Summer Rose Maintenance

By Andy McIndoe

The first flush of roses is now over and it is time to lavish a little extra care on the plants, especially those that promise a repeat display later in the summer.

Michael Marriott (previously Head Rosarian for David Austin Roses) teaches you how to plan and maintain your rose garden and rose plants throughout the year in his online Roses course.

By midsummer roses have put a lot of energy into producing that initial display, so you need to rejuvenate and replenish exhausted supplies. Neglected roses are less likely to reward with a profusion of blooms later on; they are also more likely to succumb to diseases.

Not all roses repeat flower in the same season. Those described as summer flowering, mostly the old shrub roses, have one main crop of flowers from early to midsummer.

That's it until the following season. These will still benefit from feeding, watering, dead-heading and light summer pruning to build strong growth for the following season.

2 New shoot on a rambler (1280x853)

Most rambler roses also fall into this category. These start to produce strong, vigorous shoots from low down on the plants as the current year's flowers start to fade.

I usually do some pruning immediately, cutting out some of the flowered growth to allow the new shoots to develop. Further pruning can be carried out in winter.

3 Rosa bonica 'Perpetual flowering' (1280x855)

Roses that repeat flower fall into two main categories. Those described as ‘perpetual flowering’ theoretically continue to produce a succession of blooms throughout the summer months.

Those described as ‘repeat flowering’ produce a flush of blooms in early summer, pause and then produce another one, or maybe two more flushes of flowers.

In my experience few really bloom continuously. The blooms appear as main crops of flowers, maybe with a few in between. In all cases the performance for the rest of the season depends upon care after the first main flush of flowers.

5 Tips for more blooms and healthier roses during late summer and fall

4 Summer pruning (1280x853)

1. Dead heading roses

Dead heading, often referred to as summer pruning, is essential with all repeat flowering roses, bush or climbers. Cut off the faded blooms, cutting back to just above two or three leaves behind the flowers.

Avoid leaving the odd inferior bud, and don't leave the branched end of stems which carried previous flowers in place, especially if you have just removed individual flowers as they have faded.

If the plant thinks flowers are still present it will delay the production of new flowering shoots.

5 Apply rose fertiliser

2. Fertilise rose plants

Apply a generous helping of rose fertiliser around each plant and stir into the soil surface using a hoe or long-handled fork.

The plants will have used essential nutrients to produce the early season growth and blooms and these need to be replenished. You could also apply a watering can full of tomato fertiliser. This is rich in nitrogen and potash, the two elements which roses need lots of.

6 water thoroughly

3. Water rose roots

Water your roses thoroughly if the weather is dry, especially after feeding. Although roses dislike rainfall on the open flowers, they love it at the roots. Excessively dry soil leaves roses more susceptible to disease, especially mildew.

7 Rose Black spot (1280x855)

4. Remove any diseased leaves

Most roses suffer from fungal diseases, especially black spot, mildew and rust. If there are just a few diseased leaves, pick them off and dispose of them.

If whole stems are smothered in diseased foliage, prune them out, cutting back to lower than you would if just summer pruning.

In severe cases it may be best to cut the plant right back and remove all of the foliage. Mulch around it with compost, feed and water, then spray the new leaves as they emerge with a fungicide.

8 Badly diseased rose (1280x853)

5. Remove diseased roses

My last tip may seem extreme. If it has generally been a good rose season, and despite your best efforts you've got a rose that fails to perform, always gets disease and grows weakly, now is the time to bite the bullet and get rid of it.

Many modern varieties of hybrid tea, floribundas and English rose are far more disease resistant and reliable. You could do better, and keeping a poor rose like this in the garden just increases the risk of spread of disease to other normally healthy plants.

Rose rust

Rose rust manifests itself as small, raised red-brown spots on the leaves that are usually more apparent on the underside of the leaf. This is often a problem in the latter part of the season. Remove infected foliage and spray with a fungicide (organic controls are available).

Left untreated rust causes die back of shoots and may cause weakening of the plant in subsequent seasons. If this all seems too much like hard work resort to number 5. Above.

Recommended course

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Michael Marriott

Michael Marriott: Roses - Gardening

Roses taught by Michael Marriott

Michael Marriott teaches you how to plan and maintain a rose garden. Learn how to choose roses for your location, combine colours and pruning techniques.

View courseAll Gardening courses

Andy McIndoe

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