One of my favorite subjects at the University was Botany. In addition, I have been told I have a pretty green thumb and this year I had lots of complements on my rose bushes. This article explains some of my secrets to raising beautiful roses that bloom all season long.
Actually, it’s not a secret at all – it’s science. Specifically, it’s plant hormones. Even more specifically, it is the plant hormones called auxin and cytokinin and the concept of apical dominance.
When I cut a rose from a bush, removing the apical bud or flower, the lateral buds in the axils of the leaves below the cut stump “awaken” and begin to actively grow. Just like the now-removed rose bud or flower, these active lateral buds grow into shoots and their tips have apical buds that resume apical dominance over lateral buds in positions lower on the main stem.
The image below shows a rose stem that I was able to get three roses from in one season because I cut the old flowers once they died. The arrows indicate where I cut the stem:
Besides pruning the bushes, I also fertilize the bushes with a good rose fertilizer. A good general rule of thumb is to look for a fertilizer with a well-balanced NPK ratio. NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. These three chemical elements are the primary components in most fertilizers. Different plants require different levels of each element, but roses tend to react best to a roughly even mixture of the three.
The N is for up (top part of the bush or plant), P is for down (the root system of the bush or plant) and K is for all-around (good for the entire bush or plant systems). All of them together make for the mix that will keep the rose bush healthy and happy. Too much Nitrogen can result in too much leafy growth and less flowering so be sure not to use something like Rapid Grow which has a very high N.
Mulching during the winter months is also a good idea. I simply prune the roses and bury the bushes in leaves from the trees. You could also use grass clippings. Once it’s springtime, I remove the mulch and allow the rose branches to grow once again.