Shrub roses are looking fabulous right about now in early summer with lots of colorful flowers and lush, leafy growth. But, even the easy-care shrub varieties need maintenance to keep them healthy and flowering into autumn. Some summer pruning, feeding, mulching, and attention to spoilers, and you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of roses for eye-candy garden displays, or cutting for bouquets. Here’s what you need to know. We also have a quick video. Look for it below.
Once this latest flush of flowers is over – or now, if roses aren’t looking rosy – it’s time to give plants a summer prune. This is not like the major cutting back done in late winter, but a lighter prune to remove spent flowers and encourage leafy, new growth.
- Don’t just headhead and clip spent blooms; cut flowering stems back to two or three sets of leaves. Think of it like cutting roses for a bouquet, and you’ll get the length right.
- Expect to see your plants back in full- flower about four weeks from pruning.
- Stop pruning 3 to 4 weeks before the first hard frost to discourage new growth that may be damaged by the cold.
Mantra: Feed, water, mulch
As a result of all that pruning, roses put out lots of new growth. This draws on the plant’s energy reserves; feed now and water regularly so plants aren’t stressed.
- Create a watering well around the base of the rose (push soil out from around the base of the plant to form a basin in which to capture water) and deep soak at least once a week while roses are in growth and flower.
- Apply organic balanced fertilizer or rose food around the base of the plant and remember to water in well.
- Top this with a layer of organic mulch, well-aged manure, or compost (about 2-inches deep).
Make Clean Routine
Half the battle with keeping roses healthy, especially in summer, is stopping trouble in its tracks.
- Plant roses that are more disease resistant such as Knock Out, Flower Carpet, Rugosas, and other varieties.
- Clean up the debris such as trimmings, spent blooms, and dead leaves from the area under and around the plant. These are a breeding ground for fungal diseases such as blackspot and powdery mildew.
- Make sure pruners are clean to start and that you clean them when moving from plant to plant.
Stay Ahead of Spoilers
While keeping plants healthy can reduce problems, it doesn’t make them immune from insects.
- Stay ahead of pest infestations by catching early and treating with the appropriate method.
- Ensure a good supply of beneficial insects such as aphid-eating ladybugs by releasing them regularly into the garden.
- Always start with the least harmful method of control and only “escalate” if you’re not getting results.
- Consult your local nursery for help identifying pests and selecting remedies.