Rose Care in Spring

Caring for roses has a reputation as a challenging undertaking, but roses will keep growing and blooming even if gardeners neglect them entirely. They do, however, benefit from some extra attention. Any efforts you make in tending to your roses in the early spring can mean that you’ll have fewer problems to navigate during the growing season.


Timing your pruning is determined by the class of the rose plant and the hardiness zone in which it grows. Here in Virginia, most rose pruning is done in April or May before blooms start to show. Watch the leaf buds on your rose plant. When they begin to swell and turn a pink or reddish hue, it’s time to prune. Timing is critical, as it’s best to prune the plant before the buds break open and right after hard frosts have ended in your region. However, certain roses are finicky about pruning time and prefer to be cut back before breaking dormancy.

Feed Roses in Spring

As with most plants, roses enjoy a good feeding in the spring, when they’re actively growing and need nutrition. You can give them their first fertilization at pruning time. There are several good rose foods that you can use, but a general all-purpose fertilizer will also suffice. Slow-release fertilizers will need to be applied less frequently than water-soluble fertilizers. Spread the fertilizer around the perimeter of the rose bush, at the drip line, gently scratch it into the soil, and water thoroughly.

Spray to Prevent Rose Diseases

Unfortunately, roses tend to have many fungus diseases. Hopefully, you’ve chosen roses that are disease resistant and suited to your area. Preventative spraying in the spring is something to be considered, even for roses grow organically. Lime sulfur is a good choice for spring spraying. It will generally kill any fungus spores like “black spot” that may have over-wintered. An additional spray of horticultural oil will help to smother any insect eggs and larva. An additional spray of horticultural oil will help to smother any insect eggs and larva. Please consult local experts if you are unsure how to spray and always follow the directions on the container. Your roses nor the environment will benefit from overdoing chemical application but it will hurt your pocketbook!

These spring rose care efforts should get your roses off to a good, healthy start for the season. In addition to pruning, fertilizing, and spraying, make sure your roses get plenty of water and monitor them regularly for signs of problems. They should reward you all season for the care you took in the spring.