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Selecting and Caring for Roses

By Sharon Stickell and Rob Capp

One of the most traditional and iconic garden plants, the rose is known for its beauty, classic appeal and continuous, repeat blooming from spring through frost. Today, there are over 100 species and thousands of cultivars, providing a limitless abundance of options which can be a bit overwhelming for gardeners new to growing these beautiful plants. The choices can be a bit overwhelming for those of us who are selecting roses for the first time – but with our guide to selecting roses, you can select one that will work well for you and your garden!

General Care

Regardless of the rose you select, there are a few guidelines which apply to all types.

  • Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Follow our planting instructions to plant your roses, adding a handful of super phosphate to promote root growth. If you are planting in containers fill in around the container with Merrifield Potting Mix or organic alternative, then mix one or two cups of dehydrated manure and a tablespoon of super phosphate.
  • When watering your roses, follow our watering guidelines. We recommend using a 12-inch bamboo stake or dowel rod to check for moisture more deeply than other plants. Water in the morning to ensure that the water evaporates from the leaves during the day, as water sitting on the leaves overnight can promote disease.
  • Roses require a generous amount of fertilizer. From the first signs of leaf break (usually in April) to August, fertilize every 4-6 weeks with Merrifield Flowering Plant Food or an organic alternative, such as Rose Tone.
  • Mulch around your rose according to our proper mulching guidelines. Keep mulch an inch or two away from the crown of the plant.

Selecting the Right Rose

ISTOCK Climbing Rose

Climbing Rose

Use these roses as an accent along fences or on arbors or pergolas by training them to grow in the way that you choose. These vigorous growers flower on wood that is at least two years old. Some are ever-blooming. They will need the support of an arbor, fence, or trellis as they grow.

Knockout Rose

Shrub Rose

Generally the easiest to grow, shrub roses are tough, hardy and more disease resistant than other varieties. These roses range in height from 2 feet to 8 feet and can be used in borders or hedges. Common varieties include the knock-out, drift and carpet roses.

David Austin

These are bushy, shrub type roses with a focus on fragrance and form. Most blooms are cottage or cabbage-like. These varieties are usually disease resistant.

Miniature Rose, Greenhouse

Miniature Rose

Perfect for patios, the front of borders, and containers, these small roses reach only 2 feet in height and bloom continuously from spring until November.

Floribunda Rose 'Scentimental'

Floribunda

These all-purpose roses generally grow to between 2 and 4 feet and bloom in clusters. Most bloom continuously from spring – frost. These are generally more disease resistant than other roses and can be used in borders, containers or in hedges.

Grandiflora Rose, Shrub

Grandiflora

These roses are similar to the Floribunda, but taller, and can reach about 6 feet in height. These vigorous bloomers produce clustered flowers at the end of each stem throughout the growing season. They work well in the back of a flower border or as a hedge.

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Chicago Peace'

Hybrid Tea

Producing single blooms at the end of their stems, these are the ideal to use as a cut flower. They can be used as a specimen plant or in a border or garden bed. These typically involve a little more care than other rose plants but produce the most magnificent flowers. They typically reach anywhere from 2 feet to 5 feet in height.

ISTOCK Rose Tree

Tree Rose

These specimen plants are generally grafted onto a tall rose trunk of hybrid tea quality and used as an accent plant growing in a container. They are more susceptible to winter damage since they have been grafted.

If you are looking for more information on the care of roses, check back soon for a post on pruning, pest management and winter care techniques.

Back to Basics: Houseplants

Paul Knight, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Growing houseplants is a fun and rewarding hobby that can truly enhance your interior spaces. Houseplants naturally soften the straight lines and hard edges of furniture, cabinetry and other architectural elements, and make your home healthier by absorbing carbon dioxide and providing clean oxygen in exchange.

For many, the idea of growing plants inside the home may seem like an intimidating endeavor. But once you understand a plant’s ideal growing conditions, you will be able to easily enjoy plants that otherwise wouldn’t be able to survive in our area.

There are two important factors to consider when selecting a tropical houseplant: light requirements and moisture preferences. Understanding the light requirements will ensure you choose a plant that will thrive in your location. Understanding the moisture preferences will help you select a plant you can monitor and water regularly.

Light

Just like outdoor plants, light is the most important factor to consider when choosing where indoor plants can grow. Different areas of your home will have different levels of light intensity, depending on the number of windows and the directional exposure of those windows (north, south, east or west). Indoor plants typically require one of the following light levels.

Direct Light: Two to five hours of direct sun, daily

You can find direct light in sunny areas of your home within one to two feet of an unobstructed south or west facing window. In these spaces, the sun should directly touch the plant. Indoor plants that thrive in direct light locations include:

  • Cacti
  • Ficus
  • Gardenia
  • Jasmine
  • Bougainvillea
  • Citrus
  • Hibiscus
  • Succulents

Bright, Indirect Light: Three to four hours of early morning or late afternoon sun

Bright, indirect light is an all-purpose light level in which foliage plants thrive and flowering plants are maintained. You can find bright, indirect light in an unobstructed east facing window or a few feet back from a south or west facing window. In these areas, you will be able to cast a shadow in the room. Indoor plants that enjoy bright, indirect light include:

  • African violets
  • Anthurium
  • Cyclamen
  • Violets
  • Orchids
  • Bromeliads
  • Palms (Areca, Bamboo, Majesty)
  • Aralias

Moderate to Low Light: Two to three hours of indirect sun to light that is not bright enough to cast a shadow

You can find moderate light several feet back from a west or south facing window, or right next to an obstructed north facing window. In moderate light areas, there is enough light to read in the room. You can find low light areas a foot or more away from a north facing window or back from an east or west facing window that receives moderate light. Indoor plants that enjoy bright, indirect light include:

  • Peace lily
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Dracaena
  • Sanseveria
  • Cast iron plant
  • Pothos
  • Snake plant
  • Philodendron

Water

All plants require water to survive. While some houseplants prefer to remain moderately moist, others prefer to be on the dry side. For example, ferns, carnivorous plants, spathiphyllum and citrus (when they’re in bloom) all prefer to be on the moist end. Dracaena, cast iron plant, sanseverias and succulents all prefer to be on the slightly dry side.

There are two basic rules to follow to ensure proper watering:

  1. Before you water your plant, always check the soil first to see if it needs water.
  2. When your plant does need water, always water thoroughly.

You can use a moisture meter, the sharp end of a pencil, a popsicle stick or your finger to check if your plant needs water. Insert your tool of choice into the soil at least 1/3rd deep into the soil. Some plants that prefer to be on the drier side will require that you check the soil at a deeper level. Our greenhouse team will be able to tell you the specific depth at which you should check for any plant you select.

When you insert the tool into the soil, turn it in place and then lift it out of the pot. If the plant is sufficiently moist, you will see light moisture marks and specs of soil. If the plant is dry and in need of water, the pencil will have very little, if any, moisture marks or soil specs on it.

How to Water

When it’s time to water your houseplants, you can either take it to the sink or water it in place with a saucer underneath. If you water in the sink, run lukewarm water over the soil until water runs all the way through and out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. If you plant is on the smaller side or covers most of the pot, try filling up a small watering can or cup with a spot and pour water into the pot to reduce mess.Turn the water off and let the plant sit for a few minutes. Then repeat this method one or two more times. Be sure to allow all of the water to drain out of the bottom of the pot before putting it back in place.

If you water in place, pour lukewarm water over the soil until the water runs all the way through and out of the bottom of the pot into the saucer. Let the plant sit for five to ten minutes. If there is no water in the saucer, pour water over the plant again until it runs out into the saucer at the bottom and let it sit. Repeat this process until the water level in the saucer stops dropping. When done, empty the saucer or wick away any excess moisture.

We invite you to come explore the many different houseplans at our three greenhouse locations. Our greenhouse plant specialists look forward to helping you select a plant that will fit your personality and thrive in your light conditions!

Watering

Don’t let your plants go into winter thirsty!

With the extremely dry fall we’ve had this year, we’re enjoying the rain that is coming our way this week and next. But even with the rainfall, our plants will still be dry and thirsty as we’re down roughly six inches of rain since September.

We recommend supplementing the rainfall by thoroughly soaking your plants as if we had an entire day’s worth of rain.

Don’t worry, you can’t overwater your plants during a single watering session as the excess water that is not absorbed by the plant will simply run off the soil. No plant wants to go into winter dry! If our plants go dormant for the winter while dry, it’s less likely that they’ll thrive in the spring or even survive.

With new plantings, it’s important to follow our planting and watering instructions throughout the fall season and continue to check the plants for water every three to five days, and water as needed. With established plants, check them weekly through the rest of the calendar year and thoroughly soak them when needed.  Broadleaf evergreens such as hollies, rhododendrons and laurels tend to need water the most at this time of year. This is especially true if we have less than the normal amount of rainfall, like we’re experiencing in our area right now.

Remember that it’s not too late to plant your trees and shrubs. You can continue planting throughout the rest of the year and into winter. The only time to avoid planting is when the ground is deeply frozen, which may occur in our area only for only a few weeks in January or February.

As we enter the winter months, we also recommend turning off the water to the outside of your house to prevent hose bibs and pipes from freezing. If we have a warmer day in January or February, remember to turn the water back on and thoroughly soak all of your plants in the landscape, especially new plantings and broad-leaf evergreens. A pocket hose can be a great tool for this type of watering as they roll up and store easily. When you’re done watering, turn the water to the outside of your house back off to prevent the pipes from freezing in the future.

If you have any questions about specific plants and their water requirements, please visit our Plant Clinics at any of our three stores, or call in and speak with one of our plant specialists. We will also update you on our Facebook page with our latest recommendations throughout the rest of the season.