You’ve purchased a rose this Spring, you’ve planted and watered it, and now you’re anxiously awaiting the first blowsy show of the season.
Two months have gone by and you’re only seeing leaves and no blooms.
You’re thinking: Is something wrong with my rose?
The short answer… NO. There’s likely nothing wrong with your rose if it isn’t blooming right away.
Here’s Why Your Rose May Not Be Blooming Yet
Some once-blooming varieties or extremely small roses may not bloom the first year they are in your garden.
This is because once-blooming varieties usually bloom in the Spring only. You may have either missed the rose’s bloom time if you purchased this variety later in the Spring or maybe that variety in particular likes to wait till it’s a certain size to bloom.
Waiting until the plant is at a certain stage of maturity before blooming is common in many woody or shrubby perennials. Why do we get upset when a rose won’t bloom the first year and yet we will wait 2 to 3 years for our lilac or viburnum to produce blooms? That is a great question and one to keep in mind.
Some nurseries sell propagated cuttings at a smaller size so it’s easier to ship them and more cost-effective for the customer. These cuttings are usually only 6 months to 1 year old. They’re going to be small when you receive them in a 5 quart or smaller pot. These smaller rose plants will likely take up to a year before they’re able to show a bloom because they need some time to build their root system.
Knowing you may have to wait for a bloom is sad to hear for the beginning gardener, but never fear. You will be simply amazed how much growth can happen in one year. And some will surprise you earlier than expected!
Most Roses Will Bloom the First Year You Plant Them
Most roses in commercial production are not the once-blooming varieties of days gone by. Many gardeners and homeowners aren’t willing to give up bed space for a once-a-year-show, and the commercial growers know that.
We are a culture of instant gratification, after all. As a result, many varieties are cast aside that are honestly stunning. But I digress.
During our first season of selling roses, we specifically chose varieties that are repeat bloomers, have some sort of intrigue (whether that’s smell or beautiful blooms), and that are usually great for cutting.
That means that by late May, your rose that you purchased either bare root or potted from us is likely pushing out its first set of blooms.
But that doesn’t mean every variety will be on the same track.
In fact, one variety we sold in particular has puzzled a few of our customers this year, and that variety is ‘Don Juan’.
A Case Study of ‘Don Juan’ Red Climbing Rose
‘Don Juan’ is an older climbing rose bred in 1958 by Michele Malandrone. It blooms in flushes throughout the season with beautiful cupped-to-flat red flowers with prominent yellow stamens. This rose is considered a climbing hybrid tea or a large-flowered climber. ‘Don Juan’ is reported to have a strong fragrance and be highly resistant to blackspot.
I specifically chose this variety because it’s been around for awhile and yet is still in commerce. To me, that suggests it’s a great performer if the big rose growers are still propagating and selling Ol’ Donnie after 60 years.
And also, who doesn’t love a red climbing rose?
What I noticed about ‘Don Juan’ is that this variety was the last to leaf out of the several hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas I sold this year. And when the flower buds were forming on all the other rose cultivars, this one showed no signs of budding up.
After some research, I found that one gardener commented that when grown on its own roots, ‘Don Juan’ tended to leaf out extremely early, which meant that the leaves were subsequently damaged by frosts. And yet when grown on a rootstock such as ‘Dr. Huey’, it leafed out much later. It was so late leafing out to the point where it looked like it was dead.
However, once Ol’ Donnie got growing for the season, the commenter mentioned that the rose went insane with its growth. Another person commented that it threw out monstrous basal canes in the first season.
Our version of Donnie was sold as a grafted rose, so the late leaf appearance is in line with the one gardener’s comment about leafing out late when grown on a different rootstock.
Time will tell with ‘Don Juan’.
But I will say this: On the farm we have over 90 roses planted and at least 24 different varieties. They have all varied in leafing out, growth habit, and bloom time. It’s safe to say that if it’s only late May and your repeat-flowering rose hasn’t bloomed yet, you shouldn’t worry too much.
Troubleshooting Tips for Growing Roses
If you still don’t see any rose blooms by late June (for a rose planted in Spring and purchased as a bare root) but the rose is still growing and looks healthy, then your rose is just one of those that needs to invest more in its roots before it’s ready to bloom.
Blooming takes a lot of energy, and it’s good that your rose is establishing its root system first.
If your rose appears to be suffering (maybe the leaves appear diseased, it’s wilting, it’s being attacked by pests, or it simply never leafed out), then you might have an issue on your hands.
If your rose has never leafed out and you planted it 2 to 3 months prior, you need to first check it over. You should be able to see tiny buds at the nodes on the canes that are starting to swell. That’s good! It means leaves are not too far away.
If the buds at the nodes appear dead, you may try digging it up (carefully!) and seeing if the roots are still alive.
Live roots are cream to white and very succulent or fleshy. Larger roots may be brown on the outside but if you were to cut them they would have a fleshy inner core. Dead roots are dry, brown, and brittle.
If the roots appear dead and the top appears dead, then you likely have a rose corpse on your hands. You can wait a few months (miracles happen!), but if you’re pretty sure it’s a goner then dig it up and throw it out. It’s unfortunate, but it happens for various reasons.
Signs of Disease
If your rose has diseased leaves, try to pick off and destroy as many diseased leaves as you can to help slow down the disease progression. Leave some of the healthier leaves so the plant can still photosynthesize.
You can try spraying a fungicide for disease, but for the most part fungicides need to be sprayed as a preventative rather than a treatment to be effective.
A lot of times the rose will recover during the next season if you can keep the foliage maintained. Watering at the base of the plant instead of overhead will help keep moisture off the leaves, which can often exacerbate disease issues.
Pest Issues on Your Roses
If you have a sudden attack of pests but your plant looked really healthy before the attack, it may mean that your rose needs to be fertilized. Pests are attracted to free amino acids within the plant, so your rose may need a boost of a fertilizer with higher phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, or micronutrient fertilizer instead. This will help the plant convert those free amino acids into proteins.
Many times the pests will come and go with the season. For example, aphids are heavily present in the Spring here, while Japanese beetles can decimate a plant in July.
On our farm, we choose to use natural practices to control pests and diseases to reduce our impact on the environment and our little humans running around (and us, too).
Here’s some cultural tips for dealing with pests:
Spraying the plants with a forceful stream of water helps knock off aphids. You may need to do this for a few days in a row to make an impact.
I release beneficial insects into my high tunnel to help with pests like aphids and thrips, but for plants growing in the field or outside I find that these may not be as effective. Aphids are an insect that feeds on sugary plants, so try fertilizing like I mentioned above and see if that helps, too.
For Japanese beetles, the best method I’ve found is to handpick them every morning, knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water as I pick. It’s labor intensive, but it gets the job done fairly well.
I had a gardener email me and tell me that she doesn’t worry about the beetles eating the foliage so much as it is the bloom feeding that irritates her. She uses organza bags tied over the top of the buds during the height of Japanese beetle time so the blooms are still intact when they open and she can at least enjoy them for a short period of time.
The Bottom Line
If your rose isn’t blooming and you feel like it should be, make sure you understand these facts about roses:
Check your rose variety’s name to see if it is a once-blooming rose or repeat-blooming rose (use helpmefind.com to research your variety). If it is a repeat-blooming rose and it has not bloomed by the end of June but still looks healthy, then it likely needs a little more time to establish its root system before it can reward you. I’ll wager by Fall you’ll see a flower.
If your rose is a once-blooming rose, then you will likely not see flowers until the following Spring. Hang tight. It will be worth it!
If your rose is really small, like some of the heirloom roses I ordered from a nursery that sells in 5 quart pots, then they will probably need at least a year before they will bloom. This can be the case even for repeat-blooming varieties. Roses need time to establish their root systems and send up new canes. Water them well over the Summer and sit tight.
Reach out to us!
If you have any questions or concerns about a rose you purchased from us, please reach out. We are happy to help in any way we can.
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