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Roses Love to Drink
by Angie Chute

Roses are made up of fifty to ninety percent water and need water to survive and flourish. Too little water produces small, limp blooms, fewer buds, browning leaves, and a wilted, very unhappy rose bush. If you want strong, hardy, healthy roses, give your roses plenty of water.

Water not only plays a role in photosynthesis and transpiration (the process by which water evaporates through the leaves, thereby cooling the plant) but also is the medium used to transport nutrients from the root zone throughout the plant. In addition, water keeps the plant’s cells turgid, giving strength and substance to the blooms and foliage.

Many beginner rose gardeners often make the fundamental mistake of under-watering their roses. Since roses are flowering shrubs with large root systems that grow twelve to eighteen inches into the soil, they need a deep watering several times a week to make certain that the water will soak all the way down into the root zone.

How much water is enough to have healthy, flourishing roses? To answer that question, consider both the soil and microclimate of your garden. First analyze the composition of your soil. Does it drain well? Does it retain water? Observe what happens when you water your roses. See how long it takes for the water on the surface to drain into the soil. Organics, such as compost and manure, improve water retention yet drain well, so the more organics in your soil, the better.

Next, think about the microclimate of your rose garden. Consider where your roses are planted and the amount of wind, rain and sunlight they receive. Are they planted in full sun or partial shade? Are they in an area where there is reflected heat or light from a nearby building or fence? If your roses are in a sunny, southern exposure they will need more water than those planted in a cooler, shadier location. If they are planted in an open, windy area, they will need more water than roses planted in a protected location to replenish moisture desiccated by the wind from both the soil and plant.

In addition to the composition of your soil and microclimate of your garden, fluctuations in the weather also influence your watering schedule. When the temperature is above ninety degrees, watering every day is not too often. Days of deep, soaking rain will enable you to adjust your watering schedule, but don’t let rainy days fool you. They may not provide enough water to penetrate down to the roots of your roses.

To be certain that your roses have enough water make sure the soil is always moist. Feel the soil and if it feels dry, add water; if in doubt, add water. If it feels wet, you’re okay. As long as your soil drains well, over watering is usually not a problem, but if your roses are getting too much water, you will see yellowing and limp leaves dropping from the bottom of your plants.

Here are some watering facts to keep in mind:

Newly planted roses as well as transplanted roses need more water because they have root systems that are not yet established. Shallow root systems will result from under watering and will dry out more quickly than fully developed ones.

Roses, when blooming, need more water than when they are not blooming because water is lost through both petals and leaves. Wilting blooms may result if the plant does not receive enough water. The more petals a bloom has, the more water it generally needs. So single-petalled roses will need less water than roses with high petal counts.

Roses need water as long as they are actively growing. Continue watering your roses in the fall until they go dormant. Making sure your roses are well hydrated before they go dormant gives them a better chance to survive the rigors of winter.

Always water your roses heavily before spraying with fungicides or insecticides to avoid damage to the foliage and blooms.

To help conserve moisture in the soil, add two to four inches of mulch to your rose beds.

The role water plays in the health of your roses cannot be over-emphasized.If you provide them with enough water, you will be rewarded with healthy plants and beautiful blooms.