Keith Tate

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Grow Beautiful Roses in Southern Gardens

by Keith Tate 04/24/2021

 Photo bySilvia via Pixabay

Most people associate roses with English cottage gardens and northern cities such as Portland, Oregon, which has proudly carried the nickname "The City of Roses" for over a century. It's common garden lore that roses can't successfully be grown in areas that don't receive a few months of cold temperatures, but some varieties can be successfully grown with a little preparation and planning. Here's what rose lovers need to know about making them thrive in Southern gardens.

Add a 4-inch Layer of Light-Colored Organic Mulch 

Plants that fail to thrive in hot climates usually do so because of the way the high temperatures affect their root systems rather than their leaves and branches, so it's important to keep roots cool. Roses also like acidic soil, so choose a mulch that does double due by adding nutrients to the soil along with protecting the roots. Homeowners in hot climates sometimes make the mistake of choosing a dark mulch, but these absorb heat. Choose a mulch with a light color, such as natural cedar chips, to reflect heat away from the root zone. 

Plant Hybrid Tea Roses

Hybrid tea roses are much better at resisting heat than their non-hybrid counterparts, so choose these over standard cabbage roses or heirloom types. Hybrid tea roses were bred to withstand a variety of adverse gardening conditions, and their particularly sweet aroma is enhanced by hot temperatures.

Learn How to Force Roses Into Dormancy 

This is the most important part of successfully growing roses in hot climates. Roses are hardwired to experience a period of dormancy each winter. Dormancy is triggered by decreasing outdoor temperatures in autumn and in areas where temperatures remain warm, roses won't enter dormancy. Dormancy is essential for renewed growth and vigor — think of it as beauty sleep for roses. Without it, they'll become scraggly, weak, and eventually, they'll stop producing flowers. Here's how to force your roses into dormancy:

  • Apply a late-season fertilizer once per week for four weeks beginning in December. This primes the plant's metabolism for slowing down and building root health rather than promoting foliage and flower growth. 
  • Apply a dormant oil specifically for roses in mid-January. 
  • Prune the roses back to three strong canes in mid-January and remove any remaining foliage from last year. 
  • Begin your weekly growth fertilizer program in late January or early February.
  • Enjoy your first bloom of the season around the middle of April.

Always keep your roses well-watered, and give them an extra drink when temperatures rise about 90 degrees. Don't be afraid to cut flowers often for household bouquets — that helps promote growth — but use a sharp, sanitized cutting tool to guard against the spread of fungal disease.