Temecula Valley Rose Society
Rose Care Corner, September 2006By Frank Brines, Consulting Rosarian
You still have time for another cycle or two of beautiful roses before winter. As always, you will get the best results if you attend to the fundamentals: water, pruning, pest control, and feeding.
First, keep up the watering program. Like us humans, roses are mostly water, and a couple of days of intense dry heat can suck up a week's worth of water from your roses. Be sure you don't let them get clobbered!
Next, most of our rose gardens probably need some serious dead heading by now. While you're doing that, also remove canes that have borne successive waves of blooms. These are the branches that you deadheaded months ago and which sprouted new branches at the cut, which you then deadheaded, producing more new branches at those cuts. Each successive branch is thinner and weaker than the last, and the blossoms are also smaller because they must share nutrients with so many other blooms. Find those multi-caned clusters and make your cut just above the first five-part leaf that faces outward below the original pruning point. Also, prune away any twiggy stuff growing inward. The next wave of blooms will look a lot more like the beautiful photos you fell in love with in the catalogs!
After pruning, it'll be easier to clear away leaf and petal debris from around the plant. This is a must as it helps prevent diseases and pests that can spread through rain and irrigation. Spider mites are particularly problematic during hot weather. Higher soil temperatures and plenty of leaf debris give them ideal conditions for breeding and shelter. Female mites lay thousands of eggs that can hatch in just four days! They immediately begin sucking the underside of leaves. Look for webbing on the underside of the lower leaves and a graying discoloration along leaf edges. A strong stream of water to the underside of leaves three times per week will help control the infestation.
Having pruned and cleaned around the roses, give them some food! Work in two tablespoons of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) around the drip line of each plant to encourage new basal canes. This is also a good time to give a handful of alfalfa pellets (without molasses or grain added) to each rose (a little less for mini roses). Do this no more than three times a year. Alfalfa is rich in nitrogen and minerals for the rose, and protein and vitamins for all those friendly soil organisms. You can also apply a quarter cup of kelp meal to each rose bush several times a year to provide micronutrients, improve soil and plant productivity, and aid root structure. (L & M Fertilizer in Temecula has both alfalfa and kelp, and gives our members a 10% discount.)
After you have done all this, relax and enjoy your roses with a cup of rose tea (provided they have not been chemically sprayed, of course)!
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