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Growing roses in our desert doesn’t have to be thorny task


Oh the fragrance. It seems as if every rose in the county has opened flowers simultaneously and there is nothing quite like the fragrance of roses.

We grow all kinds of plants for all kinds of reasons, but there are few grown for the pleasure of their fragrance as roses are. One might argue that they are equally beautiful, and that is certainly true.

No matter what the reason one grows roses, all rose gardeners feel unjustly attacked when they hear someone proclaim that roses are hard to grow. Anything that we love deserves the effort to do it right, and that makes success an easy result!

Here are the basics to growing roses that will surprise your friends and repay your efforts!

• Soil: You have probably noticed that roses are not a desert dweller by nature. Soil content is one of the most important things to make them comfortable and productive.

Our soil lacks nitrogen, and it also lacks the organics that provide and hold both nutrient and water. The first important thing is to do a great job of amending your soil. You have one chance to do that when you are preparing the planting hole.

Unless you have the time to devote to eight or 10 times a day fogging – you should NOT plant bare root roses. Our climate has very little humidity and unless one replaces that on an hourly basis you will not have good success. So don’t plant bare root. It is well worth the extra $10 to buy roses well rooted into a container and fully leafed out and healthy.

Grade A (or No. 1) roses mean they are the best, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less! To plant a 5 gallon-size rose, prepare a hole that is 2 1/2 feet deep and 2 1/2 feet wide. Add no less than 30 percent organic matter – either compost, soil conditioner or planting mix. The better the quality of the organics, the more moisture and nutrient they will hold.

• Sun: Roses need sun – they will be spindly and have fewer blooms if they don’t get enough sun. No, the sun will not fry them if they are well watered. We grow ours in all day sun . . . from the moment it comes up until it goes down!

• Water: Roses need to be weaned, like all other woody plants, from a starting point of daily water, to a finishing point of no more than once a week (twice if your soil is very sandy). Over an eight- to 10-week period, the roots are acclimated to less frequent, but deeper waterings to reach the desired result.

• Nutrient: Food, fertilizer, nutrient – whatever your terminology – roses are big eaters! I’ve seen that they are not terribly picky, though I would like to believe that they prefer organic to chemical fertilizers. We know the soil prefers organic . . . and if you build the soil – it will help feed the plant. So to keep it simple use a high-quality organic granular fertilizer once a month from February to December.

Now for the hard part – you have to choose from hundreds of colors and fragrances to find the perfect ones for you!

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.


Growing roses in the desert doesn’t have to be thorny task

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