Five steps to abundant fall roses

Even if your roses didn't bloom much in summer, they can shine in fall.

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    LOTS OF FLOWERS: Floribunda roses, such as the 2009 All-America Selection Cinco de Mayo, should be deadheaded well below the spent flower cluster.
    Photo by Gene Sasse (c) 2008, used courtesy of Weeks Roses
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You may have noticed that your ever-blooming rosebushes produced smaller blooms in the heat of the summer.  That's perfectly normal, as the buds open faster, before they’ve been able to grow to their maximum size.

But the cooler weather of early fall will help you grow the biggest, most vibrantly colored roses of the entire growing season.  If you live in Zone 7 or warmer, now is the time for you to get the plants in shape, so they’re able to thrill you with the best blooms ever!

Here are five easy steps, courtesy of Weeks Roses, that you can implement now to help your roses to produce the best fall blooms in town:

1.  Keep the foliage on the plants.  The foliage, of course, is where the photosynthesis that keeps your plants strong and growing takes place.  Spray to eradicate and prevent any pests that have been a problem in your garden. (Look for organic remedies for any pest problems.) If your roses have defoliated because of insects, mites, or rose diseases, prune the canes back a bit to encourage the plants to grow new, healthy foliage and strong new stems.

2.  If you live where roses will still be blooming in two or more months, prune now for large flowers.  Because a new stem will almost never be fatter than the cane it’s growing from, prune the cane back to where it’s fat enough to produce a substantial new stem.  Fat new stems produce big flowers.  Prune shrub roses and floribundas back to a point on the stem that’s well below all the small, branching remains of the clusters that bloomed over the summer.  Prune the small stems and spent flowers off climbing roses.

3.  Keep the soil alive.  Organic material in soil contains the good bacteria that help break down the fertilizers you feed your roses.  Top dress the soil in your rose beds with rich compost or composted horse manure, or scratch in some microbial soil conditioner, kelp, or alfalfa meal.  If you prefer an organic liquid, drench the soil with fish emulsion or liquid seaweed.

4.  In Zones 8 and 9, fertilize.  Roses are heavy feeders, and fertilizing with a fertilizer formulated specifically for roses provides all the nutrients and trace elements roses need to grow to their maximum potential.

5.  Disbud for bigger flowers.  Hybrid tea roses sometimes produce two additional buds alongside the big main bud at the top of the stem.  Remove these side buds, so all the stem’s energy is directed to making the main flower bigger.  Shrub roses, floribundas, and many climbers produce flowers in clusters.  If you remove the main, center bud in the cluster, all the remaining buds will open at the same time, creating a fabulous display.

Most important of all, enjoy your wonderful fall roses.  Delight in the color they bring to your garden, or cut them to fill all your vases.

If you’d like to check out some of the new easy-to-grow rose varieties that will be available for planting next spring, visit the Weeks Roses website at www.weeksroses.com.

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