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Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Planning, planting and pruning your way to the perfect bloom

At this time of year, it’s easy to get lured into the world of gardening as spring magazines and plant catalogs begin to arrive, but what’s especially enticing is the prospect of growing roses – the “Queen of Flowers” – in all shapes and sizes in hues of pink, white, yellow and red. We can envision these beauties creating curb appeal for our homes and beckoning guests as we entertain in our gardens - and then reality sets in. For most, 

We don’t have the slightest idea where to begin to grow a rose bush, much less keep it alive during the winter.

Location, Location, Location

With proper plant selection, planting and care, growing roses in Colorado Springs can be easier than growing grass. Choose a location that gets 6-8 hours of sun, says local resident, Carol Macon, a Master Consulting Rosarian and Rose Horticulture and Arrangements Judge with the American Rose Society, and amend the soil with organic matter to a pH of about 6.5. She also says roses require about two inches of water per week but should never stand in water, so the location of a water source will be important when selecting a locale.

Variety Counts

The variety of rose chosen is very important because of our climate. Macon says plants hardy to Zone 4 will come back reliably even in the harshest of winters. She also recommends choosing a plant that is disease-resistant as noted on the plant’s description tag.

• Own-root roses have been grown from a cutting and have developed their own root system. They are usually able to withstand colder temperatures and should be planted 1-2 inches below the soil level. 

• Grafted roses are sold in plastic bags with their canes sticking out of the top.

They are often the first roses we see in the big box stores in the spring. Macon says grafted roses need to be planted with the bud union 3 inches below the soil level or the plant will not survive the winter. All first-year plants, regardless of root structure, should be protected with a 3-inch layer of mulch over the winter. 

Bare-root roses as opposed to potted plants should be in the ground by the end of April to ensure they have enough time to develop a root system. Potted roses should be planted after Mother’s Day taking care not to disturb the root ball in the process.

Day-to-Day Care

Aside from proper watering, caring for the plant throughout the summer requires regular pruning, which in turn also allows for indoor enjoyment of their blooms. Macon says to only remove the blooms from young plants and float them in bowls, leaving the foliage intact. Stems of roses for flower arranging should come from older, larger plants. Most roses need to be deadheaded to ensure re-blooming takes place and pruning is important for general shaping of the plant.

Strong Contenders

Armed with this information, you can now choose colors and blooms that appeal to you. Macon recommends Canadian hybrids for their reliability and ease to grow. “My favorites of these are the John Cabot and John Davis which I use as climbers,” she says. “And I like the Morden Blush as a bedding rose.” She also recommends David Austin Hybrid Roses because their colors work well together and are highly perfumed. Her favorites are the Abraham Darby, Evelyn, Lady of Shalott and The Dark Lady. For combined beauty, hardiness and disease resistance, Macon likes the Kordes brand roses that can be found locally and online.