A Beginner's Guide to Successfully & Joyfully Growing Beautiful Roses
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
What I'm about to share with you is not about how to mix your soil, how to dig holes, how to understand NPK, or how to prep your rose for planting. Technical advice/info are very important - but I found that they are NOT the first thing to focus on before you begin your rose journey. When I was new to growing, I had never seen anyone advising a new rose gardener to consider these things. These key factors are extremetly important in creating one's joyful rose journey and setting up your expectations. Disclaimer: I am not a rose expert so let me put that disclaimer here. I'm a home gardener who loves roses and likes to experiment to find what works for me and my lifestyle/preferences.
1) Believe that "It's possible for you to grow beautiful roses"
Roses are beautiful - but can be intimidating to many. Oftentimes, I even hear from experienced gardeners who have been growing veggies, herbs and other plants for years, they feel intimidated when it comes to growing roses too (believe it or not?).
Everything starts with your thoughts. The most important step is to "set your mind to believe" that you, too, can grow roses.
Think about the time when you have a strong desire towards something. You will go to a great lenght to make it happen no matter what right? Have you ever wanted something so bad that you ended up getting it? Perhaps it's a handbag, a new house, a new pair of shoes, a new piece of furniture, a trip, or a food.
If you're already thinking - it's so difficult to grow roses. What you're doing is you talk yourself out of it and discourage yourself or make it a struggle even before you start.
Instead, tell yourself "I can grow roses", "I will be able to grow roses", "It's possible for me to grow beautiful roses at home". This way, you open your mind up and welcome the idea of growing roses in your garden. You're more receptive to try with an open heart.
Believe that you can and you WILL.
2) Understand the nature of roses, set your expectations and ask yourself how much you're willing to commit accordingly.
Based on my experience in growing different plants over the past 10+ years, I will say that roses are not something that you plant and leave to flourish on their own (okay perhaps knockout roses - they are almost maintenance-free). In the meantime, they are not babies who constantly need to be watched, fed or cared for all day or even every day either. They will do best if cared for and get TLC. As far as how often, it depends on what you want. If you want a lot of blooms all year round, most roses will require extra water, fertilizer, preventive measure and so on.
Roses take at least 3 years to fully mature, yes 3 years I know that sounds like a long time. That doesnn't mean they won't bloom until after 3 years though. Most roses will bloom a few months after you plant them (climbers tend to take longer - but it's completely normal). Their bloom shape/form/color/petal counts will not look like what you see in stock photos. Why? Just like babies or toddlers, they need more time to be grow in order to do more advanced things. Your roses need time to develop strong root systems and top growths before spending their energy to produce flowers.
Roses are so beautiful - but unfortunately, there are pests and diseases that love our roses as much as we do. Understanding that pests and diseases are part of growing roses can either make your lose a desire to grow roses altogether OR help you set a realistic expectation so you won't stress yourself out.
I've seen many people become extremely frustrated when their roses have blackspots, powdery mildew, other diseases, or pest invasions. There's certainly a cause for concern. We grow roses because we want to enjoy them, not to let those diseases/pests ruin the flowers or suck the life out of them. I totally get it. The good news is - there are prevention/treatment and products to help your roses thrive and perform their best.
If you know that blackspots or pest damages will ruin your joy, deploy a prevention plan by researching fungicide, insecticide or related products. Prevention is a key with roses. Once your roses develop diseases, spraying on infected leaves won't fix the issue. You have to remove those leaves, spray the healthy foliages to prevent it from spreading. To go this route, there's a spraying routine/schedule/a list of products that requires consistency due to our hot and humid climate. We also have more pests. Our humid weather is a perfect condition for blackspots and powdery mildew. Knowing those things, you can decide how much time you're willing to dedicate in caring and maintaining them.
In the meantime, I've seen people who want and try to go a no-spray, all-natural garden method (which means not using any products and let your roses deal with diseases and pests by themselves or deplolying beneficial insects to help control pest population), then become frustrated because their roses become very unhealthy looking, damaged or even died. Going this route, you must know that you are taking risks of losing a rose (or roses) and/or not having nice-looking flowers. Ask yourself, is this the type of risk you can tolerate/accept.
You see - growing roses take some works and disappointments no matter which route you choose. What option is best for you is something you have to decide for yourself.
I personally chose to go with a no-spray method (I'll explain more in #3 below). It is NOT my place to tell people that my method is the way to go or don't use any chemicals. I am not here to judge as far as what people want to do in their garden. It's your choice and I respect whatever you decide to do. I'm here to share all available options that I know and let you make your own choice. Choose what feels right for you and your roses.
3) Remember there is more than one way in doing things. Find the way that feels good/right "for you"
Perhaps all these years, you didn't grow roses because you've heard what difficult plants roses were.
The first few roses you had ended up dying and you told youself that you didn't have what it took to grow them. You were not meant to grow them.
Your roses constantly attracted diseases/pests and no matter you did, you couldn't win that battle, it's just too exhausting.
Spraying sounds like a lot of work and you didn't like to use fungicide/pesticide so let's just not grow them.
Can you relate??
I'd been there, done that. For years, I let those bad reps about roses prevent me from growing these beautiful plants. The biggest resistance that really made me not want to grow roses was the thought of having to spray them routinely. I will be brutally honest, it wasn't about environmental concerns or wanting to protect pollinators.
It started with pure laziness. I'm just a lazy gardener!
The thought of having to spray every two week/month and putting on a protective gear made me cringe. It sounded like another job on top of my fulltime job and family. After all, I wanted gardening to be a relaxing activity.
Instead, I chose to focus on growing veggies, herbs, and wild flowers because they "seemed" easier. Deep down inside, my dream and desire to own a rose garden never went away.
In 2020 when Covid hit, a desire to growing those beautiful roses grew REALLY STRONG.
I revisited my dream and started seeing how it's possible for me to make my rose dream happen this time - I was working from home and had more time to care for them. I forgot about the diseases and pests and all I thought was I would figure that out later.
The rest is a history, I went from having one rose for the past 7 years to 50+ in less than 2 years.
I went and ordered 3 roses. This time I wanted to grow them without spraying them with anything. I knew the rose experts and some experienced rose growers would yell and scream at me for doing this all wrong - BUT here's the thing.
These are my roses, I grow them in my home for me and my enjoyment. If my roses have imperfect blooms, I am okay with that. If they can't make it, then it will be my learning experience. Gardening is all about experimenting. You can explore and see what works best for you.
To date, I have NOT lost a single rose by not spraying. I'm not saying you should do what I do. If you feel comfortable and it doesn't feel like a task for you to spray, spray and protect your roses so your roses can fully reach their full potential.
For me, spraying was a big factor that made me not want to grow roses so I chose to grow roses without spraying and it has worked for me all these years. It made my rose growing experience easier and more joyful. I know I can tolerate blackspots, powdery mildew, thrips and other pests. I know my roses will not look heatlhy all the time and understand the risk that they may not survive - I am willing to accept those risks.
Remember - you can grow roses. It may not be the same way that most people or experts do but as long as it works for you, that's what matters.
4) Choose the roses that you "really" love, not the one that is easy to grow
I see this question a lot from people who are new to roses and the reason that they ask this question is because of the fear of not being able to keep them alive. By no mean, I am not saying that this is a bad approach at all. Some people feel comfortable to slowly build their confidence by taking small steps. If this helps you build more confidence, I fully support you to go this route.
However, my advice is - go for the roses that you REALLY..REALLY...REALLY want, here's why.
That easy to grow rose people suggest you may not have the bloom shape/form or color that you really like. You ask for a list of roses that are easy to grow and you get knockout roses, drifted roses, Belinda's Dream rose (they are NOT bad options, in fact they're fantastic, low maintenance, and bloom abundantly) BUT they don't have that fuller, cupped blooms you've been dreaming of.
Since they're super easy to grow. You may end up not feeling so excited to care or want to put a lot of effort into it.
If you want to grow David Austin roses as a beginner, GO FOR IT! Some people will tell you that DA roses are not for beginners. Based on my personal expereince, that is not the case.
Yes, it is true that NOT all David Austin roses will bloom beautifully for us all year round in our climate. Some will, be sure to check if it's suitable for your growing zone (in TX, it's either 8 or 9, you can even go with roses that are suitable for zone 10 as that indicates they can tolerate higher heat). As long as you find the right varieties that thrive and like our hot and humid climate like Abraham Darby, Silas Marner, Spirit of Freedom, Roald Dahl, Crown Princess Magarita, Evelyn, Bathsheba, Huntington, Ancient Mariner - there may be more that I don't know about. These are proven to bloom and thrive in Texas heat), they will flourish and you'll get to experience their beauties.
All roses require the same basic care and love regardless of what breeders; Kordes, David Austin, Weeks, Meillands, Delbard or etc. Some may be more difficult than others - but you won't know until you try.
Perhaps going for what you really want will make you more excited to care for it, and when it blooms you truly experience the joy of accomplishment and satisfaction. If you are unsure, you can always start with one rose, pick what you really really love then pour your love into it and see how it flourishes.
Updated 9/24/22: I got this input from a kind member on Houzz "Noseometer" who kindly shared a personal story which I totally agreed and wanted to add here - the rose that you want may turn out to be a difficult to grow/care for rose so in trying to deal with it as your 1st rose may discourage some people and make you not want to grow roses ever again because it may lead you to think that all roses are that way. Therefore, getting an easy to grow rose along with it can be a big boost to help you see that not all rose varieties are finicky or pain-in-the-rear.
If you are new here, I shared my rose journey (how it all started) here .
Stay tuned more topics that I have in work in the days/weeks to come - some of those topics include Roses that bloom abundantly throughout summer, where to buy your roses, and more. I hope these will be helpful to new rose lovers as you begin your rose journey. Make sure to subscribe so you won't miss those amazing content.
Get excited and joyfully grow your beautiful roses,
Check out Roses In Houston videos on YouTube where I regularly update each rose each month.