Guest Author - Michelle Ullman
“How often should I water my roses?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by new gardeners. As with many other questions in the gardening world, there is no absolute answer, but in general “Fairly often” is an accurate response. Roses are thirsty plants, so if you want healthy rosebushes with gorgeous flowers, you will need to provide adequate water at all times.
If you live in a climate with regular rainfall, nature will take care of irrigation for you, and you may very rarely need to provide supplemental water. If you live in a drier climate, watering will be a regular part of your rose tending schedule.
The frequently heard rule of thumb is that roses require 1 to 2 inches of water per week. That’s really just a start though. Most full-size rosebushes would be happy with much more water than that. It’s actually difficult to overwater roses, as long as the soil drains well.
While the 1 to 2 inches per week rule is a good start, you should always consider other factors, and avoid watering on a rigid schedule. The following tips will help you keep your roses watered properly, to encourage healthy growth and profuse flowering.
• First, although roses love water, they also hate to have wet feet. You must plant them in soil with good drainage. If your soil tends to hold onto water, you can work some peat moss and compost into the ground around your rosebushes, mixing it carefully into the existing soil.
• Create a watering basin around each rose bush by molding the wet soil into a 3-inch wall encircling the bush. The basin should be around 18 inches wide.
• Water by filling the basin around the rose bush, letting it soak into the soil, and then filling it again. Roses, like most plants, prefer less frequent deep watering to frequent light sprinkles.
• Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch around your roses to retain moisture. Shredded bark makes good mulch, as does aged, shredded leaves, compost, hay and shredded newspaper.
• Water your roses early in the morning, never in the evening or at night. Leaving the foliage wet during cool night temperatures is a sure invitation to fungal disease.
• You will obviously need to water more often in hot weather. If temperatures are in the 80s, and your roses are in good draining soil in a full sun location, they will probably want a drink every other day. If the temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above, daily watering is in order, especially for potted roses.
• Always look at the soil before watering. You will develop an eye for soil that is dry enough to need watering, but not too dry.
• If it is very windy, your roses might require frequent watering even if the temperature is not high. Wind dries the leaves very quickly, and can lead to wilting.
• Roses grown in containers will need more frequent watering than roses in the ground. Check your containers daily, feeling the top inch of soil with your finger.
• If you only have a few rosebushes, watering by hand with a watering wand is the best way to get a feel for the soil moisture, and how often water is required. It also gives you an opportunity to look your garden over for signs of insect pests or disease. If you have many roses, or just don’t have time for hand watering, an automatic sprinkler system will do the job for you. Remember to change the watering schedule with the seasons, however.
• Always water your rosebushes before applying pesticides. This will help prevent burning the plant.
While watering might seem like a chore, it can become an enjoyable part of your day. Take the time to observe your garden. Take note of what is in bloom; watch the birds going about their business, study a bee as it buzzes from flower to flower. Healthy roses require frequent water, so use the time to appreciate the beauty of these glorious flowers, and the wonder of all nature.