Rose challenge: Select roses now for spring planting

Whether you’re going to be adding plants to an existing rose garden or buying your first rose bush this year, it’s not too early to decide what kind of roses you’ll grow. Then you can order from rose growers’ catalogs and Web sites (but do it soon!) or visit local garden centers when they have plants in stock.

There are literally thousands of roses to choose from, so a good first step is to evaluate how you want roses to fit into your garden. Here are some hints to help you decide:

  • Decide on the role you want your roses to perform, whether it is for cut flowers, showy borders, impenetrable hedges, privacy fences, trellises, spots of color in containers, or fragrance near the patio.
  • Start small and allow for later expansion as you experience success and become more knowledgeable.
  • Select a garden style that pleases you – whether country cottage, formal, or something in between – while keeping the surrounding plants and landscape in mind.
  • Decide on an exact location to make sure that your roses will receive plenty of sunshine (at least 6 hours daily), fertile soil, and adequate drainage.
  • Develop a simple plan and sketch out your ideas on paper.
  • Consult a rose selection guide, such as the one in , that will tell you the mature size, growth habit, color, hardiness, and other relevant characteristics of rose cultivars.

Arguably the most vital characteristic as you consider these guidelines for growing roses in your garden is the form of each rose plant. These are the most common:

Miniature – Dense, low-growing (18 to 24 inches high) rose bushes covered with tiny blooms, usually in clusters.

Floribunda – Known for large clusters of medium-sized blooms that cover the bush all season long. Usually grows to about 3 feet high.

Hybrid tea – The cut flower par excellence, easily recognized for the single, sculptural, high-centered bloom per long stem. Can reach up to about 5 feet high.

Climber – Actually a shrub with long, arching stems; can grow 6 to 20 feet high when trained on walls, trellises, and fences.

Old garden roses – Types of roses that existed before 1867. Wide range in size, shape of bush, and flower form. Can grow 6 to 8 feet high. Often fragrant, but many bloom only once.

Grandiflora – Similar to hybrid teas, but identified by unique ability to send up clusters of large hybrid-tea-type blossoms on strong, straight stems. Plants are normally 6 to 8 feet tall.

Modern shrub – Recent hybridizing breakthroughs that combine old garden rose flowers’ form and fragrance with modern colors and recurrent blooms. Plants reach 6 to 7 feet high.

Groundcover – Vigorous, disease-resistant, low-growing plants that spread up to 8 feet wide for bedding and massing.

Tree rose – Excellent choice to grow hybrid teas and floribundas 4 to 6 feet off the ground, often for formal effects or in containers. Subject to winter damage in northern climates if left unprotected.

Rambler – Given adequate space, this type of rose will grow 30 feet in every direction to cover a tree or even a house. Generally winter hardy, but often has only one bloom cycle each year.

Roses do require a bit of TLC. Proper soil, feeding, sunlight and water will keep your plants healthy and looking their best. Special plant food for roses is a quick, clean, easy way to give your roses a slow-release feeding that lasts for 3 months.

To protect your roses against diseases, insects, and mites while feeding the plants for 6 weeks, try disease control concentrate.