Fertilizing Species Roses?

fogrose(zone 10/sunset 17)May 13, 2013

The species roses I have that are waiting to be planted are Rosa gymnocarpa, Rosa woodsii, Rosa helenae and soon to be received from Vintage is Rosa brunonii.

My first thought is that if these roses are growing in the wild, nobody's there to fertilize them so I won't need to either.

Please tell me if I'm wrong.


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Diane, If you were planting them on the exact sites in the wild where they would be found naturally, you'd be totally correct. But there is a reason those species are not already growing, naturally, in your garden. It may any of a large number of factors that causes them not to occur there, but one of them certainly would be nutrient availability in your soil. So there is the possibility that they'll do just fine with no added fertilizer at all. That surely would not be true in my soils, though, where we fertilize species just like any other rose, and they appreciate it.

This post was edited by malcolm_manners on Mon, May 13, 13 at 22:26

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 10:25PM
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fogrose(zone 10/sunset 17)

Thanks Malcolm. That makes sense.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 11:28PM
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A step further, many species are "woodland type" plants where they receive a fairly constant shower of leaf litter, or at least a seasonal shower of it. Nature does a good job of "fertilizing" each one where it is indigenous and has evolved to be "thrifty" with what she provides. So, perhaps you won't need as much of the same fertilizer you might give your hybrids, but the speceis will definitely benefit from and appreciate some of it. You probably won't want to feed the suckering types very heavily unless you have acres for them to colonize. They are usually EXTREMELY efficient at using resources! Kim

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 12:12AM
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fogrose(zone 10/sunset 17)

OK Kim. Thanks.

I actually get a fair amount of leaf litter blown into the yard from the Monterey cypress surrounding our property. I assume that will help as well.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 12:21AM
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Campanula UK Z8

when I feed the blackcurrants (very greedy), I usually fling a handful of a basic compound/balanced fertiliser at the wildlings (when I remember) but not ALL of them - never the spins, for example, but duplex certainly appreciates it, as does helenae (in fact, all the scrambling, rambling types will do a bit better, especially any of the musk types. Primula gets nothing, while Cantabridgiensis gets a smattering. Moyesii gets nothing, but nutkana maybe gets a bit....and, in truth, this is just my idiosyncratic methods here - I have not really detected any difference in those years when I have simply missed the feeding window. Sometimes, I fling a bit of tomato food, again on the bigger roses, at the end of September, just to toughen up the wood.

By and large, the most important thing is sufficient water between March to May (I have very high drainage on sandy riverine soil).

Although my climate is forgiving and my soil is good (after years of amending, compost, animal manures, green manures and just old weeds and leaves), I have been growing wildlings for 15 years and sometimes feed them, sometimes prune them....and sometimes do nothing - they all chug along happily (and it's just as well because there are far too many diva veggies demanding my time and attention - one of the reasons for growing wild roses is to let them do their own thing.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 5:37AM
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Mendocino_Rose(z8 N CA.)

I agree with all these suggestions. I just want to share an experience. Years ago I took cuttings from Rosa Corymbifera, which was growing along the road north of here outside of Laytonville. They were reasonable looking clumps there. The one in my garden even though I don't feed it has become enormous.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 9:49AM
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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev


I grow lots of species roses, including many native to California. Particularly with regard to the California species roses, I defer to my local botanic garden, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which specializes in California natives. They do not fertilize the CA species roses growing in the ground (some while still in the nursery in pots get a little slow-release). I'm about a mile and a half away and our soils are quite similar. The soil is not overly rich, yet it doesn't seem to be actually deficient in a major nutrient either. Species like these conditions quite well. I also pay attention to where in the grounds they plant the roses as not all like things exactly the same. Those that prefer a more shady situation get it, and those the like sun get that. They also plant in communities so that the species are growing with the companions plants that they would have in the wild. So the plants help each other, keep things in balance.

I took a class at RSABG recently and a couple of the things the teacher discussed were the concepts of microclimates AND hydrozones in your home garden. Pay attention to both. Group plants that have the same water requirements together, those that like shade together too. Study the changing patterns of sunlight throughout a whole day and through the seasons in your yard to help consider which plant to place in which location.

Two of the California species roses that like different conditions are Rosa minutifolia and Rosa californica. While R. californica wants a little shade and a moister soil (particularly in heat), Rosa minutifoflia does its best in full sun and allowed to dry out to crispiness in the summer (it hates wet roots in the heat of summer). Minutifolia that gets the summer dormancy it craves blooms very heavily and also sets a tremendous number of hips. That same rose given too much water in the summer (not allowed its natural dormancy) will still bloom but it is nothing like the plants that are treated more naturally. The difference in hip production is quite striking too. Those that get too much summer water and shade produce few to no hips. It might be alive but not close to its best.

Rosa pinetorum is new to my garden this year. I looked at where RSABG had theirs planted when siting mine. Theirs is in an area that gets varying amounts or shade during the day. As a companion they have the nitrogen-fixer Cercocarpus traskiae (Catalina Island Mountain Mahogany). I put R. pinetorum where it gets sunlight filtered by a pomegrante tree and used as a companion another nitrogen-fixer, a groundcover ceanothus, 'Diamond Heights'. R. pinetorum is blooming quite nicely in this spot.

They have R. gymnocarpa in a fairly shady area where it blooms well. I have a new baby plant from Forestfarm that I've also put in a shady area. It is growing well but hasn't bloomed yet.

I have, let me see, how many Rosa minutifolia now? Five R. minutifolia and 4 Rosa minutifolia 'Pure Bea'. They are all still small. The one getting the most sun is also the best producer of hips--eventhough I've been told this selection, from the San Diego area by Tree of Life Nursery doesn't set hips. Yes it does! But be too generous with the shade and water, let alone food, and forget about seeing a hip display.;)

As to fertilizing CA native roses, a light hand is best in my experience. My young plants, at least some of them, get a little diluted fish emulsion, but not very frequently. The one I like best is Espoma's Gro-Tone (2-2-2). It hasn't been readily available locally, so lately I've been using Neptune's Harvest, 2-4-1. Nothing stronger than that, no soil amendments, and only a few have gotten a light covering of the soil with shredded redwood bark. Those that have near neighbors shading the soil don't get any bark. I use the fish emulsion to give new plants a little boost to get them established. They will soon get none at all. Many of the companion plants to these roses are also CA natives, and they are often intolerant of any fertilizer at all (think instant death!) while some won't actually croak from the practice.

I have lots of other species roses from around the world. I considered where they originated from as well as the climate and other conditions (such as altitude) that they do best in and how close that comes to my garden. Of course that doesn't mean I didn't consider some I shouldn't have and bought them anyway as I liked them so much.....;) But for the most part, the species I've brought in are thriving. I did lose one though, but by sort of a fluke. It was Rosa brunoni 'La Mortola'. It was a huge plant (climbing way up into a eucalyptus tree) that I never fertilized growing by a seasonal stream. It was the December we had WAY above normal rainfall (2010 or 2011???) and the stream overflowed and submerged this plant for a week or two. The plant died right away.:(


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 7:55PM
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I have a fortuniana that is about 15 years old and is huge. I don't think I've ever fertilized it. It blooms very prolifically every March/April, and is still blooming some this late, probably because of our prolonged cool spring. But Malcolm is right, they will appreciate some fertilizer, so maybe I need to be kinder to my only species rose.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Well, eahamel, 'Fortuniana' likely has roots in another county by now, and is robbing all the neighbors of their lawn fertilizer! Ha. Seriously though, one of the things that makes it such a strong, vigorous rootstock is that is sends out an astonishingly large root system -- I've been told over a 30 foot radius, although I don't know who may have collected those data. So it is a very good scavenger.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 8:47PM
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fogrose(zone 10/sunset 17)

Thanks everyone for your experiences. Very interesting.

Melissa, sounds like you have a great collection of species. I do plan on planting gymnocarpa in shady areas. That's one of the reasons I got some specimens. Any plant that can take shade is my friend. Sorry to hear about your brunonii. I plan on letting mine cascade down a bank and plan on letting helenae climb a tree. I value species roses because they're survivors.

Pamela, your property must have such rich soil everywhere that any rose will grow way larger than it's supposed to.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 9:12PM
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