Getting Roses Through a Drought: Suggestions, Please

Lori_M(z5 CO)February 22, 2003

As president of the Arapahoe Rose Society in Colorado, I want to inform members of ways of getting their roses through drought. Many of us are facing drastic water restrictions. I've read with great interest the threads on greywater and mulch. I welcome any further suggestions on helping our roses. (Please, no suggestions on how to get away with flouting the watering restrictions.)

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animas(z5-SW Colo)

Use the water that normally goes to waste. For example, put a pitcher under the kitchen faucet when you wait for your hot water to turn hot. You'll get a gallon or two of perfectly fine water that would go down the drain unused. Take that water to a rain barrel (or big plastic trash can) outside. You'd be surprised at home much water you get. Hand water your roses from this. Also, place rain barrels at your downspouts. When it does rain, you get lots of free water. I'm not a rose expert, but I'm switching to all stone mulch in my garden. The bark mulch seems to rob my soil of nitrogen and it tends to encourage shallow roots, which is not good for plants that need to be tough. Pea gravel is the suggest mulch, according to the books I have been reading. I think the important thing here is to toughen up the plants. What will kill plants is lots of artificially forced spring growth (heavily watered plus fertilizer). When the heat of summer comes, that tender new growth can't be supported. I wouldn't fertilize at all this spring; i'm not fertilizing at all this year. (I suppose that's blasphemy among rose growers.) Let the roses adapt from Day One of this new growing season to a leaner, meaner and more natural way. If you cause a flush of new growth, the plant has to spend its energy and resources supporting that growth. I'm not suggesting to let roses go feral or neglect them. Rather, put them on a diet now in preparation for a summer of limited moisture. I'm putting my garden on a tough-love water-stingy diet this year. If your local governments are considering complete bans on outside watering, the rain-barrel storage is the only way to hand-water your roses. If this occurs, it's best to give each plant a long, deep sooaking weekly rather than a cupful ration every day. Drip irrigation systems are waterwise and inexpensive. Another idea: apply Wilt-Pruf throughout the rose-growing season. This will keep the folliage from loosing moisture to winds. I know lots of people who Wilt-Pruf their bushes in fall, but it makes sense to use this in a drought situation. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2003 at 5:05PM
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Lori_M(z5 CO)

Animas, Thanks for your all your suggestions. I hadn't heard of Wilt-Pruf. And, I agree that it would be unwise to encourage a lot of new growth. To follow the old mantra of spray, spray, spray and fertilize like crazy and then not water would be about the worst thing you could do. I'm also thinking of light, if any, pruning.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 10:12PM
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stripedone(2/3 SW ALBERTA)

I have to say that I've used wood mulch for years with great results. Compost is another must. Ensure that your roses get a good shot of compost and cover the roots with mulch. The doesn't absorb the heat, and mine have done exceptionally well. We had a very substantial drought last year, and they've come through just fine.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2003 at 9:16PM
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Close the drain when you take a shower, and use a small sump pump to transfer the greywater from the tub to a storage container.

And water DEEP rather than often. Roots follow water, and if you water in drips and drops the roots stay near the surface. They die when the first hot spell hits. Soaking infrequently means the roots head deeper to get to the water as the surface dries out, and are less suceptible to damage.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2003 at 6:21PM
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Use water that you've boiled vegetables or eggs in, to water your roses, once it has cooled down.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2003 at 10:27PM
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YardApe(z7B SC)

Use drip irrigation (many different and convenient ways to install it). We just went through a terrible drought in Virginia last year... I learned about "Gator" bags that can be placed between plants. A Google search brought me the following site for Gator bags:

ps. I don't promote Gator bags or drip irrigation as a business.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2003 at 6:44PM
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rberger(10 So. Cal.)

Hello from sunny -- and often waterless -- Southern California. We usually get no rain from April through November. However many of us refuse to give in to Mother Nature and still grow roses.

I use many of the suggestions including using water I've cooked with to water my plants -- besides the water, there's also a lot of minerals that are good for them.

But for my roses, which of course, needs LOTS of water, I use the inexpensive drip-hoses available at most garden and hardware stores like OSH and Home Depot. I attach them to my hose and turn the tap on low and then check to see that the soil around the roses is thoroughly soaked after a couple of hours or so. I do this about once a week, twice if the temps are above 100. Also, as someone else suggested, I mulch my roses to keep in moisture. My roses have been huge. Haven't lost one to our desert climate yet.

I hope this helps.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2003 at 12:40PM
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rhoda_dendron(z6 Toronto Cana)

I second the drip hose idea! I used a drip hose for roses
at an office where they only got minimum watering - say once
every 2-3 weeks. It's amazing how little water is needed if
it it used efficiently. We even had water restrictions at
one point, but they excluded drip hoses due to their efficiency.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2003 at 8:18AM
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