Quick Guide to Fertilizing Roses by Beverly Rose Hopper, Master Rosarian
When it comes to fertilizing roses, my mantra is “Do What Fits Your Time and Budget.” There’s a program to fit everyone and every garden. It also depends on how passionate (aka crazy) about roses you are!
FERTILIZER PROGRAM FOR THOSE WHO “LIKE “ROSES.
Now or as soon as you get around to it. Apply time-release fertilizer such as Osmocote to each rose. Throw a handful or two around base of each rose and till into soil. Super lazy method is to blast it into soil with water from garden hose.
FERTILIZER PROGRAM FOR THOSE WHO “LOVE” ROSES.
Early Spring use Osmocote as base. Apply fish emulsion. Very stinky stuff but roses love it. Give each bush about one gallon of diluted emulsion (1 tbsp per gallon of water) if you have a lot of roses mix it up in a plastic garbage can.
Next, when roses have leafed out in spring : Apply a granular fertilizer such as Bandini or similar Rose Food. Re-apply at the end of every bloom cycle until September.
And then EVERY ONCE AND AWHILE IF YOU FEEL SO INCLINED: Feed the roses with Miracle Gro. Standing among the roses gently spraying them with Miracle Gro is a pleasant way to spend time on a sunny afternoon.
FERTILIZER PROGRAM FOR THOSE “OBSESSED” WITH ROSES (you know who you are!)
START OFF WITH: Osmocote as base, work carefully into soil.
Early spring when roses leafing out, add Sequestrene, excellent iron supplement for deep green leaves. Give each bush a couple of tablespoons per plant and water it in. Sequestrene is a little more expensive and harder to get than Iron-Ite, but Iron-Ite is which is made from arsenic tailings. Figure it’s worth it.
Then add Alfalfa pellets several cups per bush. Alfalfa contains triacontanol, a growth stimulant.
Mills Magic Mix contains lots of goodies and organics. For a quick fix, try Mills Easy Feed, the liquid version. Dr. Earth also is an excellent organic choice.
Top it off with steer manure, chicken manure or horse manure.
PLUS EVERY 2 – 4 WEEKS add
Miracle-Gro, but don’t overdo it or your foliage will look like elephant ears. Mill’s Magic Mix Easy Feed is my favorite alternative,, order online. Also Jack’s formerly known as Peter’s for fertilizing boost and quick pick-ups. Green Acre’s carries Jack’s.
ABOUT ONCE A MONTH FROM MID-SPRING TO MID-SEPTEMBER:
Dry granular Rose Food, a generic or brand favorite like Bandini or Vigoro. Or even better use organic rose food such as Dr. Earth or Mills Magic Mix.
EVERY MONTH OR AS OFTEN AS YOU, YOUR FAMILY OR NEIGHBORS CAN STAND IT: Fish emulsion, aka “stinky stuff.”
THEN EVERY SO OFTEN JUST FOR FUN:
Mix up a batch of Alfalfa Tea. If you thought fish emulsion was stinky, this is even more odoriferous but oh, so good! Fill garbage can with water, add alfalfa pellets. Optional: add dry Miracle-Gro, Sequestrene, and if your soil is low in magnesium (unlikely) add Epsom Salts. Stir and secure lid. (A lid is very important or your neighbor is sure to call the cops.) Let sit for 3 days, occasionally stirring. Give each rose about 1 gallon or so of “tea.”
STILL WANT MORE?
The truly committed may want to try Plant Success Mycorrhizae, Monty’s Joy Juice, Liquid Karma, Superthrive, Seaweed & Kelp mixtures, Bat Guano and believe it or not, Kricket Krap!
Epilogue: Recommend use whatever fits your time and budget EXCEPT for the combination fertilizer and pesticide, such as Bayer All in One Rose & Flower Food. It contains neonictinoids, which may be contributing to the declining bee population. Just recently the City of Portland banned neonictinoids from public lands, and Lowe’s will be phasing it out.