P. Allen Smith's foolproof guide for choosing and planting roses will have you blooming in no time.
Forget what you've heard: Some roses, and some techniques, are more forgiving than others.
P. Allen Smith, fourth-generation nurseryman and gardening author, breaks down the basics of selecting roses, offers his top picks among easygoing varieties, shows you how to plant, and more.
Rose bushes grow in very different ways.
Large shrub roses, covered head to toe with tumbling masses of blooms, are a heart-stopping sight. As the blossoms wither, these hardy shrubs fade into the background, transforming into a green curtain -- a perfect foil for other flowering plants.
Hybrid tea roses, all tall and stately, produce vase-worthy blooms on long stems perfect for cutting.
Climbing roses shoot skyward, elevating the eye up and over arbors, doors, and walkways to add vertical drama. If you have limited space, try petite rose varieties in containers; they anchor arrangements with their solid, compact form while lending textural interest to companion plants.
Large, free-flowering roses are produced on an upright shrub throughout the growing season. This rose has all the beauty of a hybrid tea with little worry.
Shrub, 1992, 3 to 6 feet, zones 5–9, fragrant pink blooms
This attractive rose graces the corner of my front porch by the steps. Covered in clusters of white blooms, it offers an aromatic spring greeting for guests to my home.
Alba, 1835, 4 to 6 feet, zones 4–9, fragrant, once-blooming white blooms
I grow 'Old Blush' along my picket fence next to a burgundy barberry and purple iris. It's a heavy bloomer that requires little attention. In the fall it produces a nice display of rose hips.
China, 1752, 5 feet, zones 6–9, fragrant medium-pink blooms
This is the most carefree rose that I grow. Blooms appear all summer.
Climber, 1930, 12 to 20 feet, zones 5–9, fragrant pale-pink blooms maturing to cream
Roses can be purchased three different ways: grown in containers, packaged in a polybag, or bare-root. While each will produce fine roses, I lean toward bare rootstock because I'm always on the prowl for good value. Bare-root roses cost much less than container-grown plants because they are stored in a dormant state without soil. When the roots are kept moist with wet burlap, shredded paper, or sawdust in cool conditions, the plant does just fine. When planted in early spring, bare-root roses adjust just as well, if not better, to new soil and garden conditions than potted varieties.
Planting Bare-Root Roses
1. Soak bare-root rose plants overnight in a bucket of tepid water before planting.
2. Dig a hole for plant, at least 14 to 18 inches deep. Cut up banana peels and place them in the hole for added potassium.
3. Blend compost, manure, Epsom salts, and, if desired, greensand in a wheelbarrow. Amend your soil with several shovelfuls of this mixture (or any other commercial rose soil mix).
4. Make a cone in the center of the hole, patting soil firmly into shape (but don't compact). Spread out the roots of the rose over this cone. The placement of the bud union either above or below the soil line is important. If you live in areas with extremely cold winters, bury it about 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the ground for protection. But in milder parts of the country, you can actually plant the rose with the bud union about 1 to 1 1/2 inches above ground level. Begin back-filling the hole with additional soil mixture, gently tamping the soil around roots; water the rose well to help settle the soil. Give the plant a little extra boost with a solution of fish emulsion, following the directions on the bottle.