Roses Are Plants Too!

Simple Fertilizing of Roses. Part 1

New Hampshire Statehouse. A lovely rose bred by the late Mike Lowe. Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

There is a great deal of information out there when it comes to fertilizing roses.  Almost as much as there are actual products to feed them with!  Because so many of the feeding programs can seem so complicated, I think it’s time we take a moment and talk about how to feed your roses during the season without having to give up your entire weekend doing it.

As with so many other things with roses how you feed them depends on what you want from them.   If you exhibit you will need a pretty intensive feeding program to produce that queen of show bloom.   Some of these programs involve all kinds of different products on a weekly basis; leaving you little time to stop and smell the roses.  Truth be told I think these are the programs you see in all those magazines and books.

As I’ve said in other posts there is nothing wrong with that if you exhibit.  It takes that kind of hard work and dedication to pull in the prizes.

But for the average gardener growing garden roses that is overkill. So is there a simple way to fertilize your roses without having to give up your all you spare time?

Yes, there is.

The first part of this is time release fertilizers.  While I prefer organics, fertilizers like Osmocote work great as well. They key is these fertilizers put out nutrients at a slow pace over several months. I’ve learned from experience that garden roses much prefer that kind of slow, lazy feeding during the season. And in the case of this gardener I prefer that lazy approach too!

An application in early spring and another in late summer should do you.  The early spring application should be real long term like four to six months.  The one in late summer should be shorter like two months.  You don’t want to be feeding nitrogen going into winter and stimulating fresh new growth.  Since many time release fertilizers actually shut down when soil temperatures drop you can play with this a little. Check the label of whatever you buy for more detailed information.  Or ask your local garden center to see what they recommend.  Don’t worry much about the N.P.K. numbers on it.  Just find something nicely balanced.

I’ve used time release products for years and love them.  The roses get fed nice and steadily during the season and react well to it.  I have time for other things and I find I react quite well to that too!

Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. LHardin 05/19/2011

    I, too, prefer to stay organic. What are your recommendations on that?

  2. PFZimmerman 05/19/2011

    I use products from a company called Circle Organics in North Carolina. I'm working with them on putting together a natural rose care program. It's always hard to recommend specific products because they differ in various parts of the country and the world. What's available in your area?

  3. gardeningmum 05/24/2011

    I live in Colorado, so I use a product formulated by the local Rose Society some 20 years ago...Mile High Rose Feed. It is organic and chock full of wonderful things like kelp and alfalfa. I also give a little shop of Age Old Organics grow. This is in liquid form and easy to apply.

  4. gardeningmum 05/24/2011

    ..I meant a SHOT, no shop...

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