Don’t make these mistakes.

Roses are the divas of the gardening world—or so it seems. But growing these beauties actually is a lot less work than most people think. You just need to avoid these common mistakes…

Mistake: Devoting entire beds to roses alone. Break away from the old garden style of devoting entire beds to roses. Rose foliage is vulnerable to bugs, mildew and black or rust spots on the leaves. Tucking rosebushes into your overall garden plan tends to thwart such problems, especially when the companion plants aren’t prone. Some practical and pretty companions include lavender, Russian sage, foxglove, irises, lamb’s ears and clematis vines. Take care, though, not to crowd your plants—good air circulation goes a long way toward preventing common rose problems. Maintain six or more inches around the projected full-grown size (noted on the tag or vendor description).

Mistake: Not giving them a smart start. A spot in full-day sun is key. Other flowers might forgive half-day shade but not most roses. Dig an ample hole (a few feet wide and at least one foot deep) and fill it with rich garden loam, compost, rotted cow manure or a combination of these.Before you put a bare-root plant in the ground, soak the roots in a bucket of lukewarm water overnight to rehydrate them. (If you bought a potted rose, just give it a thorough watering beforehand.) Clip off damaged roots and foliage. Finally, remove any flowers and most of the buds. Why? Flowers take a lot of energy. Let a new plant concentrate on establishing its roots for a few weeks first.After planting, make a shallow basin around the base so that water won’t run off. Mulch to keep weeds at bay and hold in soil moisture.

Mistake: Using a sprinkler to water. Sprinklers are inefficient, and wet foliage can lead to plant diseases. Use a hose to water slowly and steadily with a nozzle, or use “soaker hoses” threaded around your plants. This encourages roots to grow deeper. In the first season, it’s wise to water every four or five days, more often if conditions are dry. In ensuing years, a rosebush may need to be soaked only once a week unless the weather is hot and dry.

Mistake: Overfeeding. I consider feeding my roses optional. Roses respond to plant food with extra growth and flowers, but healthy roses in a mixed garden don’t need extra growth to look beautiful. If you choose to fertilize, follow rose fertilizer directions about amounts and frequency—more is not better. Also, don’t just sprinkle granules around the plants and walk away—water in plant food well so that it ­reaches the roots.

Mistake: Not battling problems early and often. Should you spot insects, marred leaves or damaged buds, intervene immediately. Take a sample of the afflicted parts to your nursery for the right remedies. Or you can make your own. For example, I use a baking soda/water mixture (two tablespoons to one gallon of water) sprayed for powdery mildew. (Instructions for homemade rose remedies can be found at

Mistake: Not buying the right kind of roses. Some roses do poorly in hot, humid summers. Others struggle through cold and snowy winters. Check what’s prospering in local gardens, or get advice from the nearest rose club. Consider shopping at a nursery that specializes in roses (check the websites of Roses ­Unlimited, Heirloom Roses and High Country Roses, to name a few).

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