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Fertilizing Roses

By Bobbie Reed, Consulting Rosarian


All roses require lots of water and food to produce beautiful flowers.

The best fertilizer regimen is the one YOU will actually use! Pick one or more of the diets below for your roses. Your choice should depend on your preferences, budget, time, and your soil (have it tested!). A proper pH level will make nutrients more available to your roses.

Systemic Rose Food (Ortho Rose Pride)
mixture of fertilizer and systemic insecticide; good for a small garden

Balanced Granular Fertilizer (10-10-10, 8-8-8, 13-13-13)
one cup per month - suitable for beginners, low-investment

Slow-Release (Osmocote)
expensive, but reduces your work in garden, adapts to actual weather

Soluble Fertilizer (Miracle Gro, Peters 20-20-20, Watch Us Grow, Green Light)
fast-acting, but needs to be applied twice a month

Specialty Rose Foods (Miracle Gro for Roses, Schultz, Peters)
brands have different ratios of nutrients, match them to your soil needs apply according to label directions

Specialty Organic Rose Foods (Mills Magic Rose Mix, Mills Easy Feed, RoseTone, "Purely Organic")
witches' brew for roses, lots of good stuff, but expensive
2 cups Rose Mix per bush, twice a year
3 cups "Purely Organic" per bush, twice a year

Mix-It-Yourself Organic Fertilizers
suitable for larger gardens, more work, less expensive may include alfalfa, blood meal, fish meal, bone meal, manure, etc.

Alfalfa Tea
One of many versions of this recipe. Feel free to adapt.

Start with 12 cups of alfalfa pellets in a 32-gallon plastic garbage can filled with water. Put lid on, let it brew for 3-4 days, stirring once or twice. When it's ripe, add & stir well:

2 cups Epsom salts
2 cups chelated iron (Ironite)
2 cups 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer
2 cups fish emulsion
Apply 1 gallon per rose bush - about 26 gallons per garbage can full. Wear rubber gloves!

Using remaining sludge, add 4 cups alfalfa and refill garbage can. Repeat brewing step, add extras, apply. At end of second batch, discard sludge in garden, rinse can, start a fresh batch. This is quite pungent - don't get it on your skin! Wash clothing & gloves immediately.

If you have any questions, contact Bobbie Reed or any of our Consulting Rosarians.