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“There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Indeed, roses are pure perfection! Their renowned beauty and scent do come with a few thorns at times (pun intended), but let’s look into the basic care of roses to alleviate some of the pain. Contradictory to popular belief, growing roses can be easy when given the correct gardening advice. Here’s a little rose care 101.


What is a Rose?


Roses are woody perennial plants notorious for their scented flowers. They are part of the Rosaceae family that consists of approximately 300 species and too many cultivars to count. Some of the most common in this vast family are spireas, pear, apple, cherry, quince, and more. Roses vary in form and can be small, upright shrubs or trailing and climbing plants—all of which can hold a prominent place in your landscape.


meyer landscape rose care red roses dark background


Easy Care Roses for the Midwest Garden


There are some very hardy shrub rose varieties such as Knock Out and Drift roses that do very well in our Midwest climate. It’s no surprise that these two varieties are popular; their fragrance is elegant and their blooms will repeat from June until the snow flies!


meyer landscape rose care pink roses watering can


Watering Your Roses


Roses should never be watered overhead. Always water at the soil level because wet leaves in a humid summer environment leave the plant susceptible to various fungal problems such as powdery mildew and black spot. It is also always preferable to water your rose bush deeply, offering a few inches of water per week (depending on weather).


meyer landscape rose care pink roses up close


Feeding Your Roses


The main focal point of this plant is its flower, so let’s focus on how to feed your rose precisely what it needs to produce not only lush foliage but also beautiful blooms. Roses love rich, well-drained soil; loam is the best choice, and clay soil should most definitely be amended before planting.

Whether it’s an all-in-one systemic granular fertilizer or a water-soluble one, you will want to look for something with a higher phosphorus ratio to promote flowering and a high potassium number for plant and root health. Nitrogen is also vital, but it promotes lush foliage, not blooms. As fall approaches, you will want to prepare your roses for winter and stop fertilizing.


meyer landscape rose care person deadheading white roses


Pruning Your Roses


Pruning can seem like a bit of an art. While there are some “rules” to follow, as we outline below, please reach out to our team if you have any further questions. Our experts are always happy to help!

  • Throughout the summer, deadhead the spent blooms. You can trim the blooms that have completed to the second axillary bud leaving only 1/4 of an inch of the stem; this will encourage new blooms.
  • Limit most summer pruning to removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches.
  • When the plant is dormant in early spring or late winter, shrub roses (such as Knock Out) can be pruned quite heavily. Using clean, sharp pruners, cut the canes approximately one foot off the ground. This will result in a full, nicely-shaped rose bush come summertime.


Japanese Beetles


Japanese beetles are, unfortunately, here to stay.  We recommend treating all roses yearly with Optrol, a broad-spectrum insecticide that controls Japanese beetles and other threats. The good news is that Knock Out roses and Drift roses are very tolerant of Japanese Beetle infestations. While the invasive beetles still feed on these two varieties, they will not kill them, and they will flower again once the beetle population begins to fade in midsummer.

We hoped you enjoyed this little rose lesson! These beautiful blooms are well worth the added work. For more advice on how to take care of your roses in the Midwest, visit us today!


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