To be clear, the roses I write about today are not Desert Roses (Adenium Obesum). I admit to knowing little about growing roses in the desert, but I know NOTHING about Desert Roses. Fear not, however, if you need answers about Desert Roses, leave me a comment. I’ll find what I can and get back to you.
I was astounded when I moved to St. George by the number and robustness of the roses in our neighborhood. Their colors were so vibrant, and the floribundas were, well, flori-bundant with impressive blooms.
In search of more info about these wonderful friends I thought I’d left behind in the Midwest, I learned the following.
It almost goes without saying, but roses are not native to our Dixie Corridor desert environment. They exist, in large part, because we rose lovers plant them were they have access to water either from our trickle systems, or our watering cans. Experts recommend watering them deeply three times per week in summer, two to three times per week in fall and once a week in the winter to a depth of 3 feet. That can add up to quite a bit of water so make sure you mulch the plants well to ensure that as much moisture as possible stays around the roots. Drip irrigation or at least irrigating directly at the roots is recommended for roses, as water on the foliage is the cause of lots of rose diseases and problems.
If you want to plant new roses, the time to plant bare root roses is between December and January. It seems that the deeper, richer colors do better than their more delicate siblings, and floribundas are preferable to tea roses.
Roses need at least six hours of sunlight per day. Desert sun is, of course, much stronger than sun anywhere else so rose placement in the garden is very important. Roses grown in the desert should get lots of morning sun and be shaded from afternoon sun during the hottest part of the day, especially during the summer. Generally, the east side of a building will provide the protection roses need while also ensuring that they get all the sunlight they need.
If you have existing plants in your garden the next couple of months would be a good time for a basic pruning, cutting back long canes to prevent them from being whipped around in the wind. Floribundas should be taken back to approximately 2 1/2 to 3 feet. A more thorough pruning is appropriate in early spring, as long as you are dealing with plants that bloom more than once a season. If that is not the case, wait until after the bloom to prune.
Fertilizer is an important consideration for your roses as the soil quality in the desert is often very poor with little nutrient value. It is always a good idea to consult with an agent at your local county extension office to discuss the soil quality in your area and which supplemental nutrients you’re likely to have to supply. You may need to fertilize your roses each month from February through June and at half strength from June through August.
So, that’s what I’ve learned about roses in the desert. They reward me with such unexpected joy each time I see them. I’m willing to give them all the extra attention they need to survive around here.