The 6 secrets to perfect roses – with a top positioning tip 

Top garden experts share their best tips for growing beautiful roses with the biggest blooms.

Is a garden really complete without roses? These ornamental flowers are loved all over the world and when in bloom, they can bring a garden to life through both their look and scent. You may have been growing roses for years or have only recently introduced them to your outdoor space; nevertheless, knowing how to make your roses come back beautifully year after year is a must.

Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS, tells Saga Exceptional that: “happily, roses pretty much grow themselves.” However, that is not to say that you shouldn’t pay them any attention. We spoke with gardening experts for their best advice on how to get the most out of yours.

Here’s what to do for perfect roses, year after year.   

Sarah Raven climbing rosesCredit: Jonathan Buckley

1. Deadhead assiduously

But don’t do it if you’re expecting hips

Deadheading roses is important – albeit, variety-dependent. It encourages new growth, not to mention, makes for a more polished display in your garden. It’s easy to do using your hands or a sharp pair of secateurs. We’d always advise wearing a pair of gardening gloves to avoid those thorns! Barter says to deadhead roses assiduously in the summer.  

There are, however, some varieties that should not be deadheaded. “Do not, under any circumstances, deadhead roses that you expect to get hips from,” says Barter. Hips will produce lovely red seed pods come autumn. Barter notes that – although they will all look better for deadheading, even those that don’t repeat flower – you’ll get no hips if you deadhead varieties such as Rosa rugosa and Rosa moyesii, for example.   

Although you may only prune and cut roses back once or twice a year, Barter says that it is wise to remove dead and diseased parts of your roses in the summertime. “Deadhead them at this time of year and don’t be afraid to prune out any dead and diseased bits.”

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2. Control pests

It’s best to pick off bugs by hand

Roses are susceptible to a fair amount of different diseases and pests. The RHS notes the following as most common. 

Common rose pests to look out for

Commonly greenfly and blackfly that suck the sap from the plant. 

A fungal infection that causes black or purple spots to develop on leaves. Causes the plant to drop leaves and become less vigorous. 

A white, powdery fungal growth on the leaves and shoots that can cause buds not to open properly. 

Where branches and foliage die back – can be caused by frosts, poor pruning, fungus or root decay

These insects can cause leaves to roll up tightly or /curl in on themselves

Barter shares that in a dry spring, there tends to be less disease, but that vigilance is key to spot any signs of rose upset early on. Aphids are a problem in spring, then during the summer months you’ll want to keep a close eye out for other bugs. “The aphids will have come and gone with any luck, so there’s a bit of leaf rolling and caterpillars or grubs, and things that might do a bit of damage,” says Barter.  

The best way to keep bugs at bay is to spend time in your garden, looking at your roses and simply squeezing off any bugs or cutting out any problems when you see them. This way you can avoid using sprays and harsher pest control methods. 

“Sometimes caterpillars and aphids turn up, and the best way to control them is to be vigilant so spend lots of time in your garden walking round and at the first sign of any problem,“ says Barter, who notes that literally pinching them out or disrupting them with your thumb can be all you need to do. Keeping an eye out will help you realise whether you need to apply any products too. In some cases you may get away with a spot treatment that could save you lots of problems later on.

Sarah Raven Pink RoseCredit: Jonathan Buckley
Sarah Raven recommends planting most roses in full sun.

3. Plant roses in the right place

And get them in the ground quickly

Roses look wonderful in garden borders and containers. If you’re buying new ones, you’ll want to get them in the ground as soon as possible. As with all garden plants, you’ll want to consider their positioning and make sure they are planted in fertile soil. It can depend on the variety, but most roses do best in full sun.  

For brilliant flowers, you will want to ensure your roses are positioned somewhere that enjoys full sun for at least 50% of the day. Furthermore, Sarah Raven notes how it is important to ensure the union of the rose [the base of the plant, above the roots] should be slightly below soil level. If not, it may encourage suckers that can take over the rose.  

4. Feed and mulch

Ideally every six months 

When it comes to feeding roses, the RHS recommends doing this twice a year. Once in March/April before flowering and, again, in midsummer after the first flush of flowers – particularly with repeat-flowering rose varieties.   

Roses are hungry plants and mulching is important to help retain moisture and provide more nutrients, usually in spring after feeding. You can use organic matter from your own compost or manure.

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5. Pay close attention to water needs

How much water a rose needs is age-dependent

Established roses will have deep-set roots and the moisture from the soil will be enough to sustain them. However, we have seen increasingly hot summers and even mature roses will need some watering in very hot weather.  

 Younger roses will need a lot more moisture to become established. Sarah Raven recommends a good full watering can per rose, per day when it’s hot. Furthermore, it’s important to water the soil directly, avoiding the leaves, as this can help fend off fungal disease. Do not overwater them either.  

Red roses by Sarah RavenCredit: Jonathan Buckley for Sarah Raven
Sarah Raven advises giving any new rose bush a full watering can of water per day during hot weather.

6. Give them the best support

Don’t leave heavy stems to droop

Even standard roses will need support and some varieties when established will need more help to ensure they grow correctly and have the best chance of producing beautiful blooms. “Some rose varieties, especially those with large, heavy blooms, may require additional support to maintain their upright growth and prevent damage caused by strong winds or heavy rain,” says Robert Silver, Founder and CEO of ProGardeningBlog 

Trellises, stakes or cages can be used, as well as canes with garden twine for those that want for flexibility. “By providing reliable support, you not only protect your roses from physical harm but also enhance their aesthetic appeal by maintaining their graceful form and preventing drooping or bending,” adds Silver.

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Camille Dubuis-Welch

Written by Camille Dubuis-Welch she/her

Published:

Camille is a freelance writer based in north London with her cat and two friends. Cam has been in love with everything interior design and garden-related since before she can remember and is the former deputy editor of realhomes.com, where she got to collaborate with some very inspiring DIYers and focus on small-space improvements.