Roses need a few extra things here in South Florida than they would in dryer places like say, California. Extreme heat and disease pressure makes growing roses a bit more challenging here, but even more rewarding as we get to enjoy the blooms year round. Here you will find advice on how to get started.
ROOTSTOCK: The first and most important step to success with growing roses in Florida is choosing the right varieties on the right rootstock. For the best chance at success, get your roses grafted on Fortuniana rootstock whenever possible. This rootstock grows a wide, deep root system that helps to keep the roses thriving during our intense heat, and also helps draw more nutrients from of our sandy soil. It is also resistant to root-knot nematodes that can destroy other, more delicate rose roots. Fortuniana grafted roses are more expensive and harder to come by, but they are well worth the extra investment.
Visit our Where To Buy Roses page for a complete list of retailers that sell roses grafted on Fortuniana.
Some roses do well on their own roots and some are only available on Dr. Huey rootstock. These are ok for growing in pots or in the yard in well-amended soil, but may have short life spans depending on the variety and how resistant they are to nematodes.
VARIETY: Not all varieties perform well down here so its best to go with what has been tried and true. Of course not every rose variety has been tested down here either, so experimenting can be fun, but if you are going to invest in a rose garden, its best to start out with roses that are known to perform well and leave the experimenting to later, once you have more experience. Take a look at The Roses page to see which ones are recommended for South Florida. The ones with the best disease resistance tend to be the better performers. The McCartney Rose, Dick Clark, Pat Austin, Livin’ Easy and Love are all great varieties to start with.
DISEASE CONTROL: Black spot and other rose diseases can decimate the plant and severely stunt performance. Choose highly disease resistant varieties to begin with and save yourself a lot of heartache. Even with spraying, highly disease prone roses tend to eventually decline. Although, many varieties can be kept happy with a regular spray program. We like to use Bayer Advanced Disease Control every other week during the highest-pressure months of June-October and only do occasional spraying when the weather is humid or extra damp the rest of the year. It’s best not to let the disease take hold in the first place so prevention is key. More info on disease control can be found here.
INSECT CONTROL: As if we didn’t have enough to be going on with, we have the misfortune of having Chili Thrips in South Florida. These tiny, almost invisible insects will devour new growth and cause stunted and misshapen growth. A severe infestation can actually kill an entire bush. Luckily they are only most active during the hotter parts of the month and can be controlled with a relatively safe pesticide called Spinosad. Monterey Insect Spray is a good choice and is available online via Amazon. Lowes also carries Bionide (Captain Jacks’s Dead Bug Brew), which contains Spinosad. Both are good options, but be sure to spray in the late afternoon or early evening after pollinating insects have left the garden.
FERTILIZING: Roses are heavy feeders and like to be fertilized often. That is especially true for South Florida, where the heavy rains flush out the nutrients from our sandy soil quickly. For best performance it’s good to feed the roses often. Any brand fertilizer will do, but be sure to use one that is meant for roses or for bloom production. Otherwise you might get a lot of leaves and few flowers.
I like to add slow-release granular fertilizer to the pots or around the drip line of each rose and supplement with a liquid fertilizer every other week, but I usually don’t get around to doing it as often as that. I find that they really love well-composted manure, so I add that to the beds twice a year. This helps condition the soil and improves worm populations.
If you want to stay organic, try Jobe’s Organic Knock-Out Rose Food (all roses love it) or Rose Tone. These are good conditioners and help improve the soil over time as well. However you wont get the instant gratification that a liquid dose of Miracle Grow gives. Therefore, I like to do both. Improving the soil will help the rose garden become more sustainable over time (meaning you’ll need to fertilize less often) but giving them a liquid feed helps to get the roses growing quickly.
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