The Perfect Soil Recipe

Soil for MSU Rose Garden

(1/2 cubic yard)

For one half cubic yard of soil (about 81 heaping shovels full), the formula we modified for the MSU Rose Garden soil mix based on the Tyler Rose Garden formula:

27 shovels of Planter’s Mix or Super Soil with ground pine bark in it

27 shovels of good loamy top soil

27 shovels of composted horse manure

3 lbs of triple 13 fertilizer,

3 lbs of Domolitic limestone pellets,

2 lbs of Alfalfa meal or pellets (15% protein),

2 lbs of Cottonseed Meal (39% protein),

and one and one half (1 ½) ounces of slow release pellets (Osmokote or Once, etc).

The slow release will have some need trace elements in it.

The Tyler, Texas Formula

(1 cubic yard)

A blend of materials for the soil media their roses are grown in consists of the following:

½ yard of good weed free ‘top soil’. It is actually a good sandy loam.

½ yard of Vital Earth’s rose mix, which should consist of equal parts aged pine bark, peat replacer, and sand with some time release micros.

6 lbs of 13-13-13 commercial fertilizer

6 lbs of pelletized Dolomitic limestone

4 lbs of alfalfa pellets (15% protein)

4 lbs of cotton seed pellets (39% protein)

Add 3 ounces of a slow release like Osmokote to this if you do not use the Vital Earth rose mix.

Growing Fortuniana Roses

Growing Roses on Fortuniana Rootstock

By James Mills

In my twenty years of growing Fortuniana rootstock roses, I’ve learned a lot of things by trial and error as well as much from other rosarians. One of the greatest rosarians I have ever known, Sam Renfroe of Mobile, AL got me interested in growing Fortuniana roses. Wasn’t long before my wife, Daisy, and I became really interested in roses and joined the Mobile Rose Society. I now have over 1000 rose bushes in our garden; most of them are on Fortuniana rootstock.


Roses require at least six hours of sunlight. Since the soil must be well drained, I recommend raised beds or making holes where the roots can go in all directions at least two to three feet. If you can’t have a raised bed, the holes should be at least two feet deep and use the same soil mix as you would in raised beds. I believe that the basic soil mix should be ¼ sand, ¼ loamy soil, ¼ organics, such as horse manure or cow manure and ¼ crushed pine bark. Do not use pine shavings, as it will burn the roots. You also can add other amendments.

You should then have the soil analyzed by sending a sample to your state Agriculture Dept. Your county agent can advise you how to do this. It is very simple. It is important that you keep the ph around 6.0. If the ph is too low, add dolomite lime: If the ph is too high, add sulfur. The more organics you can add to your rose bed, the better the roses will grow. I have found that if your rose bed can generate earthworms, you will have much better roses. The earthworms aerate the soil, and this lets the roots breathe. When you are selecting a site for your rose bed, dig a hole the depth you plan to plant your roses and fill it with water. If the hole takes over an hour to drain, you should amend your soil, or make raised beds.

Selecting Rootstock

There are many types of roses as well as many thousands of varieties. Old garden roses, varieties that existed before 1867, are very common here in the south. Rose hybrids developed after this date are considered modern roses. This article is directed primarily at modern roses. Modern roses types include hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthas, grandiflora, miniatures, mini-floras, and many climbers. Most modern roses are grafted or budded because they do not produce a vigorous root system. The rootstock used is usually from a hardy type of rose such as R. multiflora, Dr. Huey, R. manetti, Fortuniana, or some proprietary to the florist industry.

Fortuniana Rootstock

I have learned through trial and error that no other rootstock compares with Fortuniana for the south. It is resistant to nematodes, which are prevalent here in the south. Nematodes attack the root system of roses and will destroy it. Fortuniana is also resistant to other root diseases. The Fortuniana root system is much larger than those of other rootstocks; its roots are fibrous and extend out from the plant much farther than other rootstocks.

Occasionally, I have found that the rootstock will form a tap root which I would compare to a tap root on a pine tree - I have pulled up tap roots from my older bushes that were up to four feet long. This massive root system is what makes Fortuniana the choice for serious rose growers. The blooms will be larger and the plants will produce more leaves, which in turn, will make the plant grow larger. I have Fortuniana rootstock roses in our garden that are over 12 years old, and continue to get larger each year. I have also found that after the first year, the rootstock is as winter hardy as most other root systems.

Planting your Fortuniana Rootstock Roses

Fortuniana rootstock roses are container grown so you plant them differently than you would plant bare root roses. The roses should be planted the same depth as they are in the container. You should keep the graft union from touching the soil. When the graft union comes into contact with the soil it can began to go back to its own roots. Most roses that are planted with the graft or bud union in the soil revert back to their own roots. (If it goes back to its own roots, it will attract nematodes.) 

Returning to planting, you should remove the bush from the container and place it in the hole that you made for the bush. I suggest placing a handful of Osmocote (time release fertilizer) in the bottom of the hole and mix it into the soil. This will give the root system some nourishment sooner than food leaching from the surface. Fill the hole ½ full of soil, and then fill the remainder with water. As the water drains you will see bubbles. These are from air pockets in the soil that the water removes. Air pockets can cause disease to form in the soil. When the water drains, finish filling the hole with soil, then water again. You should immediately stake the rose bush. I recommend using ½” rebar cut in 4’ lengths; tie the bush above the graft as a strong wind can break the graft union.

As the bush gets larger, the stake will support the shallow root system and keep the bush from working loose in the soil. You should use something like old panty hose for ties. If you use wire or string, take an old garden hose and place over the wire or string to prevent bruising the trunk of the plant. After the plant is staked properly, put a handful of Osmocote or other time-release fertilizer around the plant. I’ve also found that a handful of Milorganite is one of the best fertilizers. It is a slow release feeder and has a good source of iron in it. Then I mulch around the bush with pine straw or some other mulch that will deteriorate. This will build up the soil and make the earthworms more plentiful.

Watering your Rose Bushes

Water is to a rose bush as milk is to a baby - it cannot survive without water. Water is even more important than food for the rose bush. In a well-drained bed it can take up to 3” of water/week for the plant to really flourish. I have found the best way to tell if your bushes need watering is to stick your finger in the soil near the bush: If the soil is moist no need to water; if the soil is water logged cut back on the water; if the soil is dry, you’re not using enough water. There are various ways of watering your bushes. I suggest before you even think about planting your rose bushes, you should install some type of watering system. Relying on pulling out the garden hose in the hot days of summer will surely result in your roses not getting enough water. It is too easy to wait until tomorrow to water. Always water your roses in the morning, as this will give them all day to dry out. It will not hurt the leaves to wet them if you water in the morning. In our rose garden, we water overhead and we always water in the morning. In the heat of the summer, the roses seem to respond well to watering overhead.

Feeding Your Rose Bushes

There are many ways to feed your roses and most rosarians have their own secret formula for great roses. I have found that roses really can absorb a lot of feeding, if you water sufficiently. The more water you use the more you can feed your bushes. If you do not water sufficiently, the fertilizer will build up salts and interfere with the root system’s ability to pick up nutrients. In the early spring, after pruning and when the danger of a hard freeze is over, I give each rose bush a cup of Milorganite and a cup of a good time release fertilizer such as Nurseryman Special or Osmocote. Also once a month, I give each rose bush a tablespoon of soluble food such as Peter’s 20-20-20 or Miracle Grow to a gallon of water. Also once a month I give each rose bush a tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water. This will make new basals break from around the graft. These are next year’s canes, which will make your bushes larger. Probably around the middle summer I would repeat the time-release fertilizer and Milorganite and continue my monthly feeding of soluble fertilizer until around mid-September.

After September I would not feed any more so the bushes could began to harden off for winter. I also recommend remulching your beds with organics such as horse manure, cow manure or mushroom compost, as this breaks down it gives the roses many nutrients and will not burn the roots.

Spraying your Rose Bushes

This is the one thing that keeps most folks from growing roses. Spraying is essential if you want to have great roses. There are some things you must invest in to have good roses. You should have a good sprayer. There are many types of economical sprayers on the market. If you have just a few roses you can purchase a backpack sprayer that will give you sufficient coverage. For just a few more dollars you can purchase a battery-operated sprayer that I think is really necessary to have good disease-free roses. Most discount stores have 5 to 12 gal. sprayers that can be connected to your battery on your lawn mower. You must have sufficient pressure for the spray to be effective. In the south where we live, we are in a constant battle with Blackspot, which will defoliate your rose bushes and eventually weaken them until they die.

Many people are buying disease-resistant shrubs that need little if any spraying, but these roses will never give you the long-stem cut flowers that most people really want. I have found that after you prune your bushes in late winter, if you will spray your roses every 10-14 days with the systemic fungicide Bannermaxx combined with the contact fungicide Dithane or Manzate, you will not have Blackspot. You can spray both of these fungicides at the same time. Every couple of times you spray, omit the Banner Maxx and only use Dithane or Manzate.

I would also recommend you buy an alternate systemic fungicide and once every month or two use the alternate with the Dithane or Manzate. You should also use a spreader sticker with your spray - if nothing else, use a couple drops of dishwater detergent in your spray tank. There are also neutralizers that you can use to make the water neutral such as Indicate 5. Never spray your roses in the heat of the day as you can burn the leaves.

The other things you will have to spray for will be thrips and spider mites. I would use Conserve for thrips. Thrips are tiny insects that get into the buds as they are beginning to open and the buds will not open or if they do, they will be brown and will not be useable. I only spray the buds because the insecticide will also kill other insects on the bush that are very beneficial. These beneficial insects eat spider mites, which will infest your bushes in the heat of the summer.

Spider mites are tiny mites that began on the underside of the bottom leaves and turn the leaves a copper color and will defoliate the bush if not eliminated. There are a couple ways of getting rid of mites. One is to use a water wand and wash the underside of the leaves with a strong force of water or you can use a miticide such as Floramite, Sanmite, or Tetrasan. You can mix the miticide with your regular fungicide spray. I spray my roses once a month with a miticide and don’t seem to have a problem with mites.

The only other major disease your roses might occasionally have is Downey Mildew. This can occur in the springtime when the days are cool and damp. Downey Mildew looks very similar to Blackspot in the early stages but it begins on new growth whereas Blackspot begins on older leaves. The canes will also begin to have purple splotches on them and if this is not corrected it will devastate your garden. I recommend a copperbased spray once every fall and once in the spring. Some of the recommended fungicides are Aliette, Stature, or Kocide. These are very good preventives.

I know this seems like a lot of work to have roses, but the benefits of beautiful cut flowers for your use and for your friends is well worth the effort. 

Pruning Fortuniana Rose Bushes

I don’t prune our Fortuniana rootstock roses as severely as we do our other bushes. I’ve found that if you prune Fortuniana too severely, they will have a hard time recovering. The reason is that the massive root system must have lots of energy when the new growth begins. I prune ours around hip high. Most people take all of the old leaves from there bushes as they prune the bush. I don’t and it doesn’t seem to bother the bush. In Zone 8, we prune our bushes middle to late February. If you prune your bushes too early, a freeze can kill or severely damage the bush. So it is better to prune a little later. When cutting your roses, always cut back to a 5 leaflet, not a 3 leaflet and always cut ¼” above the bud eye. If you will cut at the 5 leaflets that are growing to the outside of the bush, it will make the stems grow up and outward. The idea is to make your rose bush look like an upside down umbrella.

It takes any where from 50 to 60 days for a bush to repeat bloom so if you are planning for a special occasion you can figure when to prune the plants. When the blooms are spent you should at least pinch out the old bloom and this will start new growth.

Enjoying your Rose Bushes

Never let growing roses become a job, it should always be a hobby, even though there is work involved. Most hobbies require work. This is why you should have well-prepared beds, have a water system installed and keep your rose beds mulched so pulling weeds will not be a major problem. Just remember that water, good soil and fertilizer means that weeds and grass will try to emerge. You can use a pre-emergent in the early spring, as this will keep the weeds and grass from ever getting a good start. I never use a post-emergent around my roses because any thing that will kill weeds will also kill or damage the bush.

Most people want to begin with the older rose varieties that they have heard about for many years, but there are lots of newer varieties that are more disease resistant and are easier to grow. On the other hand, don’t be deceived by the rose companies that are always trying to convince you to buy varieties that have not been grown in your area. This is one of the reasons we have such a large garden. Daisy and I try to grow new varieties before we recommend them to others. I believe with all my heart there is no other hobby that can give you the joy and pleasure as growing beautiful roses. 


Black Spot and How to Treat It

Where we live in the deep south, the reason most people don’t grow these beautiful roses is that they can’t keep the blackspot off the rose bushes. Blackspot is a fungus called Diplocarpon rosea, and travels via water to infect plants. It our wet and humid environment, blackspot is a given. It will cause leaves to turn yellow with black spots. These leaves will eventually die and fall out, leaving your plant weakened.

 I have found that the only fungicides that keeps blackspot off of the roses are propiconazole, which is found in Banner Max, or in generics such as Honor Guard and others. Most of this fungicide is only offered in large quantities. The other fungicide is Ethylenbisdithicocarbamate which also includes manganese and zinc. This product comes under a number of names, such as Manzate, Diathine M-45, and others.

The two products we use are Honor Guard (a systemic fungicide) and Diathine M-45 (a contact fungicide). These are available for sale. Honor Guard is in a 1 pint container for $49.95. Diathine M-45 is in a 2 lb container for $34.95. The recommended use for Honor Guard is ½ teaspoon to a gallon of water. The recommended use for Diathine M-45 is a tablespoon to a gallon of water. These will last you for many sprays.

We spray our roses every 7 to 10 days, and this controls the blackspot. We use both products in the same spray as one is a systemic and the other is a curative or contact. We also add a couple drops of dishwater detergent to a gallon of water as a sticking agent for the spray. We spray early in the morning or late in the afternoon so as not to spray during the hot hours of the day ( this prevents the leaves from burning).

We also recommend protective gear that in on the label of the product as well as following all the other directions on the label.

Every 4 times we spray our roses we omit the Honor Guard and spray only Diathine M-45. This keeps the roses from building up the growth inhibitor that is in the Honor Guard. Then the next time we spray we use the Honor Guard as usual.

In all of the years we have grown roses, this is the most effective way we have ever used. You should also use a sprayer that will spray a fine mist so as to really cover the leaves. There are many types available on the market such a backpack sprayers or the easy rechargeable 12 volt sprayers.

Fertilizing Your Roses

Once your roses are planted in your garden, it is important to keep them fed and healthy. We recommend Milorganite or 16-4-8 every 4-6 weeks. Alternately, you can use Osmokote twice a season. If you would like to fertilize weekly for optimal results, using Peter’s 20-20-20 and Miracle-Gro alternately will keep your roses blooming more and longer.

Specialty Grafting

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K & M Roses offers hundreds of varieties of roses grafted onto Fortuniana rootstock; however, despite this large selection, we have not scratched the surface of the thousands of roses available in the rose world. We often have customers ask us if we can graft them their own plant of a rose they encountered while visiting a friend or one that has been blooming for 20 years in their grandmother’s garden. The answer is yes, we can! We offer specialty grafting if you can provide us budwood of the rose. The only caveat is the rose must not be patented.

How do I know if my rose is patented? Numerous websites exist to help you find information about roses. I recommend using Google to search the name of the rose followed by ‘rose’ and ‘help me find’. (ex: Moonstone rose help me find) One of- if not the- first results should be from a website called Help Me Find. When you click on the hyperlink, you will be directed to a webpage with information on the rose for which you are searching. Toward the bottom of the page will be a patent date for the USA. Patents expire after 20 years.

"My rose isn’t patented!” Great! The next step is to send us budwood. You’ll need permission from the owner of the rose to cut off some of the plant. You will need to wait until the plant is blooming. The best time to send budwood is in the summer and fall with peak times being July, August, September, and October. Once the plant has an open bloom, you will cut the stem with the bloom on it. You will need a section with at least 3 sets of three leaves (see photo above), but the longer the stem the better. The longer the stem, the more plants we can graft, and the success rate will be greater. You can cut off the bloom at the top, but leave the leaves intact. Once you have obtained budwood, you will need to wet several layers of newspaper or paper towels and wrap the stems in them. Seal this in a ziplock bag, and write the name of the plant on it. You will box this up and mail it via Priority Mail to 1260 Chicora River Road, Buckatunna, MS 39322, preferably at the beginning of the week. You should also call us to let us know you will be sending budwood at 601 648 2908.

Now what? Now, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait. It takes between 4 to 6 months to have a plant large enough to ship safely. We do not charge extra for custom grafts, so the plants will be $20 for one gallons or $25 for two gallons. If you pick the rose up, you will be charged sales tax. If you have the rose shipped, you will be charged whatever UPS charges us to deliver. I hope this has helped! If you have any questions not covered in this information, please do not hesitate to call me at the office (601 648 2908).

--- Stacey

The Plights of the Rosarians: Spider Mites


To the beginner rosarian, the myriad of issues one can face is often daunting. Fungi, bugs, viruses, and user error routinely damage roses. The difficulty in overcoming these various dilemmas lies in both identification and the vast amounts of contradictory information available to the new rosarian. Of these pesky plant problems, spider mites are one of the most common. If you grow roses (or any of the other hundreds of plants they find delicious!), you will likely face off against these arthropods at some point. Spider mites are extraordinarily tiny bugs that can wreck extraordinary amounts of havoc. Often, they will have infested a plant before you ever know they’ve taken up residence! And left unchecked, spider mites can destroy a rose bush quickly.

One morning, as summer and warm weather sets in and your carefully cultivated rose bush is preparing to bloom, you may walk into your garden and notice something… odd. Overnight, your formerly flourishing plant has lost much of its foliage. Leaves scatter the ground, and the ones still on the plant are discolored. Between the leaf stems are what looks like fine cobwebs. Uh oh. You’ve got spider mites.

Now, don’t panic. Check the underside of some of those discolored leaves. If you squint, you can probably see some teeny tiny dots. Those are the spider mites. Spider mites aren’t spiders, by the way. They’re mites. The “spider” bit comes from those webs they produce to protect themselves. And these mites can’t swim or fly, so they are at your mercy! (You should not have mercy on them). So, what do you do with these miniscule pests? That depends on your rose garden. Do you have a few plants or many? Are they planted or in pots?

If you have a few potted plants, the easiest remedy would be to purchase a bucket large enough to submerse your plant. Fill the bucket with water, and dunk your plant in! (being careful not lose all your soil or upend the bush). Wrapping a bag around the base of your plant may help to keep everything where it should be. Leave the plant for a few minutes. You will need to repeat this process every three days for a week and half to ensure you’ve killed the mites and any eggs that may not have hatched before the last treatment.

If you have a few plants that are already in the ground, you can use a similar method. You will need a water wand that allows you the option to increase the pressure. Using the highest pressure of the wand with your water faucet wide open, spray the underside of all the leaves. You will need to repeat this process every three days for a week and a half.

If you have a large garden of planted roses, these methods may not be feasible. In that case, chemicals are another option. First, you should know a little about the nature of mites. A single mite can produce 20 eggs a day. These eggs can be mature mites within 5 days. What all this means is with any chemical you spray the mites can quickly build a tolerance to them. If you spray your roses twice and you still have live spider mites, you will need to switch to another chemical. The chemicals that can kill spider mites are: Flormite, Avid, TetraSan, Sanmite, Akari, and Sirocco. With any chemical, always read the instructions carefully and follow them. You will need to spray the underside of the leaves to ensure you kill the mites.

Once you’ve treated your bushes, you can look at the underside of the leaves. If you see any of those dots, they should not be moving.

These are the ways that we have dealt with spider mites at the nursery and does not encompass all the treatment options. Others might swear by neem oil, rosemary oil, or predatory mites. Hopefully this post will at least help you get started tackling a task that can initially seem daunting. As always, we’re happy to help with any questions you might have!