Ask The Expert

Wondering whether a certain variety is right for your garden? Not sure your plants are receiving the correct amount of water? Submit your rose care question to The Perfect Rose expert gardener Robert Myers.

Selected questions and answers will be posted monthly for the benefit of the growing community. Please keep in mind that due to the volume of requests received, we may not be able to respond to or post all inquiries.

So that we can best address your question, please provide as much detail as possible, including rose variety and your exact location as well as any unique water or soil conditions that are present in your bed.

For a more in-depth assessment of your garden and rose care needs, call Robert at 704-633-0800 for a complimentary consultation.

Questions & Answers

Dear Perfect Rose,
I live in southeastern North Carolina (Wilmington area). A few years ago, I bought some tea roses and planted them in our native "soil" (which is mostly sand) without amending the soil.

The first year they grew and bloomed fairly well (I expect that they were living on the minimal soil they came with). In subsequent years, even in light of my following good watering and, the growth and blooms have been severely stunted. I want to replant them this winter into holes newly dug and filled with amended soil.

My question is whether or not to dig up the roses with as large a root ball as I can, wash the roots clean and carefully plant them bareroot in all amended soil, or place the big root ball intact intothe new hole surrounded with amended soil.

Thanks in advance for your help.

- DB
Wilmington, NC

Dear DB:
I would not wash away the soil, as it contains the small feeder roots, and those would be damaged. I imagine when you dig them up, the sand will fall away anyway, leaving the original soil. I recommend your new beds be raised and contain pine bark mulch or other organic matter, lime and perlite or PermaTill – both should be available at your garden center or Southern States.

When planting, use 1/4 cup of triple super phosphate, which you can get at Lowe's, to help root development. Be sure to mix that in the soil well and not let it directly contact the roots undiluted with soil. Once planted, water it all in to get rid of any air pockets. Add more soil and Osmocote (slow release fertilizer) on top of the soil, then mulch well. Do not fertilize again until after the first bloom cycle.

Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes or if you have other questions!



Dear Perfect Rose,
I planted two rose bushes last spring, and they did just okay. What kind of fertilizer and bug control product is the best to use, and when should I start to apply?

– C
Huntersville, NC

Dear C:
The first year for a rose bush is always the slowest, as the roots are getting established. This year you should see a big difference in your bushes!

Once the weather warms (mid-March), we recommend that you put a cup of Osmocote (slow release fertilizer) around each bush and work it into the soil with a pitchfork or other tool that will send it down to the roots without cutting the roots. You can also spread a cup of standard 10-10-10 fertilizer around the top of the soil.

Every month thereafter, you can fertilize with any rose fertilizer from Lowe's or Home Depot, or you can use an organic mix such as Rose-Tone, which you can get at your local Southern States or other favorite garden center. Just remember that the only thing roses like better than being fed is being watered! Be sure you thoroughly water the bushes ever few days during the hot summer. They will reward you with plenty of blooms!

Best of luck! Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing!



Dear Perfect Rose,
I've just purchased some new rose bushes and wondered when I should fertilize? Also, which fertilizer product do you recommend?

Charlotte, NC

Dear NS:
I am assuming you have not planted your roses. This being the case, I suggest you purchase some Triple Super Phosphate (available at garden centers) and put a tablespoon or so in the hole when you plant your roses. This will encourage new root development without burning the existing roots. You should not fertilize a newly planted rose unless you have a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Once you have planted the rose, you can sprinkle about a cup of slow release fertilizer on the soil around the plant. Be sure none of the fertilizer is in contact with the plant, but must be in contact with the soil to be effective. Once you have fertilized, cover the base of the plant with your preferred mulch product.

You can fertilize with any organic compound at any time, it will not hurt the plant. These are items such as Black Cow, Rose Tone, etc.  Once the roses have started their first bloom cycle, you can fertilize with inorganic fertilizers such as 10-10-10. Be sure you water before and after you fertilize when using inorganic products. Continue to fertilize all season (about once a month) to see the best results. You will want to stop fertilizing about 3 weeks before your first anticipated frost. Good Luck!



Dear The Perfect Rose:
Last year I noticed a long shoot coming from the base of my plant that bloomed once and was not the color of the other roses on the bush. Is that normal? What should I do?

Huntersville, NC

Dear BT:

This is perfectly normal! Most roses commercially sold today are grafted onto a hearty root stock. Occasionally, a shoot or "sucker" will form below the bud union of the graft. This is the root stock plant and should be removed. If you do not remove the sucker, it will take over the plant and the rose will eventually become "wild." Be sure to trim off the shoot as close to the base of the plant as possible. If you cannot find the origin of the sucker, you may want to either take a shovel and cut off one side of the root system, or just replace the bush.



Whether you are making preparations to install your first bed or you need expert assistance with your established garden, please let us know how we can help you achieve The Perfect Rose.

The Perfect Rose, LLC
302 East Glenview Drive
Salisbury, NC 28147

704-633-0800 office
704-296-4502 mobile
704-603-4032 fax

The Perfect Rose is a member of several local, regional and national organizations that are dedicated to the cultivation and enjoyment of roses:

American Rose Society
Charlotte Rose Society
Rowan Rose Society
Winston-Salem Rose Society