Maximizing Fall Bloom in Garden Roses

Above: A butter-gold floribunda rose named for Julia Child takes you back to the dime store or Grandpa’s candy dish with its delicious licorice scent. Photo by Geri Laufer.

Care and fertilization for fall-blooming roses

By Geri Laufer

In metro Atlanta, our roses have a very long growing season and several bloom cycles. After late winter pruning in January, the first and second cycles are from about late-March through June. During the hot summer cycle (July through August), Atlantans do minimal work, simply keeping roses watered and fed with slow-acting, organic or time-release fertilizer to keep them growing.

The cycle that begins around Labor Day and continues until late-October through mid-November is coming up and is a showy time for area roses. Use these tips for late summer maintenance to bring an excellent crop of fall rose blooms.

By this time of year, many roses have become overgrown and bushy (after the heat of summer), producing only short stems and small blooms. Prune through mid-September to prepare for a brilliant bloom cycle this fall.

  • Use sharp hand pruners and lightly prune each rose bush by removing one third of plant height.
  • When pruning, clean out any “twiggy growth” that might interfere with new growth.
  • Eliminate any brown, dead branches.
  • Cut each cane at a 45-degree angle, immediately below an outward facing bud with a five-leaflet leaf.
  • Pick off any spotted leaves, and rake fallen leaves. Bag and put in the trash, but at all costs, remove from your garden.
  • Spread one half-cup of garden Epsom salt and add an organic fertilizer (like Espoma Rose-tone) at the recommended rate, working them around the base of the plant and into the top layer of soil.
  • Refresh your mulch by reapplying organic mulch as needed for a uniform appearance.
  • Water thoroughly (2-3 times per week), wetting the soil but avoiding the leaves.

This encourages new growth and promotes general health of your roses. By using these tips for your late summer garden maintenance, you are primed for a big crop of fall roses. After the last feeding in October, relax until time to prune them in January-February for the following year of blooms.

Digging Deeper:
Have you heard about my friend, Chris VanCleave, known as “America’s Favorite Rose Gardener?” Follow his great personality and tips on growing roses in the south (he lives in metro Birmingham) at Redneck Rosarian or listen to his podcast.

How are your fall roses blooming this year? Let me know by posting on The Current Hub facebook or email me.