Spring being the time to prune roses, I thought I’d pop in and give you a quick little recap on what we learned at our rose seminar. We were happy to have guest speaker, Meg Ware, from the San Antonio Rose Society, come in and give us a multitude of tips for success with our roses, and were able to watch her prune a rose to get it ready for spring and summer blooms. 

I’ll break this blog down in quick-look sections of: planting, pruning, pest & disease, and fertilization, as advised by Meg Ware. You can find more detailed info in more of our rose care blogs by searching the keyword “roses” or “rose” on our website. Please remember that while our spring inventory of roses have arrived, they have been planted bare-root and their roots are not yet established and very fragile. Extra care must be followed when planting these roses, which you can find in our Planting Rainbow Gardens Roses Guide here. Our roses are not warrantied until March 15th (and even then you need to be careful).

Planting roses in dirt.

Quick Tips for Planting Roses with Success.

Variety: Of course you want to know the color and if your rose has a fragrance, but you really need to know its growth habit and how big it gets at maturity too. Some roses spread their wings out wide, some stretch vertically, some are low growing and some are compact. Research and find the best rose for your location. See our 2023 Rose Lists here:

Bandera 2024 Rose List

Thousand Oaks 2023 Rose List

Location: You must choose a spot with no less than 6 hours of full sunshine for roses. More is better. There is no shade loving rose.

Good Drainage: Roses cannot sit in wet soil. Raised beds are a good option and we have great success planting roses in these. Soil should be at least 18” deep in raised beds for most roses. 

Soil: You can use premixed bags tailored for raised beds or specifically for roses or you can make your own using a mix of ⅓ compost, ⅓ soil, and ⅓ peat moss. 

Spacing: In general, you want 2’- 3’ of space between your roses at maturity to offer good air circulation which cuts down on fungal issues. 

See the following link for easy-to-follow, step by step rose planting instructions.

Roses with sprouts.

Quick Pruning Tips for Spring Roses

Timing: Heavy rose pruning should start around mid Feb (we use Valentine’s Day as a kick off) and be completed by early/mid March. 

What to Remove: Twiggy growth, crossing canes, dead wood, weak growth in the center of plants, all foliage (to remove disease spores), double and triple sprouts (finger prune to remove down to one sprout)

Where to Prune: Cut back canes by ½ or ⅓. If you can, make your cuts just above a 5 leaflet, and cut at a 45% angle. Remove all weak or dead canes back to the point where you see healthy growth. Focus on removing the center growth to create an open, vase-shaped plant (improves air circulation).

Clean Up: Use sterile, sharp tools, and bag up all pruning debris and toss in the trash to reduce the spread of disease spores. 

Extra pruning tip: Seal any cuts larger than the diameter of a pencil with rose sealant or Elmers glue (original formula). This helps to prevent disease from seeping in. 

Blackspot fungus

Quick Tips for Preventing Pests and Fungus on Roses

While we like to encourage minimal pesticide and fungicide spraying in general, roses are plants that you really can’t avoid treating. 

1st Use Neem Oil: You can prevent some pests and fungus issues by spraying roses with Neem oil in late winter/early spring. Neem oil coats the spores of fungi and also coats the eggs of pests, suffocating both of them and preventing an invasion.

2nd Use a General Spray: About a week after spraying Neem oil. Treat roses with an all purpose general spray. (read label for follow up application recommendations…usually 10-14 days later). 

After that, spray as needed, or on a regular maintenance schedule (as directed by the product label), if your roses tend to struggle with these issues. 

There is a wealth of pesticides and fungicides on the shelves, but I’ll offer the recommendations we received from Meg during the rose class. These are JUST suggestions; everyone has their different favorite products. Dive into the vast knowledge that the San Antonio Rose Society has here.

Rose Pests:

Aphids: A forceful spray of water goes a long way to dislodging and displacing these pests. 

Thrips: Systemic Orthene seems to work best on these pests (signs: bud fall before opening, edges of petals are browned). Did you know thrips seem to be attracted to lighter colored blooms?

Chili Thrips: Cut off all infected blooms, and bag and throw away! Follow up with a spray of Spinosad or Orthene. Rotate which product you use so they don’t become immune to the spray.

Scale: Neem Oil as mentioned above. Neem oil is temperature sensitive. Use only when temps are between 46° – 86° for best effectiveness and to eliminate the risk of burning plants.

Spider Mites: These pests stay on both the plant and in the soil for a period of time. A hard spray of water to leaves and underside of leaves, can help to break up the lifecycle. Insecticidal soap or a mixed spray of seaweed and molasses seems to give some semblance of control. 

Rose Disease and Fungus:

Cleaning up infected leaf litter goes a long way to stop the spread of rose diseases and fungus.

Blackspot: This tough to completely eradicate; it just is kind of always hanging in the corners waiting to show up. Prevent by spring pruning and clean up as this will help remove overwintering fungal spores. Spray with a preventative like Banner Maxx or Honor Guard.

Powdery Mildew: Cloudy, rainy weather or crowding can spur this on. Prevent by planting in full sun, watering in the morning, and proper pruning for air circulation. First, don’t stress too much over it. Second, spray with a preventative like Banner Maxx or Honor Guard.

Witches Broom/Rosette Virus: We don’t see much of this, thankfully, but if you get it, cut down the plant, bag it up, and throw it far, far away. Sorry, that’s the cold hard truth. 

Man watering roses
Basic Rose Maintenance:

Feeding Roses In general, roses should be fed once a month beginning mid February after pruning and stopping no later than October for the year. 

Liquid options: These are great for immediate feeding. Fish emulsion or seaweed with molasses is a great option, or Miracle Gro is a common choice. Liquid fertilizers give your roses and extra boost. Great for if you are entering a rose show. Focus liquid fertilizers around the dripline and not at the center of the roots. 

Granular options: These fertilizers take longer to break down and offer continuous feeding in the soil. Osmocote, Espoma Rose-Tone, Rose Glo, are all good options. Read label to see how long each product feeds. 

Water: Roses need at least a minimum of an inch of water per week. During our hot, dry summers, you will need to water even more. 

Mulch: Mulch is an excellent product to include in your rose beds. If you choose an organic type (ex: pine bark) it works itself into the soil and improves its quality. Mulch is also a fantastic weed deterrent, and keeps soil cool in summer/warm in winter. Apply 3” of mulch in spring.

We hope this gives you a good jumping in point for including roses in your landscape, or making the commitment to care for your roses properly. Thank you again to Meg Ware for sharing your rose knowledge with Rainbow Gardens during the first month of our events and classes!


~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy