Growing good roses is dependent upon a good soil which
supplies the particular needs of roses. The soil must be loose,
allowing air to move freely through the medium. It must also be
well drained; roses do not like to stand in water.
The first step in soil preparation is to look at your
present soil. Does it:
1. grow great roses?
2. collect water in puddles when there is a heavy rain?
3. have an abundant supply of organic matter?
4. contain a large quantity of clay?
5. have the proper pH or soil acidity?
6. posess sufficient iron to produce a beautiful rose plant?
If the soil is growing great roses...DON'T CHANGE
ANYTHING!!!!! otherwise let's try to determine what can be done
to the soil to help it to produce good roses:
Good drainage, the ability to pass water through the soil,
is one of the most important qualities that the soil must
supply. If your rose bed is located on land with natural
drainage you do not have to be concerned with this requirement.
If not, you will have to determine the extent of the
problem and take the necessary steps to correct the condition.
If you have a borderline situation, the addition of a course
medium such as sand, wood chips, agricultural perlite, peat
moss, or other suitable materials to the soil may be sufficient.
Severe drainage problems can best be corrected by
building the rose beds above the soil line.
Brick walls, 4x4 lumber (railroad ties), stones, and other
materials could be used for this purpose.
The height of the wall to be ten inches above the existing
ground level, if you can do it, anything less may not do the
A porous soil will grow the best roses and can be obtained
with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter can be peat
moss, wood chips, leaf mold, compost, and so forth. Perlite, a
product made from certain rock heated to high temperatures, will
"open" the soil, and is light-weight. Sand will also keep the
soil from "sticking" together but it make the soil heavy which
in turn, make root growth more difficult.
My soil is well drained, has a high clay content, contains
course particles of rock, and is on the "heavy" side. I mix one
third peat moss, one third wood chips, and one third of a good
top soil. This produces a lighter, open soil which the roses do
very well in. The wood chips are varied, coming from a tree
surgeons who is kind enough to dump them on my property.
Roses prefer a slightly acid soil in the range of 6 to 6.5.
You can purchase an inexpensive test kit form Garden Supply
Centers to check the pH of your soil. The kits I have seen have
instructions for correcting the pH of the soil, so it should not
be too difficult.
Pulverized limestone is good for increasing the pH of the
soil. Try to find a "Dolomite" type because they contain higher
levels of magnesium. Magnesium is the main ingredient of
chlorophyll, the "green" color of the leaf.
My soil would not produce good roses until iron sulfate was
added. I live in an area with a subsurface limestone base that
is deficient in iron. Oddly, less than five miles away, an old
iron foundry which produced cannon balls for the Revolutionary
War stands. There is plenty of iron there; none here.
You must determine your own soil's needs based on
experience and observation. If you do not live on an iron
mountain or in an area with iron in the soil, you may want to
locate some iron sulfate and incorporate it in the soil. One
half cup per plant is the dose I use at planting.