roses get a bad ‘rap’ when they are sold by supermarkets and box stores during the winter months. Often these plants are sold in full bloom in small pots. These have been forced in a greenhouse controlled environment and are not meant to be planted outdoors in winter. They should be treated as a blooming houseplant, and if kept in a well lighted location, they will continue blooming for 6-8 weeks. With good indoor care, they can be planted outdoors in spring when temperatures warm up.

Growing Miniature Roses in Containers

Miniature roses make ideal container plants and can be especially useful on a deck or balcony. For a gardener that has a confined space but would like roses, miniatures are ideal. Most will bloom early in the spring and continue throughout summer and into the fall. In a container, using Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix would be an ideal mix to use at time of planting. A miniature rose growing in a container will need regular fertilization just as it would if planted in the garden.

Since they are easy to propagate, many new miniature roses are introduced every year, and some of the colors are amazing. If you perhaps do not have the space or location for a regular-size rose garden, consider growing miniatures. You will be amazed at their performance!

Mulching Gardens With Black Gold Amendments

When the drought is long, soils are poor, and money is short, one way to revitalize struggling garden plants is to protect their roots with mulch. Good mulches help to retain moisture, cool the root zone, and discourage weeds. The conventional wisdom is to mulch with wood chips or ground up bark, but both are very slow to decompose and can bind needed soil nutrients. The better option is to protect small beds and containers with organic-rich amendments that give back.

Garden Mulches for Soil Enrichment

Rich compost, peat moss, coir, or Black Gold Earthworm Castings are all amendments that double as mulches–alone or as home-mixed blends–in small ornamental gardens or vegetable gardens.  All offer needed organic matter, which helps soils better retain water and maintain porosity. They also offer structural and water-holding benefits.  For example, Black Gold Garden Compost Blend contains peat moss for water retention and compost give poor soils better aeration for easier establishment and performance.

Amendment mulching is often most effective in shaded areas because it helps to simulate conditions on the forest floor.  If you take a cross section of this “duff” layer, you’ll see that it’s mostly leaves or needles with a fine, dark layer that sits right on top of the earth.  It’s rich in decomposing organic matter, which is why shade plants are often surface rooted.

Landscape Mulches for Trees and Shrubs

This is also true of acid-loving plants, such as azaleas or camellias, which  develop a wide, shallow root system where the majority of the soil nutrition lies. In fact, without a yearly surface application of organic matter, these plants can suffer. All too often you see the surface roots of azaleas exposed after years without the addition of a mulch layer.  The organic matter is essential to keep their roots moist and cool, especially when drought descends. We recommend mixing a 1:1 of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend and Black Gold Peat Moss for acid lovers. Both products offer needed organic matter and peat moss is a little more acid, which benefits these plants.

Assess your favorite plants, planters, individual trees and shrubs to determine if they will benefit from this special treatment.   Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of amendment around the base of the plant.  Always keep it few inches clear of the trunk to prevent bark-to- mulch contact, which can induce stress and rot.  Extend the mulch layer out to the edge of the drip line.

Don’t work the amendment in. Just smooth and pat it with your palm to flatten it out for better soil contact.   Moisten often with just a light spray or collected household water to keep these amazing shrubs and trees happy on minimal rainfall.  For areas with brief drought, mulch provides great short-term protection from an abnormally dry or hot summer.

As landscapes everywhere are being altered to be more efficient, don’t forget that amendment mulch can mean so much more to your plants.  If you already have bark mulch in place, the next best thing is to sprinkle amendments over the bark, so they can filter down and provide support the next deep water day or after a welcome summer cloudburst.

A to Z Natural & Organic Rose Care

The new rose Take it Easy™ is highly disease resistant, and a great choice for organic rose growing. (Photo Courtesy of © Weeks Roses)

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

The golden blooms of Julia Child® shine through summer. (Photo Courtesy of © Weeks 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

A plant with Rose Rosette Disease (RRD), an incurable viral disease that requires plants to be removed to stop the spread.

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

Gertrude Jekyll® is a double pink David Austin rose with outstanding fragrance and disease resistance. (Photo courtesy of David Austin Roses)

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

The hybrid tea is Hypnotized!® was Jackson & Perkins 2013 Rose of the Year®. (Photo courtesy of Jackson & Perkins)

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.

Reviving Late-Summer Flowers

Rosa 'Perfume Delight' 2 JaKMPM
Despite the high heat here in the Pacific Northwest, the roses have done well. (photo by Jessie Keith)

Perhaps we have been through the “dog days of summer” here in the Pacific Northwest with our daytime temperatures reaching 90+ degrees. Not only have those of us without air conditioning suffered, but many of our plants did as well.
Continue reading “Reviving Late-Summer Flowers”

Hip, Sustainable Rugosa Roses

Wild rugosa roses typically have showy, single, pink flowers that stand bright against disease resistant, rugose foliage.

If you’re yearning for sustainable, self-sufficient or fast ways to get slow food, add a hip-producing rose or two to your landscape. Don’t choose modern, easy-care types that are too highly bred to be useful. Instead start with the Asian Rosa rugosa, which is more cold hardy and drought resistant than most others along with being a great fruit producer. It’s also nearly pest and disease free, making it the perfect first fruit-producing rose of choice.

Edible Hips

I have always cultivated rugosas for their enormous fruits, called “hips”, that follow the pollinated flower. The tart rugosa fruits are some of the largest of all roses and mature to dark red in the fall. If left on the upright canes, their color pops after early snowfall.

rose rugosa hip
The large round hips of Rosa rugosa are tart, flavorful and packed with nutrients.

Rugosa hips range in diameter from the size of a nickel to as large as a quarter. The soft, astringent flesh inside is chock full of vitamins. When dried, they make an amazing medicinal tea for cold and flu. Their medicinal value was discovered by the British during World War II when citrus importation was limited. Finding a local source of vitamin C was essential to staving off scurvy in the children, and rose hips from English gardens saved the day. Since then, rose hips became coveted for jams and jellies, concentrated syrups or as vitamin rich additives to medicinal teas. Adding fresh rose hips to a quick bread or cookies also lends unique flavor and adds nutritional value.

Rugosa Growth

Rugosa roses have a more brambly growth habit in that they spread via underground rhizomes and can eventually form thickets–particularly if planted in sandy, friable soils. The roots send up canes all along the way to eventually create a large dense plant. This has made rugosas the most popular rose for creating carefree hedges that don’t need to be pampered or sprayed. Rather than planting a hedge of boxwood or some other strictly ornamental shrub, use rugosas instead. There are many cultivated varieties of this rose that bloom red, white or the common pink, you get food and flowers.

Rugosa hips continue to look pretty into winter until they are consumed by wildlife.
Unused hips continue to look pretty into winter until they are consumed by wildlife. (photo by Jessie Keith)

Plant non-grafted rugosas bareroot in spring or from container plants any time from spring to fall. It’s advisable to start with well-rooted 1- or 5-gallon plants spaced apart at between 3 to 5 feet; good spacing allows plenty of room for each to spread out to fill the gaps quickly.

This rose is native to the coastal hillsides, sandy sea shores of China, but it has become established in many temperate, sandy locations worldwide, it grows best in sandy soils. Still it is adaptable and will grow well in all but poorly drained soils.

Planting Rugosa Roses

The easiest planting method for rugosas is to dig a trench, and amend the soil to encourage more adventurous rooting. (Trenching discourages root travel beyond the strict edges of the trench for a more precise linear hedge.) Amend the excavated soil with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend to lighten clay or increase water holding capacity of sandy soils. Enrich it further with alfalfa meal, a favorite natural fertilizer of rose aficionados everywhere. The fertility of poor soils can also be boosted with alfalfa meal for even more nutrition at planting time.

These wild rugosa roses have formed brambly thickets along a sandy beach.
These wild rugosa roses have formed brambly thickets along a sandy beach. (photo by Jessie Keith)

Planting just one rugosa rose in your yard is the genesis for a more extensive fruit and flower harvest in the future. Simply allow plants to become established, then either create new ones by layering the stems, or dig out more adventurous rhizomes, sever and replant elsewhere.

No other rose is as well suited to the sustainable garden, urban agriculture and the hobby farm due to its ease of cultivation, pest and disease resistance and many uses in the kitchen. So plant easy care rugosa roses for hedges and as a fruit crop that bears heartily during the hard times, and ‘tween times, when there’s little else going in your garden.