Get Ready for Roses
By Paul James
Fossil evidence indicates that roses have been on the planet for 35 million years, and in cultivation since 3,000 BC. Today they remain hugely popular all over the world, including here in Green Country, not only because of their beauty, but also because they’re easy to grow if you give them what they need to thrive.
First and foremost, that means full sun, or at least six hours of sun a day. Without that, roses won’t flower well and the plants will lack vigor.
Well-drained soil is also a must, because roses simply don’t do well in heavy clay soils. There are soil amendments made specifically for roses, and it’s a good idea to use them no matter your soil type.
Roses are prone to fungal disease — especially rust, black spot, and mildew — but there are ways to keep them at bay. Avoid overcrowding, leaving several feet between plants, and prune the interior canes to improve circulation. Water the base of plants, not the leaves. Apply a thick layer of mulch. And when leaves drop in fall, rake them and toss them in the trash to prevent fungal spores from reinfecting the plants.
If, despite your best efforts, your roses succumb to fungal attack, you can control them in a variety of ways. I’m especially impressed with an all-natural bacterial fungicide called Serenade, but even good old horticultural oil works well, and it, along with neem oil, will also control aphids which often spread fungal diseases. Copper-based fungicides work well too. And numerous synthetic and systemic controls are also available.
Rose rosette, an especially nasty viral disease that’s spread by a tiny mite, is tough to control. Pruning the infected canes — which develop mutant growth and lots of thorns — may help, but the disease spreads rapidly and there’s no known control. In most cases, it’s best to remove the infected plant.
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