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All About Roses


Gary Mueller - Rose Expert

At Wilson Bros, we know quite a bit ourselves about growing roses. We are more than happy however, to acknowledge the high level of expertise that someone such as Gary Mueller has achieved in growing absolutely flawless, florist quality hybrid tea roses. Those of you who frequently visit the nursery may have seen Gary's perfect roses on display at the front counter. We asked Gary if he'd be willing to give us, and you, his secrets and he gladly obliged.

Ask Gary Your Rose Gardening Question

Gary's Rose Winterization Tips

Growing Roses the Mueller Way

By: Gary Mueller

Getting Started - Getting started right is very important. Choosing and preparing a good site is necessary for growing good roses. First, I pick a location that will recieve plenty of morning sun. Roses like the sun, and the morning sun will help dry the dew off of the leaves. Roses like at least 6 hours of sun a day, however, can tolerate all day sun. Always make sure to space your roses properly for good air circulation which helps to prevent fungal problems later in the season. I have hybrid tea and floribunda roses and plant them about 4’-5' apart, or more.

Testing your soil for pH is also important. Ideally roses like the pH to be 6.0 to 6.5. In this slightly acid range, most of the nutrients that roses need are readily available. You can raise your pH by broadcasting lime and working into the soil. If your soil is too alkaline, you can lower the pH by broadcasting agricultural sulfur and working into the soil.

There are two types of roses available: container grown, and bare-root roses. There are different ways to plants these two types of roses. From mid-March to Mother's Day, Wilson Bros. Nursery has a good selection of 3 gallon size container grown roses that are either in bud or bloom, making the selection process a little easier. Bare-root roses are available for purchase by mail order catalogs or various sites on the internet.

Planting Container Grown Roses

STEP 1 - To plant a container grown rose, dig a hole at least 24" deep, and 12” wider than the container the rose is in. This will give the roots plenty of room to start growing through ammended soil.

STEP 2 - After you dig your hole fill it half way with water and let the water soak in. The water should empty the hole within an hour, and if not, dig the hole a few inches deeper. Roses do not like wet feet, and if their roots stand in water for long periods of time root rot will occur.

STEP 3 - I have a soil mixture recipe for planting roses. After digging the hole for my rose, I mix in:

  • a shovel full of peat moss
  • a shovel of dried cow manure
  • a shovel of compost such as Mushroom Compost
  • 1 cup of cottonseed meal
  • 1 cup of bone meal
  • 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts.

Mix these ingredients together with the native soil dug from the hole.

STEP 4 - Before placing the rose in the hole, backfill hole with soil mixture to a level where the top of the rootball of the rose will be slightly above the ground level. Place the rootball in hole making sure that the top edge is even with the ground level. While holding the rose steady to keep it straight, backfill with the soil mixture to a level 3/4 of the way to the top of the hole tamping lightly as you go. Add water to settle and remove any air pockets. I then add some fish emulsion for an extra boost.Ffollow instructions on the product label. Finish backfilling making sure not to put any mix on top of the rootball.

STEP 5 - Build a 2" high catch basin to help retain water during the first season by mounding a ring of soil in a circle around the perimeter of the hole.

Planting Bare Root Roses

STEP 1 - After recieving your roses make sure to soak the roots for 6 to 24 hours in water to restore the moisture lost during transport.

STEP 2 - Dig the hole for your bare root rose 18" to 24” across, and deep.

STEP 3 - Fill hole with water and make sure it soaks in within an hour. If the hole does not drain properly dig a few inches deeper. The hole should be wider than the diameter of the root system when spread out.

STEP 4 - Use the same recipe for your soil mix as with container grown roses.

STEP 5 - Next, shape a mound of soil mixture in the bottom of the hole, high enough so that the bud union or crown will be at ground level when planting. Mix a 1 gallon solution of root stimulator and water, following instructions on the product label for mixing. Place the rose in the hole and pour the root stimulator solution over the roots. While holding on to the rose to keep it straight, and at a level where the bud union is slightly above ground level, backfill hole with soil mixture to a level 3/4 of the ways to the top of the hole, lightly tamping as you go. Add water to settle in and remove any air pockets. Continue backfilling making sure the bud union is slightly above ground level.

STEP 6 - Build catch basin for retaining water as described in Step 5 above for container roses.

Watering - Roses planted in well-drained soil as described above appreciate frequent watering during dry spells. If you follow the planting instructions as described above poor drainage will not be a problem. Under normal conditions, roses need 1” of water per week from rainfall or other sources. Many roses will tell you when they need watering. Drooping new growth is an indicator. I have a drip system running through out my rose garden. I water my roses with 2 gallons of water every other day. Attaching a water meter to your spicket helps to measure the amount of water despensed. Do not water during the hottest parts of the day. Instead, water early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If you hand water your roses make sure to avoid splashing water on the foliage as this may promote black spot on the foliage.

Fertilization - I fertilize my roses when they begin to show new growth in the early spring. I use a Rose Fertilizer that also contains a systemic insecticide. Fertilome Rose Food with Systemic Insecticide is a good choice. Broadcast around the root sytem and gently work in, making sure not to go to deep as the roots could be damaged. I fertilize every 6 weeks with the fertilizer plus systemic insecticide. In addidtion, every two weeks I water around the base of each of my roses with a solution of 1 tablespoon Miracle Gro for Roses fertilizer in 1 gallon of water. I use old milk jugs to make it easier to measure and distribute.

Disease Prevention & Control - I always keep a chart of when I spray my roses with fungicides. You should spray your roses with a fungicide on a schedule of every 10 to 14 days. This is easy to do if you keep a sprayer on hand that is specifically for fungicides. I alternate using a different fungicide every other week to make it less likely that the my roses will become tolerant to one fungicide. If any leaves on your roses develop black spot, or start to turn yellow from a disease, pull them off and discard them. Any diseased leaves that have fallen to the ground should also be removed and discarded. The onset of black spot is usually caused by too much water on the leaves, or during extended overcast periods when the dew is not dried off by the sun. I use Manzate to kill black spot spores. If black spot spores are present, you must first eliminate them by picking diseased leaves off. Good air circulation also helps to prevent mildew and other diseases by keeping the plant dry and not allowing disease spores to take hold. Aside from manzate, the other fungicides I use are Compass and Banner-maxx. These are quite expensive chemicals, however the the bottle goes a long way because of the small amount needed to mix solutions. Wilson Bros. Nursery sells a couple of cheaper fungicides including Fertiliome Liquid Fungicide that will work if the more expensive ones do not fit your budget. For those of us who want to use an environmentally safe fungicide and disease control, Safer Garden Fungicide is an excellent alternative and also available at the nursery.

Insect Control - I only use pesticides when there are insects present. (Always follow direction on the product label before mixing or applying insecticides). Most insects can be controlled with pesticides, however, certain insects such as spider mites will require a miticide. If you have identified spider mites they will need to be sprayed in stages The first treatment will kill the adults, and the second kills the hatchlings. For a general insecticide I use Orthene but for spider mites I use Avid along with a modifying biochemical (sex attractant pheromone), called Stirrup-M. I also add a product called Indicate to my water to create the optimal pH 6.0 – 6.5 in your water along with a sticker to help it adhere to the leaves better. Malathion and Liquid Sevin (Carbyrl) is a cheaper product that may also be used for mites and various other insects and is available at the nursery. I use Merit for Japanese beetles; it is one of the best. Liquid Sevin also works well for Japanese Beetles. For best results in controlling these pesty beetles you must coat the top and bottom of the leaves. For those who want to use an environmentally safe insecticide for insect control, Safer Insecticidal Soap is a good alternative and also available at the nursery.

Pruning - When winter has arrived, and after we have had a few hard freezes (28 degrees or so), cut back long canes that extend beyond the rest of the bush to make the plant even. Then tie twine around the remaining canes to hold the plant gently together. (Do not cut the bush back completely at this time. Late February or early March is the best time to do the heavy pruning. Clean the ground of all leaves and cover the bud union with compost or mulch, to help it through the winter. When the plant goes dormant, usually around mid-December, spray your roses with a dormant rose spray. I spray with Volck Oil and Lime Sulfur dormant disease spray. It should be sprayed on the ground under and around the rose bush as well. A second spray of Volck Oil and Lime Sulfur in late January or early February can be of great benefit in controlling such insects as scale, and some of the fungi that plague roses. Then, in early spring, when the new growth begins to emerge, it is time to prune your roses. The first step in pruning any type of rose is to remove any dead, damaged, diseased, or weak and thin canes, cutting them off flush with the bud union. Remove any canes that are growing into the middle of the bush or are crossing one another. Always prune to an out-ward facing bud so that canes do not grow into the center of the plant. The ideal angle is 45-degrees, slanted parallel to the direction of the bud growth. Below are instructions for pruning many types of bush-form roses.

Click Here for step-by-step instructions for pruning roses

Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses During the Bloom Season - During the bloom season it is only necessary to prune away faded or finished blooms. Simply trace from the spent bloom down the stem until you come to the first five-leaf branch. Once you have located the first five leaf branch make your cut about a half inch or so above the bud that is nestled at the base of the five-leaf branch as shown in the diagram below. Do not cut too close to the bud or at too sharp of an angle.


Mulching - Mulch is a layer of natural material that is placed atop the soil to blanket the root sytems from the cold temperatures during the winter months. It can be pine needles, wheat straw, or wood mulch. Applying mulch also helps to keep the ground moist and weeds to a minimum.

Rose Varieties

Hybrid Tea - The hybrid tea roses are the best, and most popular for cut flowers. Most produce fully double flowersatop tall single stems, but an occasional double or cluster. Below are a few of the hybrid tea varieties.

Barbara Bush
Ingrid Bergman
John F. Kennedy
Midas Touch
Double Delight
First Prize


Low Maintenance Shrub Roses - Shrub roses range in size from 2’ to 5’ or higher, and 4’ to 5' wide. They are hardy and easy-care plants that do not require much attention. The Knock Out Roses produce an abundance of single single flowers from April to November on 4' high by 4' wide bushes and are the most disease resistant roses on the market today. Anybody can successfully grow these beauties. Several other new varieties, also pictured below, have arrived on the scene as well.

  The Knock Out Rose is the most disesse-free, low maintenance shrub rose we have come across ever! In phases, masses of cherry-red flowers are produced from April to November. We planted the first Knock Out in our trial garden in 2002 and since then the foliage has shown itself to be virtually disease free. We have yet to spray them. A rose we would recommend to everybody and therefore a Wilson Bros. Favorite!
Knock Out Pink, Blush, and the 2006 New Introduction 'Double Knockout' (pictured left) are three more recent introductions having the same disease-free qualities as their brother, Knock Out Cherry.
  Another fabulous 2006 New Itroduction from William Radler, the famous breeder of the award winning Knock Out®. Clear yellow blooms appear in abundant clusters from spring until fall. These non-fading blooms survive even the hottest of summers. This beautiful rose is virtually maintenance free. Another rose you won't want to be without!
  This flame-red offspring of the famous Knock Out kicks the competition up a notch when it comes to disease resistance. Home Run has a phenomenal fortitude against the dreaded black spot (like its father). But, unlike Dad, it is also completely resistant to powdery mildew & has a much higher level of tolerance to downy as well. Rounded, bushy, fast-to-flower and nearly always in color (10 months), it hits a grand slam in the landscape & scores lots of points in a pot, too.

Grandiflora Roses - Grandiflora is a cross between a hybrid tea and floribunda. The grandiflora inherits the best of both parents. The hybrid tea side of the cross contributes high-centered flowers and long cutting stems. The floribunda side provides hardiness, continual flowering and clustered blooms. Grandifloras are generally the tallest of the modern roses (except for climbers). You would want to put them in the back of a bed as a border or screen.

Floribunda - Just as the name suggests, the floribunda has an abundance of flowers. The floribunda was crossed from hybrid tea and a polyantha, and often has hybrid tea-type flowers, although not always. The floribunda tends to be hardy ad low growing, and produce flowers of varying size and color in sprays all summer. The low, bushy form of floribundas make them excellent plants for landscaping, especially as hedges, or mass plantings.

Miniature - Miniature roses are just like other roses but miniature in form, leaves, stems, and flowers. Miniature roses are easy to grow in any garden, indoors or out. Miniature rose height ranges from 3” to 4” to 3’ to 4’ in height, and have flowers that range from less than an inch to several inches across. They come in a wide range of colors and petal shapes.

Climbing - The long canes of climbing roses can be trained to grow on trellises, fences, arbors, pillars, or other structures. Climbers are non-clinging so must be tied to their supports. Climbers range from 6’ to 14’ high or taller.

Tree - Tree roses are roses that have been grafted to be standard (single Stem) trees at heights of 36” or 24”. Tree roses may be planted in the ground or in pots.

Groundcover - Groundcover roses are great for slopes, embankments, or to grow up chainlink fences. They grow approximately 1’to 2’ high to up to 6’ wide or more.

English - English roses are usually very fragrant roses and most of them are quite disease resistant. The range in height is from 3’ to 6,’ with some growing higher. Many english roses bloom only once or twice a season, however many are continual bloomers through the season. The blooms of English roses can have over 100 petals!



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