How to Care for Roses

How to Care for Roses

Loved for their fragrance, showy blooms, and lengthy bloom times, there is a reason why roses are popular in both classic and modern garden styles alike. Roses sometimes get a bad reputation for being finicky shrubs. We're here to quash the bad rap and get you growing roses that bloom bountifully year after year.


A Rose for You: Choose the Right Rose

We often hear folks who bought a beautiful rose from a box store, only to have it die back and grow twiggy, out of control suckers from its base after a tough winter. That is because these roses are grafted onto a hardy root stalk. The beautiful rose that you purchased is typically grafted onto a less ornamental wild rose stalk. When the graft doesn't survive the harsh winters of the Northeast, the wild rose takes over.

All of our roses are grown on their own root. That means that the shrub can die back to the ground and will rebound the following year. Given the harsh winters here in the Northeast, it is crucial to find roses that are grown on their own stalk, not grafted.


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Location, location, location

Get em started right! Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Roses are susceptible to fungal diseases, so an area with plenty of sunlight ensures that they stay healthy and bloom profusely.

Roses prefer well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Don't plant a rose in a wet, poorly draining area, and be sure to amend heavy clay soil if you've been blessed with that soil type. When planting your rose, backfill the hole with plenty of compost to keep that soil structure light and the soil composition rich. Be sure to mulch at a 3-4" depth around the base of the rose when planting.

Read our planting guides here.

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Once established, the precipitation we typically receive throughout the summer should be enough for roses. However, if we experience extended drought conditions, be sure to water your roses around the base of the plant, with the hose on a slow trickle so that the soil around the root zone is fully saturated.

To get your rose established, water every 3-5 days, depending on precipitation. Use the same method as above, watering around the base of the plant and watering deeply and slowly. A soaker hose does a great job of targeting the root zone.

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Fertilize roses in the spring, around early May when they are starting to push out new growth. Don't fertilize late in the season, as this will encourage the plant to push out new growth rather than begin to go dormant. New growth is tender and susceptible to freezes.

We recommend a fertilizer like Rose-Tone, which is high in phosphorous to promote bloom set. A fertilizer too high in nitrogen may result in a leafy, green rose but it may not have the profusion of blooms that roses are loved for.

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Pruning is an important part of keeping a rose healthy. Harsh winters in this area make roses particularly susceptible to black spot. If you notice that there are black spots or dead canes during the summer, don't hesitate to prune those off. You can also prune a rose for shape.

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Pests & Diseases

Roses earn their finicky reputation due to their susceptibility to pests and disease. Proper pruning, watering, and planting will help to keep roses healthy and diseases at bay. Below are a few of the most common maladies for roses.

Brown Canker:

Brown canker is caused by reduced air flow, typically in the colder months. It starts as brownish-black spots on the stems, and can spread throughout the plant. It is important to prune the brown canker off in the early spring to prevent it from spreading.  


Black Spot:

Black spot is a fungal disease that appears during hot and humid weather. It starts as black spots on leaves, eventually turning the leaves yellow until the plant defoliates. 

You can prevent black spot by discarding any diseased foliage (but not in your compost pile). The spores can lay dormant for quite some time, and it's important to remove diseased foliage as quickly as possible. Black spot is more likely to appear on roses that don't receive as much sunlight and don't have good air flow. Prune to allow good air flow, and always plant your roses in a sunny location.

Powdery Mildew:

Another common fungal disease is powdery mildew. Also common with cucumbers and squash, this mildew looks like a fine white dust on the leaves, and inhibits the plant's ability to take in nutrients. 

Again, good practices in planting, pruning, and discarding diseased plant material will be your best method of prevention. If you do see powdery mildew, however, milk has been shown to have antiseptic properties. Mix 50/50 milk and water in a spray bottle, and spritz the leaves of plants on a warm, sunny day. 

Japanese Beetles:

The bane of any gardener's existence--the Japanese beetle. These beetles emerge in the mid-summer and have been known to decimate roses and other plants. The best method for reducing Japanese beetle populations in your yard is prevention. Spread Milky Spore in your gardento kill the grubs in the fall or early summer, before the larvae have developed. Once a beetle develops its hard exoskeleton, it is difficult to eradicate using pesticides. Prevention is best.


This is by no means a comprehensive list of diseases and pests that target roses, just a few of the most common we see. If you have any questions about an issue with your rose, don't hesitate to stop by, give us a call at 518-642-3676, or email 

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There are a vast number of roses on the market today that are hardy and disease-resistant. We carefully select varieties that we've had great success with in the past. A rose is a must in any garden, nothing beats its beauty or fragrance. With all of this talk of pruning and fertilizing, never forget to stop and smell the roses. They are incredibly beautiful and rewarding shrubs to grow given the right care.


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