Valley News -

By Frank Brines
Master Consulting Rosarian 

March rose care FUNdamentals: Prepare for spring


Last updated 3/14/2018 at 6:34pm


Location. Location. Location. Depending on location – or more specifically, that of the garden – home gardeners may have experienced frost damage to their roses and tender young plants recently. The last week of February and the first week of March brought cold – and sometimes freezing – temperatures to Riverside County. Some areas even saw a little snow. Even gardens in the same general vicinity may have different effects due to their prevailing micro-climates. These wintry temperatures could delay growth of vegetation and bloom time due to the cooling of the ground as well as the air.

If the roses experienced fungal diseases last year, a gardener might think of applying a lime sulfur dormant spray soon. Be sure to read the label completely to ensure the proper strength of the mixture for "growing season instructions." Be sure to saturate all canes and the soil surface of the entire bed. It is a good time to make sure the garden is free of left-over debris and to dispose it in the green garden waste bin – do not compost rose debris in the yard. Also, remove all old leaves that may be left on the bush. This cleanliness will help keep down disease. Maintain a minimum of 2 inches to 4 inches of organic composted mulch over the entire garden surface to insulate the upper 8 inches to 12 inches where most rose roots feed and to reduce evaporation and conserve water, while still providing sufficient moisture. This insulation will also supply nutrients to build the soil for the roses over the season. Beware that water rates will be increasing, and there is the possibility of future rationing again.

If there is space available, a home gardener can still plant new roses, and they might find some great offers. Over the past several years, there has been a drop in the number of new varieties introduced into the market, and commercial rose production has dropped, so there is less of a selection at fewer outlets. Some nurseries are still shipping to this area. Plants already in pots are the best to buy as they will be far easier to transplant and will establish themselves quicker. Look for those with three to five major canes.

Take time now to inspect and to make any necessary repairs to the irrigation system. Drip systems are the most efficient, and they avoid problems created by above-ground sprayers and sprinklers, which waste water and can foster molds like mildew and rust. If possible, avoid any overspray or misting of water being applied elsewhere in the garden that may hit the roses; but when using overhead watering systems, avoid doing so when there is any wind and avoid moisture collecting on leaves which could result is sun burn or could add to conditions favorable for fugal diseases. For best results and efficiency, be sure to time the irrigation so it is complete before the day gets hot, preferably by midmorning or 8-9 a.m. Avoiding daytime watering prevents excess ground moisture into nighttime. Too wet soil can lead to unhappy roots and fungal diseases.

Now would be the time to sprinkle ½ cup to 1 cup of Epsom salts widely around each rose bush; use half as much for minis and mini-floras. There is some indication that this treatment helps stimulate new cane growths known as "basal breaks" at the "bud union," the big part next to the ground where grafting was done.

When new growth is 2 inches to 3 inches long, begin fertilizing. I suggest an initial feeding each year be higher in nitrogen to encourage new stem and leaf growth. In about two weeks, apply fertilizer that is higher in phosphate and potassium to give roots a boost at start of season. New information suggests that continued use of fertilizer higher in phosphate and potassium will foster greater root development and lead to better growth and resistance for healthier plants. Look for fertilizers rated as 8-10-8 that include micro elements for greater results.

I highly recommend organic type fertilizers versus inorganic or "chemical" ones. Organic fertilizers foster better soil development, a richer, livelier and more viable community of soil organisms that break the elements into easily absorbed form and release them slowly. They will "build" soil structure into a healthy component, and when used regularly, they will develop a soil rich in reserve energy, allowing the gardener to use less product with the same results.

There are rose events coming up which may be interesting to local gardeners. The San Diego Rose Society rose show will be April 14. Gardeners can plan to attend and experience seeing the blooms of their favorite roses or to research possible new additions to their garden. Entry applications for garden show at the San Diego Fair are now being accepted. Inquire at

Be sure to visit the Rose Haven Heritage Garden located at 30500 Jedediah Smith Road. The cross street is Cabrillo Avenue in Temecula. The 3.4-acre rose garden is owned and maintained by the Temecula Valley Rose Society, a nonprofit organization; donations are accepted. Also, visit the website at regularly for great information and a schedule of events. Spread the joy of roses.


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