Roses for Dummies

I inherited a few rose bushes with my new place. They seem to be doing pretty well, but the weeds are growing. I’d like to put forth at least a little effort in maintaining them. I know very little about gardening, and most of my past efforts have failed due to lack of time and commitment.

Are there some easy steps I can take to keep them going and keep the weeds at bay? I don’t feel the need to win any awards with them or anything.

Can I put mulch down? What kind? That seems to look nice around other people’s houses.

Do they need any type of food or fertilizer?

Rose people seem to favor laying down some kind of organic mulch (meaning not necessarily organic-certified but simply some kind of shredded organic materials rather than plastic/mineral weed barrier) for weed control.

Sez here mulch should be applied in early spring but you can mulch any time during the growing season if you remove the weeds and lightly rake over the soil. Spread the mulch 2-4 inches thick and leave a little space around the base of the rose.

Mulching is probably the best investment in terms of maximum payoff in improved appearance for minimum time and effort. Fertilizing once a year or so probably comes next. AFAIK just get any decent commercial rose food or fertilizer and follow the package instructions.

If the bushes look good and don’t have pests, then I wouldn’t bother experimenting with watering or pruning or shaping. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and changing a plant’s water intake or making cuts on its branches can sometimes make it less resistant to diseases or pests.

Likewise, make sure you get good mulch from a decent supplier that won’t be harboring pest larvae or other undesirables. The last thing your roses need on their territory is a 50-pound sack of Trojan horse concealing critters that want to kill them.

They like to get lots of sun and (around here - it’s dry) plenty of water, too. If you have branches overhead that are shading them, cut them back as possible. Also, try to avoid getting the leaves wet, as that encourages mildew and other problems.

Otherwise: pull up the weeds, put down shredded {{ organic matter of choice }} to discourage them from coming back, and you’re fine with Miracle-Gro or something similar from the big hardware store once or twice a year. The directions are simple, and usually can be used in either a sprayer or in a watering can.
Oh - don’t mound the mulch right up around the stem.

Your local library might have the book.

Huh. Sounds pretty easy, actually. They’re out in front of our house, and get tons and tons of sun. I’ll go get some mulch this weekend and call it done! Thanks everyone!

Here’s some advice in return: roses don’t like smoke. The day after our house fire, I came by and ALL of the petals had fallen off. I figured they’d all die, but everything seems to have come back. Nothing like getting some beautiful plants that someone else has gotten started!

Where do you live? This fall, when the temperature drops into the 40’s, prune them. Cut the canes back 2/3 to 3/4 of their present length. Good video here. If it gets REALLY cold there, you may have to cover them with straw or some other insulation.

Next spring, pull all the mulch away from the base about a foot in every direction, and top dress them with cow manure (you can buy it in bags, stink free!). Then put fresh mulch on top of the cow manure to a depth of 1 or 2 inches. I’ve found that top dressing is the single most important thing you can do to roses to keep them happy, especially if you don’t plan to fuss over them and spray them all summer long!

I’m in Kentucky.

Sorry (about to show my ignorance here) - by canes, do you mean stems? Like the main stem, or each individual one?

What does “top dress” mean?

Get a box of Miracle Gro Rose Food at Walmart. Make sure its Rose food and not regular Miracle Gro.

the tiny scoop in the box makes a gallon of liquid fertilizer. Feed once a month during the summer.

Yes - canes are the main branches. Look at the video via the link I provided. It shows you what to do.

“Top dress” means spread the manure around at the base of the bush on top of the ground. No need to work it into the soil.

And I second aceplace57’s advice about Miracle Gro Rose Food.

Thanks so much! I’ll get on it this weekend!