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Fertilize Your Roses - The Right Way

Updated: Feb 13

We all dream about and want big, abundant, and continuous blooms from our roses. Who would not, right?? So how can we achieve that? Does fertilizing more mean more roses? As our spring season continues, I start seeing more posts in our Growing Roses in Houston Texas FB group and how many are worried that their roses don't have flowers yet. Before you start applying fertilizer, hold our horse and consider a few things.

Too much of any good stuff can be harmful as well - that includes too much fertilizer.

Just like our body, too much and too frequent food and vitamin intakes can be very harmful. This very same principle applies to plants and roses. They can add too much stress to our roses. Surprisingly, too much fertilizer can attract more pests too - believe it or not? Overfertilizing is more harmful than underfertilizing.

If you recently planted bareroot roses

Wait until they leaf out then fertilize. If you only see naked stems, just water and leave the alone until you start seeing leaves. That's when they're ready.

If you bought ownroot from Heirloom roses and they're under one year old

Stick with their insturctions to striclty use fish fertilizer and avoid harsh/granular type fertilizer. Many of my roses were purchased from Heirloom Roses in 2020, I strictly fed with fish fertilizer (very mild and higher in nitrogen, it doesn't prioritize blooms) and alfalfa (horse food) for a full year and they were doing well/blooming (not abundant but it's to be expected for young roses).

If you recently bought band roses from online places like HighCountry Roses or Fresh Garden Living

Leave them in their small pots for about a week before you transfer them to the ground or bigger pots. They traveled a long way so get the to acclimate to their new environment. Don't fertilize as soon as you take them out from the box. Only water and sun.

Young roses especially ownroot and band (baby) roses will take time to grow and bloom. They prioritize in growing root system first before producing flowers. If they don't produce many flowers in their 1st year, it's completely normal. Don't overfertilize to get them to bloom. Give them time.

Soil test

I've read on a few sites that it's best to do a soil test so you know for sure what nutrients may be missing. That way, you can apply what your soil and roses actually need. I have not personally done this, but if you want to go this route, you can contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The cost to get soil test is very low and affordable.

What, when, and how often

First I am not a rose expert so what I'm about to share comes from my experience as a trial and error. I can't tell you what fertilizer is best and if my method is the right way.

Each person may not have the same amount of time to dedicate so choose what works best for you and your lifestyle. I've seen people who use just one product and still get great results. I know you're reading this post and think OMG who has the time/money to fertilize this way. I personally want to experiment and try different things over the years and wanted to list them here.

Here's how and what I use for in ground and potted roses.

*Potted roses need more frequent fertilizer as nutrients leak out compared to those in the ground.

**Summer routine could be different with fertilizer but in this post I'll focus on spring routine.

Potted roses: I fertilized every 4 week these past years but this year I'll apply fish fertilizer every 2-3 week as nutrients leak much faster in pots. For granular fertilizer, I'll stick with every 4 week.

In-ground roses: I fertilized every 4 week these past years but this year I'll rotate between fish fertilizer and granular fertilizer every 4 week.

These are the type of fertilizers that I've been using and my roses seem to respond well. Rose Tone is new this year to me.

I use Fish Fertilizer in combination with More Bloom. As you can see, only fish fertilizer alone has high number of nitrogen which will help with leaves but not flowers so I combine both. As for how much to apply, I do 1 tablespoon of each per one gallon of water per rose. For alfalfa pellets, I soak with water overnight (1 - 2 nights max, there's sevearl recipes online if you want to search up) to make an alfalfa tea and water each rose. I used to add fish fertilizer with alfalfa tea but it stinks so bad I tried it separately a few weeks apart and I liked it better that way.

Cow Manure: I sprinkle this on top of the roses about one scoop and mix in with the soil when I plant new roses both in pot and ground. Don't overdo this as manure can burn roots.

Jobes Organics: last year I bought another version but a rose friend told me that the Knock out version has the same ingredients. I compared the list and she was right, plus it's cheaper.

Last but not least, check out videos from Paul Zimmerman along with Fraser Valley Farm about fertilizing

Please share what you have been using and loving? Wishing you all a year of abundant blooms and healhty plants.



Join me in the online pruning and fertilizing course where I'll show you what fertilizer I use during springtime and how I apply to get more buds and blooms.

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