Caring for Roses

'Judy Garland' floribunda rose

‘Judy Garland’ floribunda rose

I have seven rose bushes that have been growing beautifully in my front yard for many years. This year, they all got their first buds of the season, which bloomed. After they withered, I cut off the dead flower stems down to a five-leaflet leaf but instead of new stems, all I’m getting are long, red leafy shoots, with no buds on the end.
I don’t know if this has something to do with all the rain we’ve been having or something I’m doing wrong. These bushes usually have continuous buds or flowers from the spring into the fall.
– Linda Katz, Granada Hills
A: It is true that the kind of heavy rain we experienced this year will drain mineral nutrients. However, the positive effects of the rain – dissolving or draining away accumulated salts that inhibit flowering – should more than compensate for any loss of nutrients. You still may want to apply an extra dose of fertilizer to see if this makes a difference.
Since roses are heavy feeders, it is critical to pay attention to the overall health of the soil. Aside from applying fertilizer, it is essential to keep beneficial soil bacteria and fungi active, since they are the true indicators of soil fertility. There are many new bio-stimulant products, available in nurseries and over the Internet, that enhance the growth of soil micro-organisms. Spreading compost around the base of your roses once or twice a year would have a similarly beneficial effect.
Keep in mind that roses need a constant fertilizer feed, as well as continuous removal of faded flowers, to keep blooming. In the Valley, if you use a combination of organic, slow-release, and fast-acting fertilizers, you can keep roses in flower for nine months. If you are lazy about fertilizer application and spent flower removal, and just want lush green bushes that will flower reliably enough, choose floribunda roses.
Another important aspect of rose culture in the Valley is exposure. Rose bushes that face south and get full-day sun will not be as productive as those facing west or, best of all, east. That intense Valley sun will often curtail flowering.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Loquat trees produce soft, yellow fruit that has the texture of apricots. The loquat is cold-tolerant down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit and has both orange- and white-fleshed varieties. ‘Lucky Jim’ is a popular cultivar for Valley gardens.

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