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19 Tricks to Growing Perfect Roses

These simple tricks will have your garden exploding with gorgeous blooms.

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If you buy a bare rooted rose but can’t plant it right away…

Open the container and moisten the roots. Reclose and store it for up to two weeks in a dark place where the temperature stays 35°F to 40°F. Just before planting, rehydrate the roots by soaking them overnight. Here’s what different rose colors mean.

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If you buy a rose actively growing in its pot…

It may already be in bloom. Try not to disturb the roots when planting a blooming rose. Cut out the bottom of the container and set the still-packaged root ball into the planting hole. Then slit one side of the container and gently remove it before backfilling the hole with soil that has been amended with compost.

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Always check the drainage

Roses must have good drainage, so check the site if you’re not sure. Dig a hole 18 inches deep at the desired planting spot and fill it with water. If the water is gone within two hours, the site is suitable for roses. If water is still standing after two hours, build a raised bed for your bushes.

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Treat grafted roses with care

They often show a bulge on the main stem just above the roots. In cold climates, plant grafted roses 1 to 2 inches deep to protect the graft union from winter cold. Where winters are mild, plant the roses higher, so the graft union sits an inch or more above the soil’s surface. Prune off any canes that emerge from below the graft union.

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Want early spring color?

Plant little bulbs such as miniature narcissus, grape hyacinth, or crocus 1 foot or so from the base of a big rose. The bulbs will bloom before the rose leafs out. Be sure to let the bulb foliage die back naturally in early summer.

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Here’s the trick to a well-shaped rose bush

Carefully check the canes on new roses. If most of the buds appear to face in one direction, place the plant in the planting hole so that the heavily budded side faces north. This trick helps produce a well shaped, mature rose bush, because strong southern sun will stimulate new growth on the other side of the plant.

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Keep roots (not leaves) wet

This will help to retain water around the rose’s roots. In hot, dry weather, roses need an inch of water a week from either rain or a hose. Use a bubbler (available at garden centers) on the hose so the water seeps into the soil around the rose’s roots without wetting foliage; damp leaves invite fungal diseases.

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Test out tea

To give your rosebushes a midsummer boost, tuck old tea bags under the mulch. When you water the plants, the nutrients from the tea will be released into the soil, spurring growth. Roses love the tannic acid in tea. Here are other extraordinary household uses for tea.

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Let your roses sunbathe

Most roses grow best where they get at least six hours a day of direct sun.

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Train climbers young

Climbing roses will flower more profusely if you train them to follow a horizontal line along a trellis or frame while the canes are still young and supple. Forming an arch by fastening the end of a cane to a peg in the ground will encourage even more blooms.

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Here’s how to keep them blooming

To stimulate continued flowering of everblooming roses throughout the summer, drench the roots of each bush immediately after the first blooming with 2 to 4 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast dissolved in 2 gallons of water.

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Check for low iron levels

Yellowed leaves with dark green veins are signs of chlorosis, a condition caused by an iron deficiency. Apply fertilizer containing chelated iron, but first test your soil: To keep iron from “locking up,” the soil’s pH must be between 5.5 and 6.5. If the pH is higher, apply sulfur; if it’s lower, apply lime.

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Prep roses for winter

Standard roses, often called tree roses, are actually rosebushes grafted onto long rootstock trunks. To protect the graft union over the winter, simply cut off the sleeve of an old sweater or sweatshirt. Prune back the rose’s top growth in late fall so that you can slip the sleeve over the branches and around the graft union on the trunk below. Then stuff the sleeve with peat moss, dry leaves, or straw for insulation; tie a plastic bag over it to keep out ice and snow. Remove the sleeve in early spring.

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How to heal roses with baking soda

At the first sign of blackspot—a common leaf disease for roses in humid weather—pinch off affected leaves and protect those that remain with a baking soda spray. Mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda and a few drops of liquid soap with 1 gallon of water. Spray the whole bush with the mixture. Reapply every four or five days until the spots disappear and the weather becomes drier. Here are more baking soda home remedies.

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Want to make more roses?

Take cuttings from roses that grow on their own roots (that is, ones that are not grafted onto rootstock) and set them to root. In June, look for a vigorous pencil-thick cane; one bearing a bloom is at the right stage of maturity. Cut it into 6- to 8-inch lengths, making sure that each one has at least three leaves. Without damaging the buds at their bases, trim off all but the top leaf on each. Cut a cross into the base of each cutting with a sharp knife and slip a grain of rice into the center of each cut. To keep the grains in place, bind the cuttings’ bases (not too tightly) with twine. Stand the cuttings in water overnight, then pot them in a mix of equal parts sand and soil. Water the pots thoroughly, set them in a cool and bright but shaded spot, and keep them well watered. The cuttings should root in two to three weeks.

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Here’s the trick to easy pruning

For the cleanest, least traumatic cuts on rose canes, use a sharp pair of bypass, or scissors-type, pruning shears; anvil-type shears can do damage by smashing the stems. To prune the largest canes on your bushes, use long-handled lopping shears.

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Deadhead with caution

To keep modern hybrid tea and floribunda roses blooming throughout the growing season, remove fading flowers before the seeds, or rosehips, can form. As the petals start to drop, cut off the flower just above the fourth leaf cluster, or the highest node that has five leaflets just below it. A new flowering stem will sprout from the node.

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Prune in early spring

Prune reblooming roses in early spring just as the leaf buds swell. Begin by removing any dead or damaged canes, then take out any canes that grow in toward the center of the bush and any that cross and rub each other. Cut off the suckers that sprout from below the graft union. Choose three to six of the strongest canes to keep and cut all the others off at ground level. Then trim the remaining canes to the desired height.

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Get rid of pruned clippings

They may harbor disease spores or insect eggs and larvae. For the same reason, rake up and dispose of fallen rose leaves in autumn.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest