Roses in Your Garden

Revered for its beauty, the rose has long been a popular flower among everyone from royals to home gardeners.  They can be difficult to maintain, but the payoff of charming flowers is well worth the effort.

Whether you’re trying to maintain the splendor of your existing roses or add more beauty to your garden, spring is the time to focus on these flowers.


Gladney Rose Garden_Robin Powell-1
Photo by Robin Powell

For existing roses in your garden, spring is the best time to do annual pruning. Prune dead matter, parts that are unproductive, canes that are crossing, and any damaged areas. Pruning can keep rose plants in a nice shape and it’s important for flower production in roses. Roses also need a lot of air circulation, so anything that congests it lends to insect infestation or fungal diseases. Don’t be afraid about pruning too much, anything unsavory can be cut away.

As leaf buds start breaking, it’s time to start pest control. You can also start fertilizer and Epsom salts now.

October 14th, 2016 _Robin Powell-8
Photo by Robin Powell

If you’re planting new roses, wait until a final cold snap before planting any potted roses. You can plant bare rooted roses a little earlier. Bare rooted roses need to be planted before Memorial Day, but potted roses can be planted a bit later.  Roses like sunshine, so plant in a spot that gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day.

Soil testing can also be helpful in planting and maintaining roses. Often, soil in St. Louis has a higher pH balance, but roses tend to like a pH level around 6.5 to 7. Soil sulphur can lower pH levels. A soil test can also provide other information that will give you a good profile of the kind of soil you’re working with.

For all roses, it’s important to manage moisture and fertilizer. They tend to like water, so be sure you don’t let your new roses dry out. Try a natural fertilizer instead of a synthetic or chemical one. This will build good soil instead of fertilizing only for the sake of feeding a plant. As it starts to get warmer, also make sure to mulch around roses to regulate moisture and control weeds.

If you have more specific questions about roses, you can visit the plant doctors at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening, call the horticulture answer service at (314) 577-5143, or send an email to For more spring gardening tips, check out our Gardening by Month advice.


Catherine Martin
Public Information Specialist

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