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  • Spring Rose Care

    February 21, 2023 4 min read 4 Comments


    It's just about that time of year here in Oregon when the forsythia's bright yellow flowers bloom, telling us it's time to prune the roses! Here are a few things we can do this spring and throughout the year to care for our beloved rose bushes.

    • Prune
    • Feed
    • Water
    • Mulch


    Roses respond well with some TLC around the year and that can start right now no mater how old or young your rose bush may be. Roses don't typically need to be pruned their first year, but every winter you will want to prune so that you're rewarded with abundant blooms on healthy canes.

    There's a few different types of roses that determine how you would prune them.

    -Old roses ( Gallica, Damask, Moss, Alba...roses from before1867) typically bloom only once which means you would not prune them the same year they would be blooming or you'll be cutting off this years flowering canes. This is the case for some ramblers as well. You can prune these roses right after their flowers are spent and then not again until their next bloom time is over the following year. All their new growth after you've pruned will be the wood that grows flowers the following year. (read more here about rose species)

    -Modern roses have more than one flush and can be pruned now, at the end of winter, and also right after their first flush to encourage continual blooming later in the season. If you don't have time to prune mid spring you can deadhead throughout the season by just snapping off the spent flower heads. Deadheading promotes the production of flowers on repeat flowering roses. 

    -Climbing roses can be either pruned into a shrub or their long canes secured horizontally. If you allow climbing roses' canes to just grow straight up you'll only have a flower on the top of each cane, BUT if you secure the main canes horizontally over an arch, wall or fence then every leaf bud will shoot up into a stem giving you many flowers. This is what you will prune off in winter, these flowering canes, not the main canes you've secured. 

    When pruning cut out any dead canes, canes crossing or rubbing a main cane & those growing toward the center of the bush. Prune down canes with disease down to a healthy wood & anything smaller than the diameter of a pencil. 

    Cut at a diagonal right above an outward facing bud. This allows the new growth to grow out instead of inward crossing the center of the bush. I also defoliate just to make sure any aphids or disease that may be on the leaves is removed. You'll want to contain all these clippings and not add them to your compost.

    Shaping your rose allows it to bloom its best, most prolific flowers for many years to come!


    As our roses come out of dormancy we love to feed them an alfalfa meal that we are able to sprinkle around the base and deeply water in. You can do this any time and when planting new roses by adding the meal to the planting hole. I've used E.B. Stone or Down to Earth brands. 

    Roses are hungry shrubs. You'll be able to tell if they are deficient if your roses show signs of discolored leaves and poor quality flowers. You won't want to fertilize at the end of summer because their new tender canes could be damaged in winter.

    When the roses are waking up, putting all their energy into their new growth I like to give them a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer. These do have a smell but it goes away after a day. These are to be diluted in a watering can or bucket and watered in. You dont want to water above a rose because the moisture on the leaves can cause mildew, so water in around the base of your plants. I love Neptune's Harvest or Alaska fish emulsion. 

    If you have compost or well rotted manure you can add this in your hole at planting time & each spring around the base of your plants, helping to amend the soil and hold nutrients. 

    For an extra dose of love you can place a thick layer of wood chips around the base of your roses to retain moisture and prevent weeds from sprouting up. 


    Newer plantings no mater the plant need more attention when it comes to watering as their roots establish in their new home. 

    Roses have deep roots so a long deeper soak is better than a light sprinkle here and there. Try your best to water in the evening or early morning when it's cooler, allowing less evaporation. I don't tend to measure how much water I use per rose, but they say a gallon per rose bush typically. Keep an eye on how dry or moist the soil is and get to know your plants. Never let newer plantings dry out completely as their roots establish. More established roses can withstand drought periods thoughIt's a relationship and the more we are with our garden the more familiar and intuitive it all will all feel. 

    One more way we love to care for our roses is planting them with herbs as their companions to help bring in beneficial pollinators & beneficial predator insects, while also preventing disease & pests. Try inner-planting your roses with hyssop, lavender, salvia, rosemary or thyme. 

    With love, Laura


    4 Responses

    Jane Collier
    Jane Collier

    March 18, 2024

    Thank you for the excellent reminders about pruning and feeding. My roses are pruned and mulched and I’ll feed and deep water today. The weather is different every day in northeastern Oklahoma so with forsythias blooming out, I knew it was time to work with my roses. Many thanks to you, Laura, for guiding my rose care.


    April 18, 2023

    Just discovered your website! I’m an ax vid rosé gardener in the willamette valley. I support local, and so glad I found you!


    March 05, 2023

    Thanks so much. I have 4 or 5 plants I better get to Today. I’m a newbie but somehow had much success last year with blooms. Intuition goes a long way.

    Deb Teall
    Deb Teall

    February 24, 2023

    Thank you, Laura, for bringing spring into this bleak February day!

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