Summer tips!

July, August and the first couple weeks of September can be trying months for the rosarian in parts of the country where there can be high heat.   It is easy for plants to become stressed and extra care needs to be given now to ensure not only the viability of the rose bush but those awesome fall blooms to come.  Small blooms are common in the summer as the heat causes the bloom to develop very quickly limiting petal count and size.  This is normal.

Watering-the-roses1.  Water, water water.   If your roses are in raised beds, it is impossible to water them too much.   At a minimum, in hot summer days I would water every third day and give them a deep soaking.   If your plants are in pots, you will need to water daily and in some cases, more than once a day depending on pot and plant size.   Be sure to have a saucer under the pot during hot summer months.  This will act as a water reservoir for the pot to absorb as the plant takes up the moisture in the soil.  If you have plants that continually need watering, consider adding some water crystals to your mix.  These will greatly improve the amount of water that can be captured in the soil.

I used the photo above to make a point……… despite what you may have been told, overhead watering is okay if you have a good preventative spray program.   In fact, in very hot areas, this will give the roses a “cool down” they can really use.  The downside…… it’s a bit hard on blooms.  🙂

2.  Don’t let up on your preventative spray program.  Contrary to some old “spray stories” going around, it is not unsafe to spray your roses at temperatures over 80 degrees.  This might have been true when many pesticides were oil based.  However, most modern pesticides are water based and they WILL NOT harm your roses when sprayed at higher temperatures AS LONG AS YOUR ROSES ARE WELL HYDRATED BEFORE YOU SPRAY.   So it goes back to “water”.   Be sure and give your roses a deep watering the day before you spray.   Now I’m not saying I think you should spray when it’s 105 degrees outside.  While it may not hurt the roses it can hurt the rosarian by overheating.   Use common sense.   A few other spray tips:  Don’t spray when there is dew on the roses.  This will only dilute the chemical concentration and therefore make the whole application worthless.  Don’t spray so late in the evening that the spray does not dry before dusk.   Long contact times of the liquid pesticide can cause burning.

3.  Continue to feed your roses.  I prefer liquid feeding so I use a water soluble fertilizer like Mills Easyfeed.  One tablespoon in one gallon of water per bush every three to four weeks will greatly reward you.  Again, make sure your roses are well hydrated BEFORE you feed.

HB2 new

HB-2 ph meter from Kelway. Industry standard.

4.  Check the pH of your soil.  Now would be a good time to invest in a accurate and reliable pH meter.   In most cases this is a one-time investment that will pay big rewards.  The pH of your soil should be between 6.0 and 6.5 for your roses to thrive.  Lower or higher pH values won’t allow the rose to use the nutrients in the fertilizers you give them.  I will talk about how to lower and raise pH in another blog.

5.  Last but not least, consider removing the salt buildup in your rose beds.   Years of chemical fertilizers leave sodium and other salts in your soil.   Over time these have a negative effect and this may be the reason the rose bed that looked so good two or three years ago doesn’t look as good this year.  There is a product called “Clearex” that works miracles on the salt buildup issue.   I strongly recommend you do a search on the Rosemania product pages for Clearex and read more about this product.   It can be the difference in having to replace your soil or not.

Blackspot or Downy Mildew?



I get emails from many rose growers in spring and fall who think they have blackspot.   Many of them have been treating for this disease and don’t understand why the fungicides they are using are not working.    In most cases I find they have misdiagnosed their problem and what they actually have is downy mildew.

I will talk about how to control both diseases in future blogs, but for today let’s focus on what they look like.


Advanced stages of blackspot

Blackspot (Diplocarpon rosae) starts as a small black spot/spots on otherwise green healthy leaves.   As the disease progresses, the leaves get more spots and the green tissue begins to be replaced with yellow.  Usually within two weeks of infection the leaves will begin to fall and the entire plant may be defoliated.  Left untreated the plant will try to put forth new growth, only to also become infected and again defoliated.


I find downy mildew is misdiagnosed for two primary reasons:


Downy mildew on young growth.

1.  People associate the term “mildew” with something that should look like either powdery mildew or the black mildew on some very wet item or place.

2.  Because the lesions look similar in some cases to blackspot, the grower assumes that’s what it is.


Downy mildew

Downy mildew (Peronospora destructor) is most prevalent in cool wet weather (spring and fall).   The spores normally produce  at night.  The disease usually starts as purple lesions on new growth.  This can sometimes even look like early stages of powdery mildew before the “powder” has formed.   Once the disease progresses, the leaves will continue to mature with dark purple (not black) lesions and sometimes even dead brown tissue surrounding the lesions.   In advanced stages the canes themselves will take on these purple lesions and at this point the plant is highly infected.  Left untreated downy mildew can destroy your entire rose garden.

Downy Mildew3

Advanced downy mildew.

We will talk about prevention and eradication in my next blog.

For now, know what to look for!

Controlling Spider Mites


The Spider Mite

The spider mite is truly a relative of the spider and therefore not classified as an insect.  They are most prevalent in your garden during hot, dry weather.  In greenhouses, however, the spider mite can be a continuous pest.

It is important to recognize the early warning signs of spider mites before they get out of control.  On roses and other woody ornamentals, the first signs will be a lightening or purplish yellow color change to the upper side of the leaves.  This can even be misdiagnosed as downy mildew damage, but a quick look at the underside of the leaf will make all the difference.  Spider mites also attack many annuals and perennials.


Crystalline structures note the presence of mites

These mites are so tiny that it may be hard for you to see them without magnification.  But if you have good eyesight or good bifocals you will see them on the underside of the leaves.   It’s here that they puncture the plant cells and suck the moisture from them.  It’s likely you may also see tiny crystalline structures as well as some webbing in extreme cases.  They are very active creatures and can quickly defoliate a plant.  At the least, these can setback outdoor plants by six weeks.  In greenhouse plants, whole crops can be lost.


Spider mite webbing

Spider mite eggs can hatch in as little as 3 days, and new mites can begin reproducing in only 5 days. One female can lay up to 20 eggs per day and can live for up to 4 weeks.   Think about that.  She is laying hundreds of eggs meaning one female mite could start a population of a million mites in a month or less!   This incredible rate of reproduction is one reason mite populations quickly build resistance to pesticides, so chemical control methods can become somewhat ineffectual when the same miticide is used over a prolonged period.


Visible mite damage on rose leaves.

Since insecticides will not kill mites, let’s discuss how to rid your plants of this pest.  If you only have a few outdoor bushes, you may want to remove the mites mechanically with a water blaster.  Most water wands have a removable nozzle that you can replace with a blasting nozzle.  Set the nozzle to a wide pattern but don’t be too conservative.  You will need a good deal of pressure.  Simply point the nozzle upward and blast those mites off the underside of the bush.  In most cases the mites will find an easier target.


Mites on leaf underside.

If the mechanical method is not for you, or if you are growing in a greenhouse, you will need to use a miticide.  Miticides have come a long way over the past 15 years and thank goodness there are many to choose from currently.  We already discussed how rapid reproduction leads to pesticide resistance.   (This is very important to acknowledge.)  Almost every miticide label clearly states you should not use the product more than three times a year.  For that reason, greenhouse growers and gardeners with many plants will need to rotate two or more miticides in their spray program.

When choosing a miticide, be sure to read the label for products that are approved for your particular crop or cultivar.  Some miticides only kill adult mites and this means you would need to spray them twice (initial spray and then three days later) to kill both existing adults and newly hatched mites from eggs.   Most modern miticides have incorporated what is called an “ovicide” into their formulations.  This means they will kill all stages of mites, including the eggs.  These are preferable and most of these newer products continue to work for up to 21 days!  Examples are Floramite, Forbid and Shuttle but there are others that are as good or better.  There are even a few miticides that are “Translaminar”.  This means that the miticide, while sprayed on the top of the leaves, will penetrate through the leaf tissue and to the underside of the leaves.  This can be a big help where it is hard to reach the underside of leaves.  In almost every case I recommend the use of a good spreader-sticker (surfactant) with your miticide application.

mite cycle

Mite life cycle

Let’s discuss how your plants get mites in the first place.  For outside gardens they are simply part of the environment and in hot dry climates you will almost always deal with mites.  It’s important to remember that there are many natural predators of spider mites and if you do your best to encourage these (ladybugs, praying mantis, green lacewings etc.) you may be able to eliminate the need for expensive miticides.   One way to encourage the good insects is to simply refrain from spraying insecticides.   Most insecticides are not selective and kill all insects, even the ones we want in our garden so use these sparingly.  If you are growing in a greenhouse environment, you will most likely deal with mites on a continuous basis and a good miticide rotation will be a must!

Finally, be sure to put newly purchased plants or cuttings in quarantine to be observed at least one week for disease, insect, and mite problems.  I get many calls each week from growers who discover their favorite miticide no longer works.  What I usually find is they have brought new plants or cuttings into their garden or greenhouse without quarantine.   The strain of spider mite on the newly purchased plants were already immune to some miticides due to the previous growers’ spray program.   Now the new grower has inherited a generation of mites that is resistant to their miticide of choice.

Aphids and Roses Don’t Mix!

aphids3There are many insects that will visit your garden.   Because some are actually beneficial, I don’t recommend spraying insecticide unless you have an insect problem.  The trouble with insecticides is that most of them don’t kill selectively, so keep that in mind and learn what to look for.

The first critter you are likely to stumble upon is the common aphid.  These typically appear in the early spring and late fall when temperatures are cool.  Aphids feed themselves through sucking mouthparts called stylets.  Don’t be fooled by their small size as they can do major damage to your young growth by literally sucking the moisture right out of your plant.  The good news is that normally, they are easily controlled with insecticidal soaps or neem oil.   If that doesn’t do the job, you may have to resort to chemical insecticides like Orthene or Merit.

Again, the thing to remember is this:  Spray for insects that are damaging your roses, HOWEVER, keep in mind that most chemical insecticides will also kill the good/predator insects like ladybugs and praying mantis.   If you eliminate these from your garden by preventively spraying insecticides, you will end up with spider mites come summer.  (A future blog.)

lady bug master

Ladybugs are a friend to the Rosarian!

Roses are beautiful, but there is a “Dark Side”……. Spraying.

No matter how hard you have worked to buy only “disease resistant “ roses, you probably have noticed that almost all roses require some sort of spray program to keep fungus and insects under control.


The number one thing you need to remember when spraying  is this:  Don’t spray anything, not even so called “natural” products, without wearing proper safety equipment.  You don’t have to fear chemical or natural pesticides, you just need to respect them.

Here is how I like to explain it  ….  Imagine spraying orange juice.   Orange juice is good for you to drink.  However, would you want to breath it into your lungs, or get it into your eyes?  Of course not!   If you are not willing to wear protection, then please don’t spray, period.

fullfaceHere are some questions I get all the time:

Question:  Do I really need a respirator?  It makes me look like Darth Vader.   I use one of those paper masks.

Answer:  Yes, you need to wear a pesticide respirator.  A paper dust mask or a bandana will only block out the large droplets, not the vapors.  If you can smell it, you are breathing it!

Question:  I wear glasses.  Do I really need goggles?

Answer:  Glasses without side shields do not protect your eyes from spray droplets and vapor.   Either wear goggles over your glasses or get some safety glasses with side shields (at a minimum).

tyvekQuestion:  I wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and nitril gloves.  Does this protect me?

Answer:  Yes, this works fine, but a better solution is to use an outer garment like a Tyvek coverall.  That way you get to wear something cooler under the coverall, and most importantly, you don’t have to wash the coverall in your washing machine (like you would the long pants and long sleeve shirt).  You just reuse it 6 – 10 times and then dispose and get a new one.

Question:  What about spraying in greenhouses?

Answer:  Spraying in a greenhouse gives the grower no way to escape the spray.  You should use extreme care while spraying in an enclosed environment and wear all the recommend PPE (personal protective equipment).

NitrilGlovesspoonOne other very important thing to ponder:  If you live in a neighborhood, take your neighbors into consideration.   If your neighbor cooks steaks on the grill at 5:00 pm every Saturday night, then that is NOT a good time to spray.   I write this with a smile since this should be obvious, but after many years of talking to people all over the country, I’ve realized sadly, it isn’t obvious to everyone.  Bottom line:  pick a time that no people or pets will be affected.  Most sprays will be dry to the touch in 30 minutes or less.

Planting bare root roses.

raised bed blog

I planted roses today in a new bed  just outside our fenced backyard.   I live on six acres in a farm and ranch area.   I actually built the bed last year too late to plant bare root roses,  so the bed was planted in mass with marigolds.   Wow, it was beautiful.  We used just over 120 plants to fill the bed.

This year I removed the ends of the bed and brought my granddad’s old tiller out of the barn and gave it a good tilling.  The soil was full of dark matter and earthworms.   That got me excited I can tell you.

I know most of you in suburban areas wouldn’t want to use cross ties for your raised beds.  However, these work great on a large property in beds planted out of the “proper yard area”.    For nicer areas, Home Depot and Lowes have all kinds of keystone and other landscaping materials for raised beds.



unprunned bare root blogpruned bare root blog


While many of the bare roots you will receive will have canes up to 16 inches long, I almost always cut these back to no longer than 8 inches.   It’s true that you will have more growth immediately if you leave the canes longer.  However, I’m more interested in growing roots first, roses later.   Therefore, I prune mine back much shorter.  I also remove any small canes and anything that is damaged or dead.







cone blog



Prepare planting holes approximately 14″-20″ wide and 12″-18″ inches deep (or the depth of your improved soil if less than 18 inches). Once you have prepared the hole, place some of the soil mixture back into the planting hole forming a cone shaped mound which should approximate the conical shape of the rose roots.    At this point I like to add my mycorrhizae (another blog to come at a later date.).

rose on cone blog



Gently move the soil you removed around the roots of the rose and give the soil a gentle (not hard) press.   Next you will want to water the rose with a gentle flow of water to not only hydrate the new bush but to also make sure there are no air pockets in the new soil around the roots of the plant.

mulch plant blog

Finally, cover the canes for a week with damp mulch to keep the canes from drying out before new feeder roots develop.











Tip:   Sometimes bare root roses will start to push out new growth during shipment.  This is normal, especially in the months of March and April.   If you cover this new growth with mulch it will usually tend to burn and die

tender growth blog

once the mulch is removed.  When I have plants that are already pushing out, I use a brown paper bag from the grocery store.   Simply cut a circle the size of a silver dollar in the center of the bottom of the bag.   Cut slits up the side of the bag about six inches long to be used as anchors.   Turn the bag upside down over the rose and then anchor the bag with soil.   The bag will keep moisture in.  The hole in the top will allow air circulation and just enough light to harden off the tender growth.  You can normally remove the bag after one week.

cut bag blogbagged blog

Final thought:   Even if the new premature growth dies, the rose will push out another cane where this one originally formed.  Just be sure to take a good pair of sharp pruners and “clip” the dead growth off at the cane.  Do not twist it off as that could damage other immature bud eyes just beneath the surface of the cane.

The Basics of Rose Growing 101

Coretta_Scott_King_small1.  Roses Require a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight per day.

More is better, but if you have at least five hours of direct sunlight, you have passed the first challenge.  If you have a rose bush that is not getting enough sun, the spring is an excellent time to transplant it in a better location.  (A good blog topic for the future.)

2.   Roses need a balanced soil with good drainage.

If possible, a raised bed is highly recommended for roses. There are a number of building materials that are cost effective and attractive. The rationale for a raised bed goes back to the basics listed above.

While roses require a good deal of water, their roots won’t tolerate standing water.  It is very important that your planting area have good drainage. A raised bed will virtually guarantee this while allowing easy control of the soil you use. If it is not possible to have a raised bed, then give the proposed planting area the following test:  Dig a hole approximately 18″ wide by 18″ deep. Fill the hole with water from your garden hose. If the water has all drained from the hole in 30 minutes, you have sufficient drainage to plant roses.

The soil you use should be balanced. A good rule-of-thumb has always been to use 1/3 sand, 1/3 topsoil and 1/3 organic matter like humus or peat moss. This should be well mixed. For bigger projects, a tiller is recommended. For small projects a wheel barrow and a shovel work fine. Some nurseries offer a “rose mix” and this can make the job easier.  Be sure to test the pH of your soil. You can do this by either sending a soil sample to the Agriculture Extension Service in your area, or by purchasing a good pH meter.  Roses like to grow in slightly acidic soil. I target a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for my rose beds. Now is the time to get your soil moving in the right direction to ensure a good rose growing season.

TY LOW RES3.   Roses need plenty of water and nutrients.

 There are a few important things to remember when planting new roses. You will want your roses to first establish a good root system, BEFORE you concentrate on blooms. When you give a rose bush nitrogen, you tell it to grow canes and leaves. Having more canes and leaves than the root system can support is not a good idea for obvious reasons. Therefore, DO NOT fertilize your newly planted rose bush until it has produced one complete bloom cycle. Instead, use a good plant starter like Nature’s Nog.  It is also great to add to your liquid feeding  program for established plants. The only exception to the “no fertilizer” rule at planting time is the use of organic fertilizers. The reason they don’t apply to the rule is because they will take several months to break down and be usable to the plant. In the meantime, however, earthworms will find the organics, giving you the double benefit of worm castings and aeration prior to becoming food for your  plants. Adding a “non-chemical fertilizer” like Mills Magic Mix to the surface of the soil and lightly scratching it into the top two inches is highly recommended. Use two cups for hybrid teas and other large roses and one cup for miniature roses.

Another product you should definitely add when you plant (anything) is the natural fungus, mycorrhizae. This fungus will work with your root system to establish a lifetime bond allowing your roses’ roots to dramatically expand. Since mycorrhizae is actually a living organism, you won’t have to re-apply for many years.

Roses need a lot of water to be at their best.  Watering by hand with a water wand is great for the roses and good mental therapy for the gardener.  In moderate climates, one good soaking a week may be all you need.   Hotter climates may require watering every day.   Just use good common sense.  If the roses are wilting in any way, they are not getting enough water.  The soil should be damp, but not “wet” just beneath the mulch.

Class73gold4.  Almost all roses require a preventative spray program for common fungus issues like blackspot, powdery mildew, rust, and downy mildew.

Regardless of claims made by rose companies of “disease resistance”, most roses require a spray program to prevent disease such as blackspot, powdery mildew and rust. The key word to remember is “prevent”.

Once your roses become infected, left untreated you can generally count on loosing most of the leaves. No leaves means no photosynthesis and that equates to NO ROSES! While you can spray to eliminate such problems, the best strategy is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

First, a little lesson in terminology.  The term “pesticide” includes fungicide, insecticide, miticide and herbicide. I tell you this because some people confuse the word “pesticide” with “insecticide”. I don’t like to spray pesticides any more often than necessary and I want to use the least toxic materials that will actually work. This is why I have choosen products that only need to be sprayed every two weeks.   We will talk about specific spray programs in a later blog.  If you need that information immediately , just go to our site under “downloads” and click on “Recommended Spray Programs”.

For now, let’s talk about some basic rules for spraying.  Most important, always wear protective clothing and a respirator.  I’ll do a separate blog on spray safety in the near future.  Choose a spray day that generally is good for you every week.  For me, that is usually Friday. If it rains on Friday, I spray on Saturday but keep my regular day (Friday) in two weeks when it is time to spray again. If it rains after you have sprayed, the plants are protected IF the spray dried before the rain.