Symbolic of beauty and love, roses hold a special place in many gardeners’ hearts.
With thousands of types of roses in the world, navigating which roses grow well in this region and how best to take care of them can be a challenge.
However, growing roses is often easier than one thinks. That’s why Taltree Arboretum & Gardens and the Duneland Rose Society are partnering to offer several classes this spring and summer that provide tips to growing bountiful roses.
“There is a belief that roses are a hard plant to grow and maintain,” said Corbett Miller, horticulturist at Taltree. “Our series of classes, led by the Duneland Rose Society, will debunk the myth and give gardeners the confidence to grow their own roses.”
The series will cover all aspects of rose gardening from what grows best in Indiana to how to winterize the roses.
“Taltree offers a wide variety of gardening classes, but roses have a special place in our hearts because of our Audrey M. & Leonard J. Hitz Family Rose Garden,” said Maddie Grimm, director of education at Taltree. “This garden has more than 90 species of roses, including rose brushes, climbing roses and cherry blossom trees, which are part of the rose family.”
For those wishing to start their own rose garden – or simply start with one bush – at home, Susan Fox, a Chicago resident who is a member of the American Rose Society, said the misconception that roses are difficult to grow can be easily dispelled with a solid plan.
“Once you establish your rose garden, you can enjoy the pleasure, beauty, fragrance and joy of walking through and photographing your very own rose garden, the queen of flowers, year after year,” she said.
Here are some tips from local experts on how to make your rose garden a success this year.
Know your zone and when to plant
Before you begin, determine your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. This will tell growers the last possible hard freeze dates for your zone, Fox said. A zone map can be found at planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.
When to plant depends on your weather, location and type of rose, as well.
Bare root roses, which are roses bought and shipped without any soil around the roots, should be ordered through this month and planted in the spring after the ground thaws, for example, Miller said.
Other roses can be planted in the middle of the season, though they most likely won’t flower to their fullest potential until the following year, he said.
“If planted June to August, it is best to let the plant focus on establishing a healthy root system,” Miller said. “Cut off any flower heads before they bloom so that the energy will go to the roots to help establish a healthy system.”
Look for the right home
Roses need a minimum of six to eight hours of full sun, and don’t tolerate clay soil – which can be an issue in this region, Miller said. However, soil can be amended with peat moss, sand, compost and manure to provide a better, more suitable home, for roses.
“Create a container rose garden if you don’t have the space, time or desire to amend your soil,” he said.
Give them room
Roses also need breathing room to help prevent diseases such as black spot, depending on the type, Miller said. Spacing needs can vary, from 2 feet apart for hybrid teas, polyanthas and grandifloras, to up to 8 to 10 feet apart with climbers.
“Plant your roses deep,” he said. “Especially, if it is grafted, the graft is the weak spot, so planting a full 6 inches below the surface will allow it a better chance at surviving the winter.”
Feed your roses
Roses are heavy eaters, and need to be fed often with rose food at least three or four times a season, said Donnee Smith, of Lake County Master Gardeners.
“You do not want to feed them at the end of season, because they need to go dormant,” she said.
Rose food may be purchased at garden stores, and can be found in organic form.
Don’t forget to water, as well, she said.
“A rule of thumb for all perennials and trees is 1 inch of water per week, which can be measured with a rain gauge, or a small tin, left out when it rains or when you water,” Smith said.
While roses like adequate moisture, Fox said they do not like “wet feet.”
“Try to keep water off the foliage,” she said. “If you must water on the foliage, do it early in the morning so the sun can dry the leaves.”
Research types of roses
The Northwest Indiana region is in zone 5, and several types of roses grow well in this zone, Miller said.
“Knock-out roses are cold hardy and heat tolerant,” he said. “They are far more disease resistant and produce flowers in flushes every five weeks all season long.”
However, stay away from purchasing roses from growers not located in this zone, Smith said.
“We are zone 5, so you want to purchase roses from someone in this zone, not a seller in zone 9-10,” she said.
Rose Class Series at Taltree Arboretum & Gardens
April 5 – How to Grow Knock-out Roses (10:30 a.m. to noon)
Sept. 27 – Preparing Roses for Winter (10:30 a.m. to noon)
FYI: (219) 462-0025 or taltree.org