Roses have been a symbol of great emotion since Roman times. Cleopatra of Egypt is said to have her palace room floor covered with rose petals before Mark Anthony visited.

The rose is revered as the national flower of England. Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia, and New York choose a rose as their state flower. Rose shrub is a favorite ornamental for its flowers and fragrance in the garden, as a potted plant and for cut flowers indoors. Over a hundred kinds of roses give a wide array of choices for this perennial that is available in many colors.

Rose blooms decorate the grounds and fill the air with fragrance each spring at Yankton Nurseries. Nurseryman Jay Gurney and nursery supervisor Cathy Weiss have grown roses for decades. They time the roses they grow to bloom about a month ahead of those planted outdoors. With variable spring temperatures, roses usually are in bloom for Mother’s Day. Outdoors roses often bloom in May and are in full bloom in June. Most roses re-bloom later.

Jay and Cathy are frequently asked questions about roses. Below, Gurney responds to some common rose questions.

1) Which roses are easier to grow?

If you haven’t grown roses, shrub roses are the easiest and toughest roses. They don’t die back from winter conditions as easily and are available in many colors. Dead blooms don’t show up much, they repeat bloom, and are disease resistant. You don’t usually cover shrub roses in winter. Miniature roses are forms of shrub roses.

Floribundas are not quite as hardy as shrub roses. Floribundas are typically “Own Root”(not grafted) and if damaged from winter they may come back from the root. If budded (grafted), roses should be covered in winter. East or south locations for floribundas give extra protection from winter wind and cold.

Hybrid tea roses are least hardy of these three kinds of roses and are budded onto a hardy rootstock. Hybrid tea roses need to be covered in winter.

2) What are tips about selecting roses?

Which rose to plant is a personal choice but some roses perform better in this region’s weather conditions. Shrub roses are the most hardy, followed by floribundas and then hybrid teas are least hardy. Minnesota and Canadian introduced varieties usually perform better in this region. Hybrid teas and some floribundas should be covered in winter.

Some dormant roses are available locally in plastic bags. Good luck with them. At the nursery we process dormant roses that come from a cooler as soon as possible and keep them in soil at proper temperatures until spring. A plastic bag may have little air or moisture. If the rose is sprouted in the bag, it’s not a sign of viability; it’s the plant’s desperate cry of help.

Of course the color and look of the rose bloom is important in selecting roses. Look also for several stems on the shrub because there is more growth to produce flowers. Some like to select the plant by actually seeing the roses blooming in May or June. There are lots of colors and types of flowers for selection.

3) Where is the best location in the yard to grow roses?

All roses in this region grow better in a location with some wind protection. If you’re planting a budded rose such as floribunda or hybrid tea rose, the best place for them is along the southeast corner of the house where it receives the most protection from the winter wind. Snow often covers that area and acts as an extra blanket. If you place them in other protected areas and you select an “Own Root” rose variety and if winter damaged, it is more likely to bloom again another year.

Shrub roses, including miniature roses grow best with some wind protection.

Rugosa is also an “Own Root” (OR) rose with crinkled leaves and large rose hips in fall that was common in farmyards a generation ago. Rugosas grow best with some wind protection. The OR climbing roses grow best with some wind protection. Their canes have to be tough to withstand winter conditions.

4) What are some care tips?

Roses may delay leafing out due to cool spring conditions. Wait until they are leafed out to check for brown twigs without leaves to remove them. Wait until late spring to shape the bushes.    

Use recommended fertilizer and powdery mildew and black spot protection available for roses during the growing season. Hybrid teas and floribundas are more prone to these diseases than shrub roses.

If soil around the rose bush becomes compacted after three or four years, fluff the soil with a potato-digging fork to aerate it.

Sometimes after blooming there is a wet spell, for example last August. At the nursery, a way to remove disease is to trim stems back to short stems, clean up all leaves and debris. Roses will leaf out again and be ready for fall bloom.

For winter protection, about Thanksgiving or before the winter blizzard, position a fiber or Styrofoam rose cone with a weight on top over each pruned rose bush. Hybrid teas and floribundas need this added protection. Another method for winter protection is to position electric fence posts about a foot around each trimmed rose bush. Encircle the posts with chicken wire and fill with dry leaves (not lawn clippings or shredded leaves). This creates an air barrier for the shrub.

5) My rose bush grew foliage all season and no roses. What’s wrong?

This can happen more commonly with hybrid teas and floribundas that are budded (grafted). Winter conditions can be hard on roses in this region. If the top of a budded plant is damaged, what’s left is rootstock, which will never bloom. Rootstocks bloom on second year wood. The green growth freezes in winter so you’ll never get a bloom from it.

Besides starting over with the same plant, or choosing a more protected location, or choosing a more hardy rose variety, another option is to select roses grown on their “Own Root” (OR). This information is found on the plant label. If the OR rose is damaged in winter and the plant comes back in the growing season, it may bloom again.

Gurney understands that many like roses because they are pretty and fragrant and cut roses brighten the home.

“People don’t give petunias on Valentines Day,” he said. “We put them out front here at the nursery because they are fragrant and come in lots of colors. They bloom a lot of the season.” So what’s his favorite rose?

“Since I grow many hundreds of them every year for lots of years, I do like certain colors and fragrances. Don Juan climbing rose is treated as a tea rose here. It has deep dark red velvety fragrant blooms. ‘Marilyn Monroe’ hybrid tea rose is a light flesh pink fragrant rose with a pink center. Morden Canadian roses are hard to beat.” Then he named many that are listed as examples in “What Are The Kinds Of Roses?”

He noted that caring for roses is like tending a miniature garden or potted plants. “It’s a chance for a personal relationship with plants,” Gurney said.

Share tips from your outdoor or indoor plant experience, give us a tour of your plant site, or let us know what you enjoy most about these plants and people who grow them. Contact Attn: Brenda Johnson or write P&D, 319 Walnut St, Yankton, SD 57078, Attn: Brenda Johnson. See “Plant Exchange Blog” on Facebook or The blog celebrates three years of posts about plants and gardeners of the region by topic.

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