Knockout rose

If you’re a fan of classic country music, then I’m sure you recognize the opening lines to Lynn Anderson’s hit “Rose Garden.”

I tend to associate items and memories with music. Perhaps you are just a fan of roses. They are consistently one of the top 10 flowers worldwide. Roses symbolize love, romance, purity, and beauty.

Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” is a symbol of an idealistic world. However, if you’ve ever grown roses, you’ll know not “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” all the time (had to get one more song reference in there).

Louisiana doesn’t exactly have the most rose-friendly climate. For years, gardeners struggled to grow healthy roses whenever hybrid tea varieties dominated the landscape. While they can be successfully grown here, they require more care than the average gardener is typically willing to provide.

Thankfully, easier-to-maintain knockout and drift roses entered the landscaping market around 20 years ago. These more disease-resistant, everblooming roses have quickly become a landscaping go-to for adding rose gardens to south Louisiana homes.

Whether you grow hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, miniature, shrub, knockout, or drift roses, late August to early September is one of the important times of the year for rose maintenance.

These everblooming types of roses need to be pruned in late summer to prepare for their fall bloom cycle. Pruning helps to control the size of the rose bush and stimulates new growth, which improves flowering. This is also an opportunity to remove weak or dead canes.

Pruning of knockout and drift roses is not the same as hybrid tea and grandiflora roses. These do not require as severe of pruning that hybrid teas benefit from. Knockout roses are pruned in late summer by conducting a one-third height-reduction pruning. Drift roses should only be deadheaded at this time.

Hybrid tea and grandiflora roses benefit from a more intense pruning. They should be cut back to about one-half their height. Any dead wood or diseased canes should be removed as well. Keep in mind that this is a lighter pruning than what you may be accustomed to doing in late winter. We do not want to prune roses as severely as we will in late winter.

As always, when pruning, be sure you are using clean, sharp bypass-type hand pruners. Clean pruners with a 10 percent bleach solution. For canes larger than one-half inch in diameter, use loppers. Remove all cuttings from the bed to prevent disease development.

Do not prune climbing roses such as Peggy Martin, Lady Banks, and seven sisters now. These once-a-year blooming roses should only be pruned the few weeks immediately following blooming. Pruning now will remove next year’s flower buds.

This is also a good time to add a slow-release fertilizer at a rate of one-half to one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet to promote more blooms this fall. Take this time to refresh the mulch around rose bushes. Mulching helps retain soil moisture during dry spells, reducing stress on plant roots. It also suppresses weed seed germination and growth.

Give your roses some TLC this month and you won’t need John Conlee’s “Rose Colored Glasses” to see all the beauty in your garden. Just beware that “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. Sorry, I had to end with an encore.

Clark Robertson is the assistant county agent for horticulture for Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics, contact Clark at (225) 686-3020 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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