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6 Ways to Keep Those Blooms on the Rose

April 08, 1999|TOMMY CAIRNS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Once that first grand flush of rose blossoms fades, what do you do next to keep bushes blooming during the long, hot summer months?

1. Dead Heading: After the first and second bloom cycles, dead heading becomes an important job. Spent blooms should be removed by cutting to the nearest five-part leaflet on the stem, where the stem is about pencil thickness.

Often the five-part leaflet will turn yellow and fall off because of the nutrient surge required by the new growth from the bud at its base. Don't be concerned. This process is natural.

Don't prune, or pull off, too much foliage. Each leaf is a manufacturing site for building the nutrients required for further tissue development.

2. Correct Watering: The rose grower's biggest job during summer is making sure plants get enough water.

When temperatures climb, roses transpire more rapidly, and so their water needs are far greater than in the cooler months of early spring.

Deep watering is recommended during the hot summer months. Each hybrid tea rose bush, for instance, needs three to six gallons of water every week during the summer.

If temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day for more than several days, then your watering schedule should be three times a week. When daytime temperatures soar above 90 degrees, watering every other day is mandatory.

3. Feeding Really Does Make a Difference: When the first spring bloom cycle has ended and the second crop has begun, fertilizing is key to both bloom size and quality.

By far the best approach is a regular weekly fertilization program. Use a balanced rose fertilizer such as Magnum Grow (with fertilizer values of 8:10:8) available at local nurseries.

This product is a simple one-step water-soluble plant food formulated to meet the nutritional demands of roses. This special formulation contains all the basic elements needed for growth, including Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and a soil penetrant to ensure nutrients reach the root system whatever the soil type.

Roses are heavy feeders. Fertilizing every week will make a drastic difference. For those with bigger rose gardens, liquid fertilizers can be delivered simply via a faucet siphon attachment device such as the inexpensive Hyponex (about $8) available from your local nursery.

Granular fertilizers can be scattered around the roses and watered in. Follow recommended doses.

4. Care of Basal Breaks: Immediately following the first spring bloom cycle, the appearance of basal breaks (those new growths coming from the bud union at the base of the plant) is a sure signal that the plant is in great health and the soil fertility and pH is in balance. Such basal breaks usually tower above the bush, forming a giant candelabrum of blooms.

Allow the basal breaks to flower naturally; in other words, don't remove buds to cultivate single blooms. After all the florets have bloomed, cut the delicate cane to the nearest five-part leaflet--whatever the thickness.

Don't shorten the new cane. Allow it to reach full maturity before winter comes; you'll see this when the skin or epidermis hardens to deep green tissue.

5. Spraying Program: Rose plants are most vulnerable to pests and fungal diseases during summer months. To guarantee health, spray regularly.

For insects and powdery mildew, weekly spraying with Orthene and Funginex (they can be combined and applied together) should provide protection on a prophylactic basis.

A weekly program is wisest because otherwise you may be forced into an eradication program using more powerful and sometimes expensive chemicals.

For spider mites, the only real solution is to apply Avid on a monthly basis.

6. Weeding and Cleaning: Always clean up the dead foliage and other litter that accumulates in the rose bed. This debris is a haven for pests and fungal spores that will plague the roses in summer.

Cleanliness truly is the best policy. Pull weeds at the first sign of growth, because once established they are more difficult to remove. Mulch--used to help preserve moisture--can end up being a convenient growing medium for weeds. The loose texture of most mulches, however, also offers little or no resistance to weed removal by hand.

One way to prevent weeds is to use a landscape fabric underneath the mulch.

Tommy Cairns is a chemist and lives in Studio City. He is vice president of the American Rose Society and author of "All About Roses" (Ortho, 1999, $11.95).

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