Growing roses is both an art and a science: as my gardening aunt used to say, "...it's six of one and half a dozen of the other!"
As a rose grower myself and author of a gardening website, I get many questions about why a certain rose bush has failed or what a person might be doing wrong. Over time, these many mistakes people make, began to fall into five major categories.
The five major rose growing mistakes that most people could avoid!
1. Planting in the wrong location:
Before you actually dig the hole for your new rose bush, consider the location. It will need six hours of good light including some time in the sun. It will need healthy soil where water drains well and other plants and trees haven't taken over with their own roots. Not in the shade of a large tree, or over a concrete pipe or in a pot small enough for a geranium! Take time to choose the right location.
2. Choosing the wrong bush in the first place:
My rose bush, Savoy Hotel, grew so large I had to move the neighbors fence! The estimated size was actually on the label when I purchased it, so check how big it will get and plan the space accordingly. Rose bushes are programed to grow to a certain size, not necessarily the height you want, so check the labeling carefully.
While doing this check, look up the hardiness of the particular rose. Not all roses grow at minus 20 degrees centigrade in Calgary! Some are very susceptible to certain diseases such as blackspot, and guess what, some rose bushes only bloom once a year!
Check these things out BEFORE you purchase.
Type of rose, color, scent, size at full growth, hardiness and blooming time: make your choices before you plant, not after.
3. Pruning at the wrong time of year:
I have an acquaintance who continues to question why her roses don't bloom: even though, every year she cuts out all the new growth as it tries to bud, because this new growth blocks her view out of her living-room window. Pruning at the correct time will promote growth and increase blossom production.
Climbers should be pruned in the fall and trained to travel where you want them to travel. Fall is the time to train your climbers, not the spring, because all you would be doing is removing the new shoots that produce the new stems and the new blossoms.
Hybrid Teas and minis that have a repeat blooming, get cut back in early spring and just given a short haircut in the fall to prevent wind damage during the winter. This cut back in spring promotes new growth and helps you to re-shape the bush.
Bushes that don't re-bloom such as most Old Growth Roses, get pruned right after the blossoms fade, sometimes after the hips have formed if you like to encourage the hips to grow: perhaps as late as the fall. Pruning at the correct time will produce a healthier bush and a lot more roses!
4. Not knowing exactly what you planted:
You will not have much success with one, two or three above if you haven't dealt with this one, and you would be surprised how many people tell me "...I don't remember the name....and I can't for the life of me find the metal tag....are you sure there was one?"
All roses come with a metal name tag and if they don't, go buy them somewhere that does!
Keep the tag on the bush and make a note of what it says, then in a year or two when you need an answer to a question about something that has gone wrong you can look it up and people like myself can help you.
Not knowing if the bush is a climber or a Polyantha, Rosa Mundi or Queen Elizabeth, makes a lot of difference. Knowing the name means you can check with your National or local society about the likely growing characteristics of your plant: knowing what it should be doing goes a long way to solving most problems.
5. Not tending to the W.F.D:
Of course, I know of several beautiful roses that have spread themselves along twenty feet or more of stone wall, and produced arm-loads of fabulous roses every year while getting no attention whatsoever: even abuse from passing car exhausts. But if you are going to be successful, don't fall into the trap of ignoring the W. F and D!
Water, Food and Dead-heading, all play their part in rose growing 101 and you ignore them at your peril. Mistake number five, ignoring the W. F and D chores.
Water deeply at least twice a week. Put down organic rose fertilizer in early spring and early summer. Liquid fertilize every week or two and keep the rose clean of dead blooms otherwise the bush thinks it's finished for the season and go dormant, produce hips, and get completely confused. Keep the roses coming by removing the old faded ones. Your rose bush wants to make more babies....encourage it to do so!
If you tend to your rose garden and avoid these five major mistakes, the chances are high that your bushes will flourish and your roses will be the envy of your family and friends. Growing roses will have it's reward if you take notice of the five mistakes.
Further Reading - History of Roses and Rose Growing Tips