Roses need light pruning, fertilizer in October

A few days of weather feeling like fall and roses have shown their approval and are coming alive with the promise of a fine show (or two) before the end of the year.

If you have been participating in my prescribed practice of allowing your roses to have a summer rest, it is now time to do a minor pruning. This should be done now to expect two more bloom cycles (as long as cold temps hold off until after Christmas). Remember that this is a light pruning: Remove the many small branching cane ends back to the main cane, pruning down to an outward facing bud (found at the base of a leaf where it joins the cane).

After you’ve done this pruning, you’ll find it easier to apply the needed fertilizer—but remember to run an irrigation cycle before applying fertilizer. I suggest applying a fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphate (that is, the first two numbers on the fertilizer label). A good balance would be 8-8-4 or something similar. I recommend an organic type, although it is usually slower acting this time of year, the soil is warm so its nutrients will be more readily available to the plant. Organics don’t usually use the NPK number so you may have to read about the label to determine the balance of nutrients, or rely on the company employee if you go to a specialty store.

If you use a fertilizer that is first dissolved in water, apply it right over the bush from top to bottom. A hybrid tea would need about two gallons of solution and should be watered in after a couple of days. If you use a dry granular product, apply as the label recommends. Be sure to scratch this into the soil surface around the base of the plant and water it in. Repeat your applications every two weeks.

Check your irrigation system to make sure all plants are receiving sufficient water.

Spread the joy of roses!

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