Everyone knows that the classic gift for Valentine’s Day is chocolates and roses. I know that it is a crowd pleaser and just about everyone will appreciate getting that gift, but there is another option. Instead of buying a dozen roses that will last a short while, buy a rose bush that will keep giving long after the fourteenth.

Roses have a bad reputation for being troublesome plants in the landscape. Knowledgeable gardeners are not fooled by this reputation. As with any plant, there are many things you can do to avoid trouble, one of the first requirements for success is to locate your roses in a sunny area. Roses prefer a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. If you cannot avoid some shade, try to locate your roses where they will get morning sun. The bright morning sun will rapidly dry dew from the leaves and reduce the incidence of leaf spot diseases. Roses also require proper soil preparation.

They prefer well drained soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. If you have a poorly drained site, build a berm six to eight inches high on which to plant your rose bushes. Prepare the soil in your rose bed by tilling the soil 12 inches deep. Best results are obtained when you incorporate organic matter such as leaf mold, composted pine bark, etc. into the entire bed area.

The expression, “You get what you pay for.” is true when it comes to roses. Expect to pay more for high quality plants. Roses are often sold based on quality grades. Grade number 1 plants have three to five healthy canes at least 18 inches long. Beware of roses that are shriveled or have discolored canes. Choosing a rose cultivar can be a difficult chore. There are over 6,000 cultivars of roses at present. For the cutting garden many people prefer Hybrid Tea roses. Hybrid Teas require regular care but reward the gardener with beautiful, large blooms on long stems. “Antique Roses” and species roses have been cultivated for generations. Many of these varieties thrive with minimal care. Some of the new varieties like ‘Knock-out’ roses are very disease resistant. There are many traits to consider when selecting your roses. Color, flower form, disease resistance, and fragrance are all important.

The planting time for roses in Georgia extends from November through March. Space your roses at least four feet apart in the bed. Build a cone of soil in the planting hole and spread the plant’s roots over the cone. Backfill the hole and then mulch under your roses to conserve moisture and to protect them against late season freezes. When planted at the correct depth, the graft union on a rose bush will be an inch or so above ground. Prune Hybrid Teas in early spring. Remove all but four to six of the most vigorous canes. Prune these canes back to a height of 24 inches above the ground. During the growing season, remove any spent flowers that remain on the plant. Also, remove any spindly shoots or suckers that develop.

A box of chocolate is gone before you know it. A meal out at an expensive restaurant is soon only a fond memory. A rose bush, however, continues to say, “I love you” for years to come. Maybe you should give your special someone a new rose bush.

Contact your local UGA Extension office for more information.

UGA Extension – Madison County: 706-795-2281

Email: uge1191@uga.edu

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