Rose Plant Myth

bridal pink floribunda

Roses are probably one of the most widely grown plants in the home garden – whether planted in a bed of their own or planted in amongst other shrubs. They are also one of the best loved flowers throughout the world – they are certainly my favourite – their beauty, form and fragrance is hard to beat.

There is a myth going around that roses are fussy, difficult plants to grow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once established, roses are one of the hardiest plants around – believe me – it is very difficult to kill an established rose bush! Often in abandoned gardens that have been neglected for years, you’ll still find a tough, resilient rose plant successfully blooming from amongst the tangled mess.

Roses have changed a great deal over the years, with breeders continually developing species that possess greater disease resistance, larger blooms and offer a wider colour selection. They are also bred to adapt to a variety of climate conditions.

It can be quite a challenge to choose a rose bush from the many varieties on offer. When looking for a rose plant the number one thing to be mindful of is whether it is suitable for your particular climate. As tempting as it is to make your rose selection based on colour, fragrance or form, check it’s suitability to your climate first. Then the fun can begin choosing the particular features you want in your rose.

Before rose plants are made available for sale, many years of research and trial testing go into identifying the extremes of conditions it can tolerate, and those under which it grows best, and this information is available for the rose gardener from a variety of sources. A good place to start is by asking your local nurseryman or wholesale rose grower/seller for advice. You could also get in contact with your local rose growing club which usually has a wealth of information available for rose lovers.

Reading through rose growing catalogues, books and websites (like this one!) can be a joy as well as informative. My all time favourite way of gathering information about rose plants is to visit the botanic gardens – there’s usually one in every city or region. They usually have a whole section devoted to roses – where you can see the different varieties on show and can experience firsthand their form, colour and  beautiful fragrance – simply heaven!

26 Comments so far

  1. Donna carty on October 27th, 2008


    I SCANNED your website since I’ve got roses that I didn’t plant outside my flat. With winter coming up, I’m wondering just how far to trim them back. I’ve hears that to get them to look good, I should trim them so that no branch crosses another, but sometimes it’s really hard to choose which of the crossing ones to cut back and when. On the other hand, my neighbor seems to cut his back to the point that they are almost stumps. Any wisdom to offer on that?

  2. admin on October 28th, 2008


    cut the crossing branch that’s less vigorous or thinner. With your pruning it depends what kind of rose it is. For hybrid teas, I select the 4 – 5 newest, thickest, strongest canes coming from the base of the plant, and prune those to about 30-40cms (12-16inches). I prune out all the old canes that are more than 3 years old. You want the rose bush producing flowers from the younger, more vigorous canes. Linda

  3. jack on March 19th, 2010

    Hi thank u for your good infomation can u send me more information about rose.
    Best regards

    jack tools

  4. lynn on April 23rd, 2010

    i have a three year old rose bush that i need to move. i need to know how without killing it. the rose is about 9 ft tall by 7 foot wide. it has several large bright pink blooms on it.

  5. admin on April 23rd, 2010

    If you live in a temperate climate like Sydney, the best time to transplant it is in winter while the rose bush is dormant. While it’s dormant, give the rose a decent prune back to anywhere between 1/2 to 1 metre (2 -3 ft) in height and width. When you dig it up you want to keep as much of the soil ball around it as possible. After transplanting it water it with some liquid seaweed solution at half strength which will help it get over the transplant shock.

  6. Janet on June 11th, 2010

    i have a rose plant that hasn’t bloomed in three years. i moved all my mothers roses to my house after she passed away. they all bloomed the next year. but now this one doesn’t. what can I do?

  7. admin on June 11th, 2010

    How lovely that you were able to keep all your mothers roses. That’s unusual that all the rest are blooming but one. I’m assuming you’re doing all the right things with it, seing your other roses are blooming. Check the soil – that drainage is good and that there is nothing affecting the root zone (though if something was, you’d see tell-tale signs of it showing up in the foliage – yellowing leaves, leaf drop, a more sickly looking type of plant) but it’s still worth checking. It wouldn’t hurt to check the soil pH while you’re at it. If the soil is too acid or alkaline, certain nutrients aren’t available to the plant – even if they are right there in the soil. If the plant itself looks healthy but just isn’t flowering, try giving it a prune, as sometimes this can force not only new growth, but new blooms. Then use a fertiliser higher in phosphorous and potassium – something like N6:P14:K16 though it doesn’t have to be exactly this, so long as the potassium and phopherous are higher than the nitrogen – to see if that will give it a push along, but follow the directions. If you use more than the recommended rate, as some are tempted to do (thinking the more the better) it will have a detrimental affect on the plant and the soil it sits in. Give it a feed with this fertiliser at the start of the growing season, then feed again 6 weeks later. If no improvement after say 12 weeks, it may be time to replace it with a new one.

  8. tracy on August 9th, 2010

    i have 3 rose bushes that bloom beautifully once at the beginning of summer then dont bloom again until the following summer.any idea why they only bloom once and how i can keep them blooming all season?

  9. admin on August 9th, 2010

    It sounds like you are growing old garden roses or species roses that only flower once per year. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do to make them flower more often as it’s in their genetic make-up to only produce blooms once per year. If you want repeat flowering roses, then modern roses which include the hybrid teas and floribundas are the best choice

  10. jeanne blankenship on October 7th, 2010

    I have been told that I can take cut roses, like from a funeral, and begin a rose plant. HOW? My brother-in-law said he knew how and took a stem from my mother’s funeral arrangement. Now he has passed and I would like to begin rose gardening in his and mom’s memory. Thanks for your help.

  11. admin on October 8th, 2010

    Hi Jeanne
    You can grow roses from cuttings, but most roses grown these days have been grafted onto rootstock. You could still try and experiment but you may find the rose will not be as robust because it doesn’t have the hardiness or disease resistance of a rose that has been grafted onto rootstock.

    Here’s what to do if you want to experiment with growing a rose from a cut stem. Remove the flower off the top of the rose stem just above the top set of leaves. Remove any other leaves on the stem besides those top two. At the bottom of the stem, make a cut just under the last bud on the stem, then gently scrape the bottom inch of the stem to reveal the cambium layer which is just under the bark and from which new adventitious roots will form.

    Then you dip the bottom of the stem into some rooting hormone powder (available at good garden centers) and put it into a pot that has a mix of 3 parts sand to 1 part peat moss. Put a hole in the growing medium first, then place the cutting into the hole, firm the mix down and then water it. Keep it in a warm sheltered spot and keep it moist. In a few weeks it should have developed roots. Good luck with it

  12. Glenna on October 24th, 2010


    There is a very top heavy rose bush in my parents garden that decided to tip over whilst I’m in charge. The trunk didn’t break or anything, so I’ve righted it and staked it. I also dumped a whole heap of potting mix around the base as there was very little soil around the roots and I’m giving it a good soak. Is this the right thing to do?


  13. admin on October 24th, 2010

    Hi Glenna
    The rose being top heavy and not having enough soil around it for the roots to stabilise it in place is the probable reason it toppled over. It sounds like you did the right thing, however I’d put some composted cow manure (that you can buy in bags at Bunnings or a plant nursery) around it rather than the potting mix. The composted cow manure has enzymes etc that help improve the soil around the root zone (don’t use fresh cow manure) Also make sure you don’t build the soil level around the rose trunk too high. You can usually tell at the base of the rose where the original soil level was so try to keep it at that same level. And also give it a drink of liquid seaweed like seasol or maxicrop liquid seaweed mixed in a watering can at half the recommended strength; liquid seaweed is a great tonic for plants when they are stressed through being transplanted or in your case having toppled over and having the root system compromised.

  14. Judy on January 8th, 2011

    I have roses right around my boundary and though I am not a fan of plastic, the weeds are getting away from me. Can you tell me what I should put under the plastic, someone told me to put plenty of blood & bone. Is this correct?

  15. admin on January 10th, 2011

    Hi Judy
    It’s a good idea to use a mulch to prevent weeds from growing, but use an organic mulch like a 5cm (2 inch) layer of straw, hay or sugarcane mulch. For an organic mulch that doesn’t break down as quickly and doesn’t need replacing as often, you could use wood chips which can be applied more thickly in an 8cm (5 inch) layer. Do not use plastic. In the warmer months of the year the soil can reach an extremely high temperature under plastic which leads to excessive transpiration by the rose plant, (water loss through the leaves) and the extreme heat can “cook” the roots causing them to die, as well as the soil organisms that help to keep the soil healthy. Soil also needs oxygen from the atmosphere to remain healthy and plastic prevents oxygen from reaching the soil. Plastic sheeting also prevents water entering the soil.

    I strongly advise against the use of plastic sheeting as mulch. Some vegetables and fruit are grown under plastic in fields but plants grown this way require intense management. Soil moisture in these beds is kept at near field capacity with trickle irrigation (which means it’s kept pretty moist at all times, and soil moisture is monitored on a daily basis to keep it that way) plus these plants are usually grown and harvested within a 12 week period unlike rose plants which will be living in the same soil conditions for a number of years.

    When using an organic mulch around your roses, don’t spread it too close to the rose trunk.

  16. Sean Slater on March 18th, 2011

    I appear to have lost a lot of my roses due to the severe frosts of this winter. These have been in the bed for 11 years. I am considering digging up the whole bed and starting again To replace these bushes is it necessary to replace the soil ?

  17. admin on March 19th, 2011

    Hi Sean

    If it was me, I would replace the soil – you may as well get your new roses off to the best start possible. Be sure to add plenty of well composted organic matter to the soil as well, and leave for a few weeks before planting. (Though if you use well composted cow manure that you can buy in plastic bags from garden supply stores, you can plant pretty much straight away). Also after watering the new roses in, give them a water of half strength liquid seaweed made up in a watering can.

  18. Christine Thornton on May 20th, 2011

    Can you please advise if roses like to have plenty of space or are they just as happy between shrubs?

  19. admin on May 20th, 2011

    Hi Christine
    Roses are usually happier to have some space around them, it helps improve air circulation and good air circulation helps with disease prevention. Having some space around them also helps them not to have to compete for water and nutrients. You could still plant them in with other shrubs but make sure they are not planted too close together with them.

  20. Lynn Leighton on June 16th, 2011

    How do you grow roses from cutting and when is the best season to do this? Thanking you. Lynn

  21. admin on June 17th, 2011

    Hi Lynn
    Make sure it’s a rose that’s growing from it’s own roots and hasn’t been grafted onto a different rootstock (eg hybrid teas and some floribundas). Take the 6-8 inch cuttings early in the day. Dip the ends of the cuttings into some rooting hormone powder and place the cuttings in a pot that is filled with either a 50/50 mix of sand and peatmoss or a 50/50 mix of potting mix and vermiculite. The best time to do this: take softwood cuttings mid to late spring; take hardwood cuttings in autumn. Keep the potting mixture moist and place in a sunny position.

  22. ANN COATES on June 24th, 2011


  23. admin on June 24th, 2011

    Hi Anne
    Western flower thrips can cause tan patches on petals. Periods of heavy rain can also cause petals to brown, as can periods of high heat. Once the flowers are fully bloomed they tend to take on a shrivelled appearance as they age and die.

  24. Carly on July 21st, 2011

    We moved into a house in Portland, OR… one of the rose capitals of the world, I am told, and the previous owners said they were taking all the roses with them, because they are “prized” but then left them in the end. I have no clue about roses! The house is 20 yrs old, not sure how old the roses are. we have 2 that have grown from the ground up to a 2nd story deck. the lower part of the branches are thick and woody with no flowers, the top branches, or part of the branches are green and sparse. it does bloom, but we would love it to be bushier and maybe grow roses at the bottom as well. how far should we prune back, and when? Then we have 6 plants in the front that are also very tall and narrow, bloom very little. can we make those bushier as well, or is that just how roses grow? they all have black spots and bugs so i just sprayed them and gave them food, hoping that helps. any advice is greatly appreciated while i try to learn to love these plants! Thanks so much!

  25. admin on July 22nd, 2011

    Hi Carly
    Welcome to the world of rose growing. Rose flowers bloom at the end of their growing stems, so unfortunately you’re not going to get any roses growing on the lower part of the branches. If the roses have the fungal disease “black spot” on them, that will cause the leaves to yellow and fall off the plant resulting in the sparse foliage you mention. You can manage it with a fungicide targeted to control black spot. Some rose plants are more bushier than others, depending on the species, however to get your species as bushy as they are capable requires 1) regular feeding every 6 weeks during spring and summer with a quality rose fertilizer; 2) keeping fungal leaf diseases (which cause leaf drop and sparse foliage) and pests at bay through a regular spray program with a rose pesticide/fungicide (follow the timing and dosage recommendations on the bottle); 3) regular watering esp when the weather gets hot; 4) pruning of the roses at the appropriate time depending on the type of rose it is; I’m assuming they are either large floribundas or hybrid teas. These flower on new wood so pruning in early spring after the danger of frosts have passed is the right time for your region. Prune these down to 2 feet in height. Remove any dead or diseased branches, any crossing branches, and any thin spindly looking branches. It sounds like you are well on your way having fed them and sprayed them for the bugs and black spot, so hopefully they will now respond favourably for you. Good luck with your rose growing

  26. Hazel Phillips on September 17th, 2011

    Dear Rose Adviser,
    Have just planted 11 rose plants from House & Garden magazine!!! They are in a too small bed i realise – but what i wanted to ask is – when there are 3 buds on the same stem, do you nip the smaller buds off to give the main rose the chance to grow bigger?


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