TURNS OUT that where roses are concerned, as with much of life, location matters most. That’s the key tip for inexperienced growers who come across a variety and fall in love. “You have to really make sure that the rose is going to be suitable for where you live,” said Peter Schneider, editor of the annual Combined Rose List, an international reference guide. Mr. Schneider, who noted that Instagram darlings are often farmed overseas, suggested visiting a botanical garden near you to see what does well there. Alternatively, you can find relevant information on a rose’s label, or in its catalog or online description, said Missouri Botanical Garden rosarian, Matthew Norman. Check that the rose is suitable for your hardiness zone (find yours on the USDA website). “Right plant, right place,” said Mr. Norman.
To gather even more intelligence for the fledgling rose grower, I set up a conference call with these two pros. Here, their wisdom.
Catherine Romano: Do you recommend buying bare-root or potted roses?
Matthew Norman: In my experience I have observed a more vigorous response in growth when planting bare-root roses. Bare-root roses have more root mass when compared to potted roses.
Peter Schneider: If I had a choice, I would choose bare-root over container, but today the selection of varieties available in containers is huge compared to those available bare-root. In addition, you don’t want to plant a bare-root rose once spring has grown warm because it’s a struggle then to make sure they don’t desiccate before they start growing and form new roots. And it’s almost impossible to find bare-root plants in autumn. So you have a limited window of several weeks in spring when you can ideally plant them.
CR: When is the best time to plant roses?
MN: Spring and fall. Spring is a great time to plant because the temperatures are just right for root production and stem growth. Spring is also the time that nursery inventories are highest.
PS: Container-grown, or potted, roses can be planted throughout the growing season, whenever there isn’t frost, with special attention needed if you are planting in summer heat. Fall is [my preferred] time to plant roses because the root system will have time to develop with no pressure to support new growth until the spring. The result is a plant that roars into growth in the spring.
CR: Where should one buy a rose?
PS: Anyone who has internet access is not limited to shopping at a big-box store. That said, you should look for brands you trust [there]. I most trust Kordes and Easy Elegance. But if you can buy from a specialist rose nursery, either by mail order [via catalog or website] or by visiting the nursery in person, buy from somebody who’s actually growing the roses and could answer your questions about their roses. That’s wonderful.
MN: Some of the more-popular growers or nurseries I purchase from are David Austin Roses, Jackson & Perkins, Kordes Roses and Weeks Roses. If you’re buying roses from your local hardware or garden store, look for roses with firm, sturdy canes and healthy, green foliage.
CR: Are there any roses that require less than 6 hours of sun a day?
PS: In general, the fewer the petals the rose has, the better it will do with more shade. I’d add that many species roses—native roses that haven’t been hybridized by man—bloom only once and bloom in the springtime. So if the shade is coming from deciduous trees, those trees in many cases aren’t going to have leaves when species rose buds are being formed [and they’ll get more sun].
MN: There are a few roses that do well in part shade [see below]. However, for intensity of the fragrance and bloom production, more light is required.
CR: For urbanites, can you grow a potted rose on a balcony?
PS: I think growing roses on a balcony is completely doable and makes sense. The problem is figuring out what to do for the winter. If you have the wall of your building, not glass, but some sort of solid wall, which you could push the plant up against and then cover it all in burlap, and then maybe insulate some way even beyond that…
MN: You could cut it back and take it out of the pot and just put it in the refrigerator for the winter and let it have a dormant season. But if it doesn’t survive winter, you can always just get another one and try again.
CR: Are there specific roses that are great for reblooming?
PS: Among repeat bloomers, the fewer petals the rose has the quicker it will rebloom.
MN: It takes more energy for a plant to produce more petals. For example, New Dawn, with its approximately 40 petals per flower, will rebloom more quickly than Madame Anisette, with its densely packed 65 to 70 petals.
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THE EXPERTS’ PICKS FOR BEST IN CLASS
Best for Scent
“When the Madame Anisette came out, I thought, OK, this is some rich lady in France, but actually it smells exactly like anise,” said Mr. Schneider. ”It is an ivory cream color, and blooms all through the growing season.”
Best for Color
“For a nice vivid red in a newer rose that you can often find at garden centers, Firefighter is super good,” said Mr. Schneider. “It’s a hybrid tea rose—an urn-shaped bloom, one to a stem. It’s also fragrant.”
“For our zone in St. Louis, 6a, New Dawn really takes off in the growing season,” said Mr. Norman. “It will definitely climb over an arbor and keeps blooming whether you deadhead or not.”
Best in Part Shade
“Roses are pretty much a full-sun plant [6 hours a day], but one that does well in part shade—4 to 6 hours a day of sun—is Zephirine Drouhin,” said Mr. Norman. “It’s a climber and has almost no thorns.”
Best for a Balcony
“In general, you want a relatively compact plant that is a continuous repeat bloomer,” said Mr. Schneider. “For a little bit of an unusual color, Julia Child is yellow and completely suitable for a container on a balcony.”
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