How to Grow and Care for Long Stem Roses

Middle Tennessee: Zone 6 and 7

When to plant, fertilizer, how to care for and what to expect

What’s your favorite flower? With Tennessee’s mild climate, this area supports various flowers with the spring and summer being prime time to both plant and reap the rewards.

If you love long stem roses like the ones you buy on Valentine’s Day, you’ll be glad to know they’re actually pretty easy to grow and care for.

Here are a few things you need to know about growing long stem roses:

When to Plant

Tennessee winter months are November – February. It’s still pretty cold in March, but you can expect temperatures to be around 50-65 with a nighttime low in the 40s. Plant your roses in mid to late March – just make sure there is no chance of frost. It’s important to get these lovely things in the ground and give them plenty of time to create deep roots. Plant them no later than about July. As long as they have created a large and deep root system, they will survive during the winter.

Fertilizer

Chances are your soil is fertile and can support roses and other florals you decide to plant. It’s still a good idea to use a fertilizer on the roses though. This can kickstart spring growth and/or produce larger blooms. Johnson Nursery Center in Cookeville has a great in-house mix. Use a good fertilizer three times a year – once in the spring, mid summer and once late summer. You can use it more if you’d like, but I have found only 2-3 times is necessary.

Blooms

You will get a lot of blooms if you follow these steps, and it’s important to cut them once they’ve reached their peak. Roses need to be cut so new blooms are encouraged and have the chance to come in. I have 4 types of rose bushes: Chicago Peace Rose, Gold Medal, Moonstone and Bedazzled. I’d say I have 150-200 blooms per year per bush. It’s a lot! During the peak summer months, I am able to create 2-3 full bouquets per week. They’re gorgeous.

When you cut the roses, be sure to cut 8-12 inches of the stem. It sounds like a lot, but remember these are long stem roses. This encourages larger blooms rather than several small blooms. Grab a huge mason jar or vase and fill with ice water. Change the water every other day to make them last longer.

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Sunlight

Roses do best in full sun so plant somewhere that is in direct sunlight. Ours are against the house and there is absolutely no shade. As long as you keep them watered, they will be fine. 
I am sure partial shade would be sufficient as well – you may not have as many blooms though.

Beetles 

The beetles will drive you crazy. They show up during the summer and can absolutely destroy your roses. They’re easy to prevent and knock out though. As soon as you see holes in the petals or leaves, grab some spray. Thoroughly spray the entire bush and blooms. Keep doing this until you no longer see beetles. I have found once I got rid of them, they were gone for good. The spray doesn’t harm the plant.

Types of Roses: Color and Scent

There are a ton of different variations of roses. If you plan on planting multiple side by side, be sure to go with an ‘upright’ bush rather than ‘bushy’. The upright roses are more narrow and do not grow into each other. There are also several different scents and colors. Sweet, spicy, musk, red, white, yellow, purple…they all smell great and are stunning! Buy different types –  you will enjoy seeing the different variations. The color will also change depending on time of year. Chicago Peace Roses are more vibrant in the fall for whatever reason.

When to Water

Tennessee summers can be hot. You will want your roses to be in full sun which means they need to be watered often. During spring, you can probably get away with watering the roses once per day. During the hottest summer months, plan to water no less than once in the early morning and once during the evening.

Make sure the sun isn’t high and you are keeping the water at the base and not at the petals or leaves. You want to avoid frying the delicate blooms. If you have multiple plants, it may be a good idea to use a hose that stays in the flower bed or a watering system with a timer. They need a lot of water so don’t be too quick when watering.

Winter and Pruning

The saddest part of it all – when you have to hack away everything that bloomed. Expect your roses to still be in full swing most of early fall and become stagnant around November. At this point, you can wait a few more weeks or go ahead and trim all smaller branches with stems. You want to get down to the main stalk that will look more like a thick branch.

They will look extremely bare and dead, but no worries. It’s important to prune the bushes so they don’t double in size each year. Come early March or the first few warm days, you will see new leaves. From there, they start to bloom quickly. I did not cover the main stalks with plastic during the winter. I don’t think that’s necessary – we even had a huge ice and snow storm.

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