Safely after frosts (for most of us), and early enough to enjoy blooms all spring and summer, now is a perfect time of year to bring “May Flowers” into your yards! For this Fix-it Friday I’m focusing on the most illustrious flower of them all… the rose.

There are literally dozens of rose types. Things to consider when choosing your rose: color, climber or not, size and type of bloom (cluster, long stem, etc.), whether it’s heat tolerant (depending on where your live) and disease resistance. Also know that some roses are heavily scented while others may have no scent at all.

Basic Tips for Growing Healthy, Beautiful Roses

Location – Roses crave the sun. Give them at least 6 hours a day for best results.

Soil – Plant roses in rich, well-draining soil. Roses prefer clay soil, but will grow well in a variety of soils. Just be sure to add a good amount of organic matter to your soil mix (compost, mulch, manure, etc.) They also prefer a soil pH that is between 6.5 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic to neutral (7.0 being neutral). If your roses seem sick even with proper sun, water, and feeding, test your soil’s pH (kits are sold in home centers), then adjust with soil amenders (i.e. lime).


Planting – The most important factor when planting a rose (from a potted nursery plant) is to make sure you dig a BIG HOLE – at least 2’x2′. Once dug, squeeze the pot to loosen the plant from the planter, put one hand over the surface of the soil and turn it upside down, catching the rose as it slides from the pot. Set the rose in place. Fill the area around the rose with your soil mixture (see “Soil” above) so the soil will sit 1″ lower than the level of the surrounding ground, creating a little well. Water deeply.

Mulch – Add a 2″ to 3″ layer of organic mulch around your roses. Mulch helps maintain moisture as well as keep the soil cooler – a must in places like my desert climate.

The "Marilyn Monroe" rose. Photo Credit: Chris Phutully

The “Marilyn Monroe” rose (apricot pink hybrid tea rose). Photo Credit: Chris Phutully

Water – Roses like to be watered deeply, directly into the soil, and often enough to create consistently moist soil – not overly wet, not bone-dry (test the soil with your finger to feel the moisture consistency). Avoid wetting the leaves to prevent fungal diseases (i.e. blackspot).

Fertilize – Roses love to eat. A “balanced” rose food is one that has a blend of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K) that’s beneficial for roses. Fertilizers have a numerical N-P-K ratio printed on the container. A 6-12-6 ratio means that the mixture contains 6% Nitrogen, 12% Phosphorus and 6% Potassium, and is considered a balanced rose food. Look for this ratio on fertilizer packaging and follow manufacturer’s feeding instructions.

Gardener cuts rose

Prune – Roses need regular pruning. “Dead-heading” should be done throughout the growing season. After blooms die, cut back to at least one leaf tier, being sure to clip the stem at a 45° angle. Always use sharp tools for clean cuts. Regularly remove dead canes and dried leaves. After winter, it’s time for some hard pruning – cutting back several inches.

Inspect – Check roses frequently for insects or disease outbreaks. Catching problems early makes them easier to treat. A basic home remedy for fungus and parasitic insects (like aphids) is to make a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda in a quart of water, add several drops of liquid soap, then spray infected plants thoroughly. Another natural remedy for aphids are ladybugs – buy a container of live ladybugs from your local nursery and watch how they’ll eat away all those tiny critters that are destroying your roses.


With these basic tips, even if your thumb is more black than green, you’ll be sure to have luscious roses greeting you all season long!

P.S. Don’t forget to clip some bouquets so you can enjoy your roses in your home and offer them as cheerful gifts!

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.