help! what am I doing wrong?

newbie_caJune 3, 2012

hi, I'm a newbie in rose growing and obsessing over it! My weekend house in Palm Springs (CA) has some 10 or so rose bushes and I got interested in caring for them back in late March. I've done research online, and tried to follow common advice, but I must be doing something wrong, because I'm getting very uneven results:

- I did basic pruning back in late March; removed dead/weak canes, old foliage, etc

- I've been doing additional clean-up, removing deadheads, every week

- most of my bushes don't grow bigger, stronger canes; instead, new shoots come off either from the base or from the sides, which then grow weak and produce small roses

- every time I cut deadheads, it seems the next batch of buds produce smaller and smaller roses

- if I cut the canes themselves a little bit, new shoots immediately start growing, producing small roses; it seems the bushes are "desperate" to bloom, instead of growing strong, healthy buds

- I've been fertilizing with MiracleGro every 2 or 3 weeks

- the bushes are watered a couple of times a day

Should I not cut the deadheads to signal to the bush that it's time to grow instead of bloom?

Any other tips/ideas?

I can send pictures if you'd like. Let me know your email and I'll send you.

Thanks for your help!

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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I know nothing about growing roses in your region, but I do know that if I watered my roses even half of what you water yours, my roses would still think they were drowning. About 1 inch water per week is all that is usually needed, and if it rains, I don't usually need to supplement with the hose.

Never having used the Miracle Grow feed products, I can't comment on them either. You will find, however, that many rose gardeners on this forum do NOT use that product. Instead, many use RoseTone which has lots of organic stuff in it. I feed before and after the first flush and after the second flush. That's about it.

There are lots of ways to care for roses, so your methods may be fine also. It will be interesting to see what others have to say. At least you will have more options available.

As far as the deadheading causing problems, I have never heard of that possibility. I don't think you need to worry about dead-heading. Overwatering and overfeeding, however, certainly could affect the health of the rose and the size of the blooms.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Could it be too hot and dry for them? Or the soil too sandy or to much DG to hold the fertilizer you are giving them?

Hopefully some one from Las Vegas or Phoenix will reply.

Kate: Palm Springs is the hot dry California Desert. Over 100 degrees and low humidity this time of year. Winter it is wonderful there.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 9:46PM
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I am from the Sacramento area--very hot. Two things to consider. If they are newly planted roses, they need to take more time to develop deep root systems to support large size roses. I have a rose I recently planted that has tons of blooms but they are half the size they should be. I know they will be larger next season.

Also, many roses produce smaller blooms when it gets really hot. I have gotten rid of some roses that produced mini-sized blooms in the heat. But it sounds like your roses are too new to tell. Give them three years.

Also, if you are in the desert, you should be finding out the best heat-tolerant roses for your area. You could contact your local rose society or make a post on here asking for that info.
Deadheading is good for roses! You don't want to spend their energy and food on making seeds.

Good luck and don't give up!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 9:56PM
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What Kathy said about time and heat diminishing bloom size.

You don't say what soil you have.

I am in hot dry N. CA, and soil is straight sand. First, I amend the soil with 50-75% amendment (potting soil, well mulched manure) when planting. Then, keep approx 2" of mulch over the soil (when possible, sometimes I get lazy). It helps provide moisture retention, and added nutrients. Then, I do water new roses daily (1x) for at least 3 months or so (recommendation in sand only). The "finger in the soil" works pretty well for determining dampness of top soil. Newer growth on rose will wilt (i.e. tell you) if it doesn't have enough water.

Next, I just started fertilizing this year, with a 12-6-10, in March and May. That's it. Miracle Gro is like giving your roses steriods. And every 2-3 weeks with Miracle Gro - don't think that's a good idea. Others may have more meaningful comments on that. For deadheading - sounds like you are cutting. How much are you cutting? Many just pop the heads off with fingers. If you're cutting too much too often, you may be keeping your roses from growing.

Remember, roses are supposed to be "fun". Perhaps kicking it down a notch, and watching what they do with fasciniation and not fear is the first step :)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Might you have any idea which roses you're growing in the desert? Perhaps they still have the metal tags identifying them? It's possible they are more miniature or smaller floribunda types and aren't ones which produce the larger flower types you might be expecting.

Usually, the soil in that area is quite sandy. Are the roses mulched or simply planted in the sandy soil? Are they potted or in the ground? How close are they to a fence, wall, house wall, side walk, driveway? As you are well aware, there is tremendous heat reflection/radiation from masonary surfaces, particulalry in the low desert and that cooks the plants VERY efficiently. Anything which prevents them from maintaining a steady water supply or takes that supply away from them is going to stress the growth and ability to flower. Higher temperatures commonly reduce the flower size. Combine that with any increased heat from a wall or other concrete surface; reduced water retention due to sandy soil; wind; etc. and you may be lucky you have flowers at all.

What you might consider trying is don't let them flower for a few months. You're approaching the hot weather there and flowering in that weather isn't great in the first place. Instead of cutting them, removing leaves, pinch off the flower buds as they develop, leaving every leaf on the plants. Force them to produce wood and leaves, saving that energy they are going to push into flowers to make the plants fuller, stronger and potentially more productive. That tremendous heat and intense sun require more shade protection. A huskier, fuller plant is going to naturally provide its wood more shade from increased foliage canopy. Cut back on the Miracle Gro, or any fertilizer and let the excess salts in the soil begin to flush out. It isn't a good idea to use any kind of fertilizer in extreme heat. Fertilizer is salt. Your soil and water are salty. Salt pulls water out of the plant and replaces it with salt.

So, keep the leaves and wood, but pinch off the new flower buds to make the plants grow larger until fall (at least), then let them begin flowering in the cooler weather.

Stop fertilizing them. Keep the water flowing, the plants growing, but stop the flowering and maintain them with the water to push growth and keep them feeding themselves. Only fertilize during the cooler months when your roses are flowering more normally and naturally. High heat stresses the plants tremendously and any native in your area which doesn't receive irrigation during the intense heat, shuts down, goes summer dormant. Your rose flowers are going to fry in a few hours anyway. Save the resources and don't let them waste them. Wash the salts through the soil and help the plants shed excess salt by keeping them watered as normal.

When you prune, prune lightly. You want full, large plants where their leaves shade the wood. The denser foliage will also help to keep the plant cooler, better hydrated by their transipration of water (sweating). More leaves equals more food through photosynthesis. That should translate to larger flowers when heat is lower and they are more able to produce them.

In florist research back in the eighties, one 'discovery' was that on average, it took 35 perfect leaves to make one perfect bloom. Contrast that with what you are trying to force your roses to do. They want to grow and are genetically programmed to flower (ovulate) in an effort to reproduce (set seed) to perpetuate the species. The extreme heat stresses the plants, inhibiting their ability to grow at all. The salts from the fertilizer stresses them further. Insufficient foliage cover permits the wood to overheat, inhibiting them from doing their "job" efficiently. Try what I've suggested and see if you don't start having the type of blooms you desire. Good luck! Kim

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 12:59PM
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