Taking care of roses in August

Published 5:30 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

By Terry Rector

Let’s face it, August is a lousy month for gardening. How did it even make it onto the calendar much less the Farmer’s Almanac?

Normally August is our hottest and driest month, although this one started off with decent moisture.  And I remember one year when it rained every single day in August.

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I had asked horticulturist Norman Winter the secret for having roses in bloom at the garden field day in October at the Crystal Springs experiment station. He said to prune roses in August but not as hard as the late winter pruning. Adding a light dose of fertilizer was the second step but the main thing was to keep the bushes well-watered throughout August.

I got into the rose hobby and went with Norman’s advice the next August.  Lucky me got rain at my place every day of the month that year. Thus, I learned a little about promoting fall blooming of roses.

Many rose varieties want to re-bloom when fall day length and temperatures get back similar to those of spring. Pruning in August does the same thing as late winter pruning. The plants respond with a flush of new growth with bloom buds galore because of that survival-of-the-species seed urge mentioned last week.

We have to leave day length and temperature to Nature but the pruning, fertilizing and watering are our supplements to get the non-natural results we want.

For those wanting to give the August rose treatment a try for the first time, I recommend the pruning be done around mid-month. Again, don’t cut back as far as you would with a winter pruning ahead of spring growth.

On the large bushes typically pruned down to a foot and a half high in winter I go about half way down in August. For mid-size plants, I don’t cut that far down.

The Drift roses and the really small varieties like Trumpeter get just a light shearing.

As for fertilizer, I pull back the mulch in a narrow ring at the outer edge of each plant and hand-sprinkle about a half a cup of 13-13-13 around large bushes, less for the smaller ones.  I use 13-13-13 because I’m old-fashioned and that fertilizer has been around longer than I have. Any balanced fertilizer or close to balanced will do; just do a little math to figure out how much to use.

As for pest control, the fungal blackspot is still the primary threat to most roses. I do have some of the tough varieties that get by without fungicides but I have some that are not immune to leafspot. So I spray a fungicide every two weeks during the spring and early summer but normally not in July and August because it is typically too dry for the fungus to reproduce. But if we do get a lot of rose-rain like that year I mentioned earlier, I spray every now and then.

Reminder: Monday is the deadline to sign up for Thursday night’s Soil and Water Conservation annual dinner meeting with the wildlife media presentation. Call 601-630-0278, Ext. 3 to get registered.


Terry Rector is spokesman for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.