Rose guru Ludwig Taschner’s inbox always overflows with gardening queries… his answers could help you, too!
Some of my rose bushes have pushed out thick, reddish stems from the base of the plant that look quite different to the other stems. Should I remove them?
These stems are called basal shoots; they are the new stems that usually determine how tall a bush will grow in a season. They should not be confused with suckers, which are thornless, green stems that grow from the rootstock and should be pulled off. Once a basal shoot reaches knee height, pinch off the growing tip; this encourages the stem to become woody, which helps it to withstand strong winds without snapping. Pinching also encourages nicely balanced side stems. If pinching is not done in time and a candelabra type of growth develops, cut out the three centre buds.
How often should I fertilise my roses?
In most areas, roses need fertilising once a month from September to April. Feed with a rose fertiliser (5:1:5 or 8:1:5) in the middle of the month, according to the recommended dosage (giving more than the recommended amount won’t make the roses grow faster but will burn the roots and leaves). Brown, brittle edges around the leaves or black stems are signs of over-fertilising. Fertiliser is best sprinkled over the leaves; this helps to spread it fairly evenly over the root zone. When you water the plant, the water will dissolve the fertiliser and carry it down to the roots. Don’t place fertiliser in heaps or rings around the roses as this concentrates too much fertiliser in a small area and causes scorching.
My rose bush is not growing well and only produces a few short stems with flowers, which is very disappointing. What can I do?
Snip off all the tiny flower buds with at least one leaf. Flower production takes a lot of energy from the roots, so removing these reverses the process and more food is pushed to the roots than is being absorbed. This encourages the formation of hair roots, which absorb more water and nutrients, resulting in more shoots and leaves and eventually strong basal shoots and a renewal of the bush. Also increase watering to at least twice a week.
Ludwig’s tips for September
Words and image: Home magazine