How to Plant, Grow and Care For Roses

Roses are iconic garden beauties. Their wide range of color, form, and size means there’s a type of rose out there for every garden. Often called the “Queen of all flowers”, roses bring history, elegance, blooming power and unrivaled fragrance to your garden. In this article, hobby gardener and rose enthusiast Danielle Sherwood refutes the fussy reputation of roses. Keep reading to learn how to care for them this season and beyond!

Coral Orange Rose Growing in Garden

You can’t beat a rose. It’s the American national flower. It has a storied history of cultivation going back at least 5,000 years, and has graced the gardens of Kings, Queens and cottage gardeners alike. Graceful and resplendent in color and form, roses provide 150 species and 30,000 varieties to choose from.

Roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but don’t be intimidated.  Roses are just flowering plants, and they are just as easy to grow and care for as the rest of your garden if you know some basic planting rules. Most modern varieties of these popular flowering perennials are resistant to pests and disease, needing no special regimens or attention from you.

However, like any plant, it’s good to be familiar with some foundational care basics to get your roses healthy and keep them blooming . Keep reading for more information about growing roses, how to provide their ideal environment, and care.

Rose Plant Overview

A bright red rose blooming in the garden. The sun is hitting the flower which has many red petals.
Plant Type Perennial
Family Rosaceae
Genus Rosa
Native Area Asia, Europe, North America, Africa
Hardiness Zone 2-11
Season Spring-Fall
Exposure Full sun to part shade
Plant Spacing 3-4 feet
Planting Depth 16-24 inches
Height 1-60 feet
Watering Requirements Deep, infrequent
Pests Aphids, Beetles, Mites, Thirps
Diseases Black Spot, Powdery Mildew, Rust
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Well-drained, loamy
Soil pH (6.5) Acidic, neutral
Plant With Nepeta, Lavender, Coneflower
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Birds

Rose Classifications

Blooming pink rose bushes in a sunny garden. The bushes are tall, lush, have dark green leaves and lush, large bright pink flowers. The flowers are terry, open, consist of many rounded petals arranged in several rows, tightly covering the center of the flower.
Roses are an ancient plant that was considered a symbol of romance and used for medicinal purposes.

To facilitate the sale and breeding of so many different cultivars, The 3 main rose groups are further categorized into 16 popular types based on their heritage and characteristics.

Old Garden Roses

Roses in this category existed before 1867. Most bloom once in the spring, and have intense fragrance. They are generally very hardy and will tolerate a variety of garden conditions. Old roses come in many different colors and sizes, including ramblers and climbers. Here are some types you’ll likely run into at local garden centers:

Damask
Damask Rose in Garden Blooming. It is a bright pink color, with many petals. Green foliage is in the background. The center of the flower has many yellow stamens.
Damasks are well known for their beautiful pink flowers.

Damasks are a type of rose that blooms in a variety of pink shades. They range from single to double flowered, and have an upright habit. These shrub roses can reach up to 7 feet tall. They bloom once, and have the quintessential deep rose fragrance.

China Rose
Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis’ blooming with bright pink and white petals in the garden. There are two blooms coming off of this shrub.
This rose type is known for its multicolor blooms.

The China rose blooms all season in warm shades of pink, red, and yellow. ‘Mutabilis’, with its multicolor effect, is a popular variety. This shrub reaches 6-10 feet tall.

Gallicas
Rosa Gallicas with Bright Magenta Flowers in Full Bloom. It rests in the garden, with green foliage in the background that's out of focus.
Gallicas are famous for their richly colored pink blooms.

The Gallicas come in glowing, rich pinks and reds. They tend to spread into thickets or natural hedges and grow 3-4 feet high. Their bloom lasts 3-4 weeks in late spring.

Bourbons
Pink Rosa Bourbon Climbing Plant growing in garden with new blooms. They primary flower is bright pink, with two darker pink blooms that are very new coming in right next to the primary flower.
This type has many different options, including climbers.

Bourbons are vigorous flowering shrubs with large blooms in eye-catching shades of pure white to deep red. Some varieties, like ‘Variegata di Bologna’, have stripes of both! Bourbons have a heavy, delicious fragrance and are very large. Many climbers are found in this group.

Albas
White bloom of Rosa Alba in Garden with green foliage. There are many petals on the fresh bloom, and the foliage is a deep green color.
Alba is a great choice for cooler climates.

A great choice for cold climates, Albas are disease-resistant, tough shrubs. Most can be trained into climbers. They have full, double blooms in shades of pink and creamy white, set off by beautiful blue-tinged foliage. They bloom for a long period once a year.

Centifolias
Centifolia Rosa With Light Pink Blooms in Garden. There is light green foliage around the blossom.
Also known as cabbage roses, centifolias are known for the petal count of their blooms.

Also called “cabbage roses” for their full, rounded bloom shape, centifolias are characterized by their large petal count. They are usually pink or white, with blooms so heavy they nod on their stems. ‘Centifolia’ means “one-hundred petaled rose”. They bloom once per season and have a lovely, sweet scent.

Modern Roses

Modern Roses are the most popular varieties for gardeners today. They range from the showpiece Hybrid Teas to the hardy shrub or landscape roses. These roses bloom in many colors, from red roses to purple, pink, and many in between. Here are some categories you might encounter:

Hybrid Teas
Magenta and Purple hybrid tea rose blooming in garden. The image is a close up of the flower with its petals in full bloom. A single flower is on top of the stem of the plant.
Hybrid teas are a classic florist rose and come in many different colors.

The classic florist rose, with a shapely bloom on a long sturdy stem. Hybrid Teas come in a wide range of colors and vary in fragrance from light to strong and fruity. They grow from 3 to 8 feet tall on an upright shrub and bloom in cycles throughout the season.

Floribundas
Bright Pink Floribunda Rose in the garden with green shrubby foliage. The shrub is compact, with just one bloom showing on the plant.
Floribundas are well known for their compact nature.

Compact and bushy, Floribundas grow to about three feet tall. They bloom with abundant clusters of flowers. They are usually hardy to zone 5, and bloom all season. Floribundas come in a wide variety of different colors.

Grandifloras
Bright Pink Grandiflora Rose up close with many petals and dark green foliage. The rose is the focus of the image, and you can see many bright pink young petals up close.
Grandifloras can grow up to six feet tall and bloom all summer long.

Combining the bloom power of Floribundas with the classic shape of Hybrid Teas gives you the Grandiflora. Flowers can appear in clusters or on single stems. They repeat flower all summer and come in many colors. They grow up to 6 feet tall.

Polyanthas
Pink and compact polyanthas rose shrub blooming in the garden. The flower is the center of the image, and it has many bright pink petals, surrounded by flower buds that have not yet bloomed.
These shrubs are well known for their compact and hardy nature.

Polyanthas are compact, hardy shrubs smothered in clusters or sprays of fluffy little blooms from spring through frost. They grow 2-4 ft. tall. ‘The Fairy’ is a popular variety.

Landscape Roses
Knockout Rose Growing in Garden. The bloom is bright magenta, and there is water droplets on the petals and foliage all around.
There are many types of landscape roses, including Knockout roses.

Landscape roses (or Shrub Roses) are easy care, vigorous bloomers that thrive with little attention. They repeat flower and come in a variety of styles, forms, and sizes. A few popular examples are the Knockout ® and Easy Elegance ® Series.

Groundcover Roses
Groundcover Roses Blooming in Bright Yellow and White Petals in Garden. Each blossom has a bright pink ring around the outer edge of the rose, fading to white on the inner portion of the bloom. Dark green foliage is at the base.
Known for their low-growing attributes, groundcover roses bloom in many different colors.

Groundcover roses are simply a type of very low-growing landscape rose. They grow 1-3 feet tall and have a sprawling habit. Groundcover varieties come in a variety of bloom forms and colors. They are usually cold-hardy and repeat-flowering. Some popular varieties are the Drift ® and Flower Carpet ® Series.

Miniature Roses
A miniature rose With Yellow and Peach Colored Flower Petals in Garden. The flowers are in full bloom, and there is light green foliage at the base of the plant.
Miniature roses don’t grow particularly tall, and bloom in many different colors.

A more compact type of rose that stays under 2 feet, miniature roses are versatile. You can find them in nearly every color and bloom shape. Though tiny, they are hardy and can be planted in the ground with your other roses.

Hybrid Musks
Hybrid Musk Rosa Blooming with White Flowers in Garden. The background is out of focus, with flowers blooming behind the main stem of the shrub in the image. There are about six sheet white blooms coming off the primary stem of the plant.
The hybrid musk offers a unique look as well as being shade tolerant.

Hybrid musks feature delicate-looking blooms of cream, pink, and apricot on tall (up to 6 ft) arching canes. They have glossy, dark green foliage. These roses boast excellent disease resistance and are often shade tolerant.

English Roses
Yellow English Rose Growing in Cottage Garden. There are many petals, all of which are bright yellow, almost the color of the sun. There is dense thick green foliage at the base and surrounding the bloom of the shrub.
English Roses are a popular cottage garden favorite.

Popularized by David Austin, english roses feature deeply fragrant, cupped blooms packed with petals. They come in an array of colors and sizes, including climbers. They are coveted for their enormous flowers, old-fashioned charm and modern ease of maintenance.

Wild Roses

Close-up of a blooming bush of wild rose 'Woodsii' against a background of green foliage. The flowers are solitary, consist of 5 rounded petals of pale pink color surrounding a bright yellow center with golden stamens. The leaves are dark green, alternate, pinnate with serrated edges.
Wild roses mostly have single open flowers and are easy to care for.

Also known as species roses, wild roses are a category of over 100 naturally-occurring plants native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Most are pink and all have 5 petaled, single open blooms.

They can be found growing with no intervention in a variety of wild habitats, but are also used in landscaping. They are gaining popularity in gardens for their ease of care and value to wildlife. Some Wild roses you might find are:

‘Woodsii’: This is a hardy western US rose with red stems growing up to 5 ft. tall, with pretty pink blooms.

‘Carolina’: This is an eastern American native growing 1-3 ft high, with delicate bright pink blooms opening to yellow centers.

‘Canina’: Often called the “Dog Rose”, this European native can grow up to 15 ft. tall and has gorgeous pale pink to white blooms. It produces an abundance of decorative bright red hips in fall.

Planting

Close-up of a man transplanting a rose bush into soil in a sunny garden. The gardener is dressed in yellow gloves, blue jeans, a red plaid shirt and high rubber boots. The gardener takes a rose bush out of a plastic black container. The rose bush has bright green foliage and blooming pink double flowers. Garden tools such as a garden shovel, rake and spatula lie on the soil.
The ideal time to plant roses is early spring or autumn when the temperature ranges between 40-60℉.

While roses can be grown from the seed harvested from hips, success is variable and takes lots of time and patience. Most roses sold on the market today are hybridized or grafted, thus their seedlings won’t produce the same bloom as the parent plant.

Most gardeners want to know the rose they’re going to get, so we’ll focus on planting container-planted or bare root roses from nurseries.

Roses are woody perennial plants, meaning they will flower, enter dormancy, and continue growth the following year. When planting, know these 6 key plant parts:

Understanding Six Key Rose Parts

Root Ball
This is the mass of roots directly below the rose’s stem that collects and stores nutrients from the soil.
Bud Union
The spot below where the canes flare out from the base of the stem. Grafted roses: at the base where grafting occurred.
Canes
These are the branches growing from the base that will develop the leaflets and buds of the rose.
Leaflets
Roses have compound leaves that grow from their canes. Most come in sets of 3 or 5. They are crucial for photosynthesis.
Bud Eyes
This small fleshy nub on the canes where new growth emerges. Bud eyes appear where leaflets attach to the stems.

The best time to plant roses varies according to your zone. To find yours, consult the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. The ideal temperature for planting ranges from 40-60℉.

Roses are best planted in early spring or fall. In spring, plant when all danger of frost has passed. In fall, allow 6-8 weeks before your first frost so they can get established before they enter winter dormancy.

The first step in successful planting is picking the best planting site. You want a spot that will get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

For varieties that are specifically listed as shade tolerant, 4 hours is okay. Pick a location that is free from root competition from trees and at least 3-4 feet away from other large plants.

If you live in a warmer zone or have very hot summers, morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal to prevent scorched leaves and blooms.

When purchasing, you have 2 main options: bare root or container-grown. Both have their advantages. Container-grown plants are easier for beginners as they need no extra preparation before planting.

Bare root roses are easier to ship and are often more mature (if ordered online rather than from a local nursery). They will arrive completely dormant, and look like a bundle of bare canes and roots. Don’t worry, they’ll leaf out in no time.

If you order a bare-root rose, give it a good soak by placing the roots in a bucket of water for 24 hours before planting.

Prepare your hole

Close-up of a gardener's hand in a black and orange glove planting a rose bush into a deep hole in the garden. Rose seedling has thin long roots, strong green stems with thorns and several oval green leaves.
It is necessary to dig a deep hole with many cracks and tunnels to provide enough space for their roots to develop.

Dig a hole 6-8 inches deeper and as wide as the container your plant came in (For bare roots, 6-8 inches beyond the root depth). A key motto to remember is to dig an ugly hole. But Why?

You want an irregularly shaped hole with lots of fissures and tunnels for your rose’s roots to expand into, rather than a nice, clean circle where the roots have to work harder to move outward to reach nutrients.

Bury the bud union

Close-up of a female gardener's hands holding a protruding seedling of a blooming red rose from a black plastic container. The black container has many drainage holes. The rose seedling has lush green odd-pinnate foliage consisting of oval leaves with serrated edges and a blooming red double bud. The gardener is dressed in white trousers and a colored striped apron.
Carefully remove the plant from the container, loosen the outer roots, and place it in the prepared hole.

Turn your container upside-down, and gently slide the rose out. Massage the outer roots a bit to loosen them up a bit from the soil. Place the plant into your prepared hole, with roots facing down, and canes upright.

 It’s important to bury the bud-union in the soil, so make sure your rose is set deep enough to cover the knuckle-like growth at the base. This will prevent wind-rock which can destabilize the plant. It will also prevent sucker canes from rootstock of grafted roses, and die-back from freezing temps.

Next, prepare your soil. If you have poor soil, add a product containing mycorrhizae (fungus) to aid root growth and absorption of nutrients. Do not add any products or fertilizers to bare-root roses, as they can burn the roots.

Next, backfill the hole with a 50-50 mix of organic compost and soil, thoroughly covering the roots past the bud union. Gently tamp down the soil, then start watering to give it a good start.

Last, add 3-4 inches of mulch around the base of the plant to conserve moisture and stabilize soil temperatures. Straw and cedar mulch are great choices.

How to Grow

Roses are not difficult to grow. In the past, they were mainly bred by florist and exhibition breeders who needed perfection, earning them a difficult reputation. Garden roses are the same as the rest of the perennial plants in your yard, and need no more care than they do!  Let’s look at the key components you’ll need to plan for.

Light

Close-up of a blooming rose bush in full sun in a garden. The flowers are large, double, consist of pink petals densely placed in several layers, completely covering the center of the flower. Against a blurred background, there are green oval leaves with jagged edges.
Most varieties will need 8 hours of direct sunlight to thrive.

As mentioned, roses need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal health and bloom production. Some varieties can tolerate shadier conditions.

If so, this will be marked on their nursery tag or the information provided on the website when ordering. Even shade-tolerant varieties need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight.

Water

Woman gardener watering blooming roses from a blue watering can in a sunny garden. The woman is wearing a striped white shirt and a beige apron. Gorgeous rose bushes bloom with large double bright red and soft pink flowers surrounded by dark green leaves.
Roses need abundant watering once or twice a week.

As a rule, it is best to water deeply, once or twice per week. Aim for 2-3 gallons per watering session, making sure to water at the base of the plant. Overhead watering can lead to wet foliage, inviting disease like black spot and powdery mildew.

Many growers with large gardens prefer to set up a drip irrigation system. It is just as effective to give them a good soak by leaving your hose to trickle at the base for 15-20 minutes twice a week.

Newly planted roses need more water than established plants, so plan on increasing their watering to 3-4 times a week.

Check your soil from time to time to make sure that it isn’t overly wet and adjust accordingly. Roses like to dry out between watering sessions.

Soil

Close-up of gardener's hands in yellow gloves raking the soil with a garden shovel in front of a blooming rose bush in a gray plastic container, ready to be transplanted into the ground. The gardener is dressed in blue jeans, rubber high boots and a plaid shirt. The rose bush blooms with small pink double flowers surrounded by bright green foliage.
Roses prefer to grow in well-drained and loamy soil.

Healthy soil leads to healthy plants, roses included. Ideal soil conditions are well-drained and loamy, but they can adapt well to most soil types, including sand and heavy clay.

To provide the best growing environment, soil will be slightly acidic and have a pH between 6 and 7. If you’re not sure about your soil, don’t worry. You can order simple tests online or buy them at your local garden center. The results will tell you the best course of action to increase or tone down acidity.

If that sounds like too much hassle, just work in a rich compost around the soil at the base of the plant. Organic mushroom composts or aged cow manure are always a good bet.

Fertilizer

Close-up of a gardener's hand holding granular fertilizer in front of a freshly planted cut rose bush. Granular fertilizers are round, brown, white and orange in color. The rose bush consists of 5 thick green stems at the base of which lies a granular fertilizer.
It is recommended to apply a granular fertilizer in the spring to provide your roses with nutrients before waking up.

To promote healthy new growth and lots of blooms, fertilize your roses three times a year: when they leaf-out in early spring, after their first flush of blooms, and in midsummer.

Do not fertilize newly planted roses as this can burn their delicate, baby roots. Begin after they’ve completed their first season. Stop fertilizing 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date to avoid stimulating new growth that will die in the cold.

For spring fertilization, choose an organic, slow-release granular fertilizer that will provide nutrients throughout the season.

Granular fertilizer application is simple. Following the measurement instructions on the packaging, sprinkle it onto the top of the soil around your rose, working it in a bit. Water it in, and you’re done!

After the first bloom, you can use the same spring fertilizer, or opt for a Seaweed or Alfalfa-based fertilizer to keep your roses going strong. These come in liquid or granular form. Foliar (sprayed directly on the leaves) application of seaweed fertilizer promotes new growth and may make roses more resistant to disease.

In midsummer, apply another dose of either fertilizer to give your roses energy for their final fall flush.

Pruning

Close-up of a gardener's hands in blue gloves pruning a rose bush with red secateurs in a spring garden. The rose bush has thick purple-brown branches with light green stems and alternate, pinnate leaves, consisting of several oval leaflets.
It is recommended to prune a rose bush in early spring, cutting off all dead, dying or diseased parts of the plant.

The majority of rose pruning is best done in early spring when they are just beginning to wake up and the bud eyes (nubs where new growth begins) begin to swell. Many gardeners use the first bloom of the bright yellow forsythia bush to tell them the ideal time to prune. If you don’t have forsythia around, wait until your last hard frost has passed. 

Look closely at the plant, and remember the three Ds. Remove anything dead, dying, or diseased. Using sharp, bypass pruners, cut out black, dead canes that didn’t make it through the winter. If canes are partially dead, cut them back to where you see healthy, green growth.

Next, assess the overall shape of the plant. You want to encourage a vase-formation, with an open center surrounded by healthy outer canes. This encourages airflow and reduces foliar diseases. To open up the center, cut back any thin (smaller than a pencil) canes, or canes that cross and rub others.

When cutting back, always try to cut just above an outward facing bud-eye (a swelling on the cane that faces the outside of your plant). This will help train your new canes to grow outward rather than into the center.

If your rose experienced a lot of winter damage or you want to control its size, consider a hard prune. This means cutting back the entire plant by ⅓ (or even down to 5-6 inches from the ground if necessary). It will soon flush out and look healthy again.

Last, clean up! Remove all debris from the area after pruning to prevent any diseases from hanging out in your soil.

In the fall, give them another light prune to get them in good shape and prevent overwintering of any diseases before they go dormant for the winter.

Propagation

Close-up of green rose cuttings planted in soil for rooting. Two more cuttings lie on the ground, ready for planting. The cuttings are of medium length, bright green, covered with reddish-green thorns and have two oval leaves with serrated edges. The garden area is lit by sunlight.
To propagate your rose, you need to select a healthy green cane, cut it with clean pruning shears, and place it in the soil.

Rose propagation is mainly done via cuttings. It’s a fun adventure with variable success, and is best undertaken by gardeners looking for a challenge!

You can take a cutting from your rose at any time. Some gardeners prefer to use tender growth after the first spring bloom, and others semi-hardwood from their plants in late summer to autumn. You can achieve success both ways, but I will explain the semi-hardwood method here. 

First, pick a healthy, strong green cane that has recently bloomed.  Travel down from the top of the cane to where it begins to firm and become less flexible. This is the section you want. With sharp bypass pruners, cut a 6-8 inch section of cane right below a leaf node (where leaves attach to the cane).

Prepare your soil mix and pot. Pick a small, 3-4” pot and fill it with potting soil. Saturate the soil thoroughly with water.

Next, you want to create wounds in the cutting for new roots to sprout. Remove the lower leaves (leave a few at the top for photosynthesis and nutrient absorption). Snap off a few inches of thorns. Use your fingers, and the thorns come off easily and cleanly.

Dip the lower portion of the cutting (where you’ve snipped off the thorns to create wounds) into rooting hormone powder. Place your coated cutting into the prepared soil mix, burying it nearly halfway down, leaving the top leaves exposed.

Last, create a mini-greenhouse for your cutting. Cut off the bottom of a large, plastic soda bottle. Leave the cap off for ventilation. With the cut side down, place the bottle over the top of your cutting’s container. This will trap humidity and warmth, helping your cutting to grow its roots.

Keep the cutting out of direct sunlight and between 55-75℉. After 6-8 weeks, check for roots! You can move it to a slightly larger pot if you see lots of roots and new growth.

Harvesting

Close-up of female hands in white gloves cutting gorgeous pink roses with red secateurs in the garden. On her other hand is a wicker basket with already cut roses. Double flowers have pale pink rounded petals arranged in several rows surrounding golden yellow stamens in the center. In the background, a blooming climbing rose grows on a brown iron grid.
Harvest on a cool morning, using a sharp pruner.

Roses aren’t just for beautifying our gardens. Bring them inside to decorate and perfume your home!

To cut the freshest roses for indoor enjoyment, follow these tips:

Bring a bucket or jar of water outside with you to keep your newly cut stems fresh. For the longest vase-life, harvest on a cool morning and choose buds that are just beginning to open.

Find a five-leaflet set near your desired length, and cut just above it with sharp bypass pruning shears. Place it directly into your bucket of water.

Once inside, fill your desired vase with cold water. Remove any foliage that will sit below water level (causing potential bacterial growth), and place your roses inside the vase. Change the water every couple of days or whenever it becomes cloudy.

Display them away from heat and out of bright sunlight, and enjoy! They will usually last around 10 days depending on conditions, but you can extend their vase-life by snipping off their ends every time you change their water and using a floral preservative.

To increase overall bloom production, deadhead (remove spent blooms) throughout the growing season.

Popular Varieties

There are thousands of cultivars available to choose from. If you’re not sure where to start, check out these tried and true award-winning favorites for a great start:

Rosa ‘Lady of Shalott’

Close-up of 4 blooming flowers of the 'Lady of Shalott' rose against a blurred light brown background. The flowers are large, double, peony-shaped, composed of many layers of bright orange rounded petals, tightly covering the center of the flower.
‘Lady of Shalott’ is a gorgeous shrub that produces bright orange flowers with a slightly spicy aroma.

This sunset-colored beauty can be trained as a shrub or a climber to fit your garden. It is a David Austin rose, famous for old-fashioned blooms with high petal count and modern ease of maintenance. ‘Lady of Shalott’ has a gorgeous, light spice fragrance and is a continuous bloomer.

Rosa ‘Bolero’

Close-up of blooming 'Bolero' rose flowers in a sunny garden. The buds are large, creamy white, double, slightly ruffled. The petals are tightly placed in a circle creating a pom pom.
‘Bolero’ blooms with delightful delicate creamy white flowers with an incredible tropical fruit aroma.

‘Bolero’ is a creamy white, intensely fragrant Floribunda (cluster flowering) rose. It grows 3-4 ft. tall and is very disease-resistant. Bring this inside and enjoy its scent of tropical fruits.

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

Close-up of a blooming 'Charles de Mills' rose flower surrounded by purple rosebuds and bright green foliage. The bud is large, double, consists of many densely planted, ruffled petals completely covering the center of the flower. The leaves are pinnate, bright green, oval.
‘Charles de Mills’ produces huge lilac, purple and red ruffled flowers.

This ancient Gallica rose is the height of romance. It comes in a range of lilac, violets, and reds, with enormous ruffled flowers. ‘Charles de Mills’ blooms from 3-6 weeks in spring or early summer and will fill your garden with a deep, classic rose scent.

Rosa ‘Bonica’

Close-up of a blooming 'Bonica' rose bush in a sunny garden. The flowers are medium in size, double, cup-shaped, consist of pale pink, rounded, wavy petals, which are slightly darkened in the center. The edges of the petals are slightly curved outwards.
‘Bonica’ is a magnificent shrub with fragrant, lush pink flowers.

This vigorous shrub is covered in sprays of lightly-scented blooms in classic pink. It flowers from spring through frost. ‘Bonica’ is low maintenance and perfect for hedges.

Pests & Diseases

Roses are resilient and easy to grow, but they can be susceptible to a few pests and diseases. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common problems that you might encounter when growing the queen of flowers and how to respond to them. 

Aphids

Close-up of a red young shoot of roses with aphids on a green blurred background. Aphids are small green insects with a soft body and thin legs and proboscis. Red oval leaves with serrated edges grow on young stems.
The aphid prefers to suck the juice from the young shoots of the plant.

Aphids are usually the first pest you see appear in spring. These small, green soft-bodied insects love to suck the juices of the tender new growth of roses.

Don’t panic if you see them. Usually, infestations will be taken care of by beneficial predators (lacewings, birds, ladybugs)  in a week or two if you resist chemical intervention. You can also spray them off with the hose. Gardeners who don’t mind a little yuck factor often advise just squishing them with your fingers.

Spider Mites

Close-up of three rose leaves infested with spider mites illuminated by sunlight. The leaves are oval with jagged edges, green and yellow. Between the leaves is a thin cobweb with tiny light brown insects - mites.
The best way to get rid of spider mites is to knock them out with a strong jet of water.

Spider mites are tiny and difficult to spot. You might have spider mites if the leaves have turned dull and brown, and have sticky, white webs on their undersides. Similar to aphids, knock spider mites off with a strong spray from your hose.

Japanese Beetles

Close-up of two large Japanese beetles on a small red rose bud against a blurred green background. Beetles have a rounded body with copper-green shells. The rose bud is not open, consists of densely placed bright red petals.
You can get rid of Japanese beetles manually by placing them in a jar of soapy water.

These colorful copper and green scarab beetles are from Japan, but are now invasive in the US. They grow as grubs in the soil, and feast on rose blooms (and other plants). 

Chemical sprays have been found ineffective in controlling them, so the best course of action is physical removal. This is less daunting if you start at the first sign of them in spring. Get a jar of soapy water and some tweezers.

Go out first thing in the morning early in the season and pluck those suckers off your roses, plunging them into the soapy water. Dispose of the carnage. Repeat as necessary until the population subsides.

Thrips

Close-up of white rosebuds and small thrips. Rose petals are rounded with wavy edges, some have brown spots. Thrips are tiny winged black insects.
Thrips are tiny winged insects that deform the buds and leaves of a plant.

If you experience browning or deformed buds that never open, you might have thrips. These tiny winged insects also cause brown, distorted leaves.

The best way to approach thrips is to prune back any visible infestations, and wait for their predators to arrive. The thrip population will decline on its own. You can also spray your roses with organic Neem oil in the evening, but be aware that it also harms beneficial bugs.  

Sawflies

Close-up of 4 Sawfly larvae eating rose leaves against a blurred background of a blooming rose bud and green foliage. The larvae look like long green caterpillars covered with black dots all over the body. Two damaged oval rose leaves with serrated edges.
The larvae of this predator feed on the leaves of the plant, leaving behind yellow-brown spots and holes.

Sawfly larvae, also called “Rose Slugs”, like to dine on their leaves, leaving behind yellow leaves and holes. They look like little green caterpillars and are fairly easy to spot. You’ll notice their damage by the tannish blotches and holes on the leaves, which soon look like skeletons of their original selves.

Again, less is more when treating for sawflies. You can pick them off like the Japanese Beetle (don’t forget the undersides of the leaves!), or spray them with the hose. Or you can take a step back and wait for their natural predators to snack on them for you.

Black Spot

Close-up of rose leaves affected by the fungal black spot disease. The leaves are oval, with serrated edges, dark green in color with irregular purple-black spots all over. The leaves are attached to a common petiole. The background is blurry.
This fungal disease affects the leaves and shoots, covering them with rusty purple-brown spots.

Black Spot is a common fungal disease that affects the leaves and canes of the plant. Symptoms include irregular shaped, brown and black spotted leaves, often surrounded by yellow halos. Canes often have rusty purplish-brown splotches. Black spot can weaken your rose, but it isn’t serious.

To treat, remove all diseased plant material and dispose of it. This fungus is spread by spores that thrive in wet environments, so make sure your roses have adequate airflow and dry out thoroughly between waterings. Clean up carefully so that spores don’t overwinter in the soil and reinfect your plants.

Powdery Mildew

Close-up of leaves of a rose bush affected by powdery mildew against a blurred background of green and brown leaves in a garden. Dark green leaves, alternate, pinnate, composed of several oval leaflets with serrated edges attached to a common petiole. The leaves are covered with a white powdery coating and a few black-brown spots.
Powdery mildew usually appears on hot days alternating with cool nights with high humidity.

This fungal disease looks like a white, powdery coating on your plant. The leaves sometimes curl up. It loves hot days and cool nights, worsening in humid conditions.

Prevention is the key here. Water at the base rather than overhead to avoid wetting the foliage. Water in the mornings so roses can dry out thoroughly during the day. Make sure your roses get adequate sun.

If you’ve already been struck by Powdery Mildew, remove all badly infected parts of the plant. Then try this homemade solution: mix one tablespoon of baking soda in one gallon water.

Spray roses thoroughly, and repeat once a week as needed. Milk spray can also be helpful. Use 1 part milk to 9 parts water. Spray and repeat as needed (also a preventative).

Rose Rosette Disease

Close-up of a branch of a blooming pink rose affected by rosette disease. The stem is thick dark green with many new red stems covered with many small and thin spines. The leaves are purple-green, oval with serrated edges. The bud is dense, cup-shaped, terry, has pale pink rounded petals with wavy edges. The rose grows in a large beige ceramic pot.
This disease is spread by a tiny tick and is a red new growth with excess spines.

Also called Witches’ Broom, Rose Rosette Disease is a virus spread by a tiny mite. It looks like strangely vigorous, bushy red new growth with excess thorns. Rose Rosette will kill your rose and has no effective treatments at this time.

If you confirm the presence of Rose Rosette, remove the entire plant and some of the soil surrounding it, bag it, and dispose of it. Do not plant another rose at the same site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are roses toxic to pets?

No, roses are not toxic to people or pets. In fact, the petals are edible as long as they’re not sprayed with pesticides. Watch out for the thorns, though!

Which roses are most fragrant?

Some of the most fragrant varieties are David Austin and Old Garden roses. However, you can find highly-scented blooms in nearly all categories. Search for high fragrance ratings on nursery tags or website information when buying.

Which roses produce hips?

Nearly all non self-cleaning roses (not requiring deadheading) produce hips, but the most ornamental are produced on wild roses, shrub roses, Old Garden roses, and ramblers.

When do roses bloom?

Most modern roses bloom in flushes from spring through frost. Some varieties only bloom once in late spring to late summer, in a spectacular show lasting 3-6 weeks.

Final Thoughts

No other plant can supply your garden with elegance, history, perfume and beauty quite like the rose. Whether you choose a cheerful miniature for your patio or a showstopping climber to awe your neighbors, you won’t regret adding roses to your repertoire.

Their allure is unparalleled, but they are plants like any other. Use your common sense and these gardening tips, and you’ll soon have the roses of your dreams.  

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