Struggling to get your roses to bloom? Learn the secrets to feeding your roses for a season of vibrant, show-stopping blooms with this guide to the best rose fertilizer types and application schedules.

Roses are undeniably some of the most beloved garden flowers, prized for their intoxicating fragrance and captivating blooms. But nurturing them requires more than just sunshine and water.

Proper fertilization is essential for healthy rose growth and a season of abundant, show-stopping blooms. This guide spills the secrets to rose fertilizer, exploring the best types to nourish your roses and when to apply them for a breathtaking burst of color in your garden.

Follow these tips for cultivating a lush and beautiful rose garden.

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Learn the Needs of Your Garden Roses

Understanding what your roses need to thrive is the first step to feeding them right. Roses, like most plants, require a balanced diet of three main nutrients: Nitrogen (N) for healthy foliage growth, Phosphorus (P) for strong root development and blooms, and Potassium (K) for overall plant health and disease resistance. Roses also need lots of micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and others.

You can never go wrong adding compost, leaf mold, and other organic matter to your soil to help give your roses a great base of nutrients and assist with drainage.

Testing the Soil Before Fertilizing

Before applying any fertilizer, it’s always a great idea to get a soil test that can reveal your soil’s nutrient content and any deficiencies. Your soil pH can affect the nutrient absorption for your roses. And as such, it should be between 6.0-7.0. You can get professional test kits from your local cooperative extension, nursery, or you can even find them online.

How can I tell if my roses have a nutrient deficiency?

If you haven’t conducted a soil test and have seen yellowing leaves, stunted growth or few flowers, your roses could have a nutritional deficiency that needs correcting before you start applying fertilizers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a soil test to help rule out and correct issues so you feed them with the proper nutrients.

pink roses in my cottage garden
Pink roses in my cottage garden

Types of Rose Fertilizers

Now, let’s chat about the different types of rose fertilizers. There are three main types to consider for your garden roses. I recommend only using organic because it is better for the environment. It’s what I use on my roses all season long and mine bloom spectacularly every year.

Slow-Release Granular Fertilizers

Slow-release fertilizers are convenient to use while providing a steady, consistent release of nutrients throughout the growing season. Popular options include rose-specific blends formulated with the perfect NPK ratio for optimal rose health. Organic slow-release options, like composted manure or feather meal, are also excellent choices for eco-conscious gardeners.

Water-Soluble Fertilizers

These fast-acting fertilizers deliver a quick boost of nutrients directly to the roots. They’re ideal for correcting nutrient deficiencies or giving your roses a mid-season pick-me-up. Water-soluble fertilizers are best applied during periods of active growth, following the instructions on the package for dilution and application frequency.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers nurture your roses while improving your soil’s overall health and fertility more gently. Common organic fertilizers include aged compost, manure tea, and composted cottonseed meal. While they may not provide the immediate punch of synthetic fertilizers, organic options contribute to a thriving long-term ecosystem in your garden.

My favorite organic rose fertilizer that I solely use on all my roses is Espoma Rose Tone because it not only feeds my roses but also enriches the soil. And let me tell you. In my 25+ years of growing roses, I’ve used several types of fertilizers that were both organic and synthetic. Hands down this is the best rose fertilizer I’ve used because the blooms are prolific! There simply is no need to use a synthetic rose fertilizer in your garden.

Espoma Organic Rose-Tone 4-3-2 Organic Fertilizer for All Types of Roses and Other Flowering Plants. 4 lb. Bag - Pack of 2
$20.51 ($0.16 / Ounce)

My favorite fertilizer for all of my roses. It's organic and help enrich the soil too.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
05/10/2024 12:14 am GMT

Rose Fertilizer Application: Timing is Everything

Timing is everything when it comes to rose fertilization. So depending on what’s happening in your garden, there are different ways to fertilize roses. Here’s guide for the growing season.

Newly Planted Roses

When planting new rose bushes, amend the planting hole with lots of organic matter to create a nutrient-rich environment. Prioritize fostering strong root growth by fertilizing with phosphorus only. This is because phosphorus plays a key role in root development, giving your new rose a solid foundation to thrive.

Hold off on fertilizers high in nitrogen until after your rose’s first bloom. While nitrogen is important later for healthy foliage, initially it can encourage weak top growth at the expense of strong roots.

It’s a great idea to apply epsom salt around the base of your rose plants because it encourages sturdy stems, green foliage, and gorgeous blooms. During the first year of growth, sprinkle about 1/4 cup in spring.

After the first set of blooms, it’s okay to fertilize them. You can’t go wrong with a mild fertilizer like fish emulsion every 3-4 weeks.

Neptune's Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 36 0z
$22.74 ($0.63 / Ounce)

The fish emulsion I use!

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05/10/2024 12:19 am GMT

Established Roses

As new growth emerges, promote healthy foliage with a fertilizer higher in nitrogen, or consider organic amendments like alfalfa meal and epsom salt. I typically start fertilizing my established roses right after I prune them in late winter/early spring.

Maintain consistent growth and abundant blooms by applying a balanced fertilizer or one slightly richer in potassium every 2-4 weeks. Adjust the frequency based on the specific fertilizer you choose.

In late summer/early fall, it’s time to prepare your roses for the cold winter months. Switch to a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen, like bone meal, to encourage root growth and enhance winter hardiness.

at last rose from proven winners and color choice shrubs
‘At Last’ Roses

Container Grown Roses

Because nutrients wash out every time you water it is really important to keep container grown roses fed. Therefore, fertilizing container-grown roses requires a slightly different approach compared to roses planted in the ground. Here’s what you need to know.

Since container roses have limited access to nutrients when confined to their pots they’ll need more frequent fertilization compared to roses planted in the ground. In this regard, water-soluble fertilizers are better to use because they give more precise control over the delivery of nutrients and are better absorbed by the plant.

During the active growing season (spring and summer), fertilize your container roses every 2-3 weeks (follow the label directions). But dilute the fertilizer according to the package instructions, typically at half strength for container garden plants.

david austin darcy bussell rose with bright pink flowers
David Austin Darcy Bussell Rose

Fertilizing Roses Quick Tips

Here are some additional tips to ensure your rose fertilization practices are on point.

  • Always follow the application instructions on the fertilizer packaging to avoid over-fertilizing, which can damage your roses.
  • Water deeply before and after applying fertilizer to encourage the roots to absorb the nutrients more effectively.
  • Consider incorporating organic matter like compost or mulch around your rose bushes. This helps retain moisture, moderate soil temperature, and improve soil health in the long run.

By following these simple yet effective rose fertilizer practices, you can provide your beautiful flowers with the nourishment they need to thrive. Watch your roses reward you with a season of stunning blooms that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

For more information about fertilizing roses, see:

pink roses
Pink Roses

More About Fertilizing Roses

Have you been consistently fertilizing your roses? Do you have a particular product you prefer to use? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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pink roses on a green garden fence
Pink roses on a green garden fence

Garden Supplies I Use For My Roses

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

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