ROSES IN THE FALL
by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service
in San Antonio
"A rose by any other name is just as sweet".
But would it create the same joy and excitement? People like
roses. And would-be rose growers purchase thousands of bushes
annually, anticipating the beauty they are famous for producing.
In Texas, where everything is bigger and better,
rose growing is no exception. Rose blooms may last longer
in cooler climates, but cooler climates do not afford the
potential for 2 spectacular bloom seasons as Texas does each
year. Most of us expect our roses to bloom well in the spring,
but we overlook the best possible rose season--fall.
Hot weather greatly reduce the life-span and
beauty of rose blooms. During the spring rose-bloom season,
Texas weather is making the transition from winter to summer.
Unfortunately, the transition period may only last several
days. Texas temperatures rapidly change from frosty to scorching.
In comparison, fall is ideal for rose blooms.
Usually, our extremely hot weather ends in September and cooler
temperatures, especially at night, signal that the "second
spring" of South Central Texas has begun. These cooler
temperatures stimulate rose bush growth and intensify the
color of the rose blooms. Many people do not prepare their
roses for this second spring, so they miss the most spectacular,
longest-lasting bloom period.
September is the time to act. Roses should
be pruned or groomed during the first 2 weeks in September--no
later than September 20. Fall pruning is lighter than in the
spring. Cut about 1/4 - 1/3 of the bush.
When pruning miniatures, other than cleaning
them out, simply cut off all the blooms. When pruning standard
size roses, remove all the blooms and bloom pods. When removing
the recommended 1/4 of the bush, cut all canes back to the
pencil-sized wood, if the variety permits; and remove any
crossing canes which might rub and damage adjoining ones.
Also remove any dead or diseased wood. The general shape of
a rose bush should be open-centered or vase-like, with canes
evenly distributed around the outside. To prolong the bloom
period, you may want to prune only 1/2 of your rose bush at
a time, then wait a week to complete the process. The half
that was pruned first will bloom first, about 45 days after
pruning occurred. Remember to complete all fall pruning no
later than September 20.
The peak rose bloom season should begin in mid-October.
Remove and dispose of all diseased leaves with black spots
on the foliage. Black spot and powdery mildew fungus must
be prevented rather than cured. Black spot and powdery mildew
are fungus diseases. Prevention is easily accomplished by
using Funginex fungicide on a 7-10 day spray schedule. Orthene
insecticide may be added for control of thrips (thrips cause
blooms to stay closed or be misshapen). By September, the
spray interval should be shortened to every 7 days since disease
is more prevalent. Spraying should continue until the first
hard freeze occurs.
After fall pruning has been completed, give
the bushes a "shot in the arm" with the addition
of fertilizer. Feeding with a water- soluble fertilizer should
occur every 2 weeks. Follow instructions by mixing 1 tablespoon
of water soluble fertilizer per gallon of water. Pour a gallon
of solution around each plant. Don't feed with either liquid
or dry fertilizers after October 15th so that growth can slow
and harden for the winter cold.
Roses need water. Proper watering causes bushes
to develop into larger plants, which produce a much greater
volume and quality of blooms. Water can be efficiently applied
with soaker hoses, drip irrigation, or specially designed
automatic sprinkling devices. Keep in mind that most rose
varieties are less disease-prone if their foliage remains
dry. Deep watering at weekly intervals is far superior to
frequent light sprinkling.
Mulches can help conserve water while moderating
soil temperatures during extremely hot weather. The application
of bark, pine needles, peat moss, or shredded oak leaves several
inches deep to beds or individual plants is an excellent practice.
The mulch can be supplemented with 2 inches of horse manure
in December, which adds organic materials as well as some
fertility to the soil.
Once you begin to produce these beautiful fall
roses it is important that they be cut properly to insure
bloom longevity. Improper cutting of flowers can injure the
plant and decrease its vigor. It is best to cut few, if any,
flowers during the first blooming season of a plant. By removing
only the flowers and not the stem, the plants will develop
into larger bushes by fall, at which time some flowers may
be cut. Early removal of foliage and long stems reduces the
food manufacturing capacity of the plant and subsequent flower
When you cut roses, be sure to use sharp tools
and allow at least 2 leaves to remain between the cut and
the main stem. Use sharp shears just above the topmost leaf.
Roses that are cut just before the petals begin to unfold
will open normally and remain in good condition longer. Late
afternoon is the best time of day to cut roses. Always cut
bloom stems back to pencil-sized wood, or where 5-leaflet
leaves occur. Beginning in mid-November, leave old blooms
and pods on the stems to force plants into dormancy. This
winterizing will enable better plant survival in the winter.
Plunge the stems immediately into warm water
(about 100 degrees F.) and cut the stems again, just an inch
or so from the base. Add flower preservatives to the water,
according to label instructions, if maximum life is desired.
Research has shown that flower preservatives can be helpful
in prolonging the beauty of cut flowers. Such preservatives
can be purchased from retail florists or from the floral departments
in most supermarkets. A mixture of 7-Up soda water (but not
the diet type) mixed equally with water has also been shown
to be an effective preservative. It is important for the mixture
to stand long enough for most of the air bubbles to dissipate.
Good, pure water is equally important as using
preservatives. Rain water or distilled water should be used
when arranging flowers, since sodium and other materials in
most tap water can shorten their life.
Place the flowers in a cool, draft free area
until ready to use. High temperatures and direct sun quickly
take their toll on cut flowers.
So, take action now to insure that you don't
miss our second spring and the beauty of the roses that can
adorn it. If you want more information on growing roses locally,