Start off with the right roses based on the maintenance you are willing to devote.

For low maintenance, use Florida Cracker roses, also known as Old Garden Roses. See a pink one at the top of this page.  They’re stubby with clusters of 2 to 2-1/4” flowers.   They usually come in red, pink and white.  Easy maintenance, water only every 4 to 5 days, in the morning, if there hasn’t been any rain in the last 4 or 5 days.  They’re almost trouble-free in full sun.  They can grow to over 3 ft. in height and can be quite showy.  These are truly roses for dummies – and lazy people like me.  I use Bayer Advanced All in One Rose & Flower Care according to label directions just as I use on our hybrid tea roses.

For hybrid Tea’s, the Florist Roses like the familiar Mr. Lincoln, the big red one shown above on this web page, and a million others, buy only quality roses grafted on Fortuniana root stock.  Good garden centers usually carry these.  Beware the Big Box stores.  They may have roses not suited for S. Fla.  Don’t buy roses that look like they’ve become root-bound.  You can usually tell the ones on Fortuniana root stock as they will probably be in blue, terracotta or green plastic containers.  Look for the tag that says clearly that they are on Fortuniana root stock.  The others, probably on Dr. Huey root stock, are usually sold in black plastic containers, will last a year or two in our subtropical environment then taper off on bloom production and soon succumb to root diseases and die.  Not a good investment.  I use Bayer Advanced All in One Rose & Flower Care on our Fortuniana root stock Hybrid Tea Roses according to label directions and mine stay spot free, well fed and always in bloom.  Always remember to dead head them and keep any dead twigs cut off and discarded from the area.  Never mulch right up to the base of the plants.  Keep mulch back a few inches to avoid root rot.  Hybrid Teas should be watered early mornings 3 times a week in the absence of sufficient rainfall.  They need to be in well drained soil.

You will now see quite a few rose plants in garden centers and box stores labeled “Knock Out Roses.”   These are quite nice, easy to care for (as written above) and are found all over Savanna, Charleston, the Carolinas and other areas where roses are desired but cannot be fussed over.  They are not as perfectly shaped as Teas, larger heads than Cracker Roses and less ‘full’ but still attractive.  In settings where care is limited they are a good recommendation.  Developed in 2000 they are now the most popular nursery plant in the United States.                                                                                                                                             .

Starting your rose garden:

Once you’ve decided on the roses you want, you can plant them year round here in South Florida.  Best time is early spring.

  • They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day.  Morning sun is best to  dry the leaves as early in the day as possible.
  • Plant at least 3 to 5 feet apart.   They need good air circulation.
  • Dig a hole as deep as the root ball in the container.  Usually 12-18” deep.  Make sure there will be good drainage at this location.
  • It’s good to line the hole with water-soaked Canadian peat.
  • Carefully remove the plant from the container and don’t disturb the roots.
  • Prepare potting soil:  I like a rich organic soil with a little peat, a cup of bone meal, 3 cups of dried blood.
  • Place the plant in the center of the hole and backfill with the soil mix, packing the soil firmly around the root ball as you go.
  • Plant needs to be the same depth as it was in the pot.  Maybe an inch higher, making sure the graft is well above the soil line.
  • Mulch at least 2 inches deep.  Pine needles make good mulch.  Keep mulch back 2” – 4″ from stems.


Water daily for first 2 weeks in early morning.  Try not to wet the leaves.

After 2 weeks, in the absence of rain, water deeply twice a week.

Apply a cup of Bayer Advanced Complete Rose Care every month to six weeks.

If you have any problems, call me on the show.

Copyright © The South Florida Garden Show - Produced by Universal Media Enterprises, Inc.