Picking the right rootstock makes the difference

Roses can be and are grown successfully in Florida thanks to the Rosa fortuneana and Dr. Huey rootstocks. Grafting a rose onto these assures that the plant will thrive and prosper. Florida roses are grown in Florida specifically for Florida soil and climate. These roses are very resistant to nematode damage and well suited to the sandy soils of this state.

The biggest mistake most Florida gardeners make is planting rose bushes that are field grown in climates very different from ours and budded on rootstocks which are not productive and do not live long in Florida. If you are going to plant roses in your Florida garden, buy roses grown for Florida Gardens.

Because Florida has a 12-month gardening climate, the rose is an evergreen shrub that will grow and bloom for 5 – 20 years in the garden if cared for properly.

To start, planting is best done in November in southern Florida and in December or January in northern Florida.

Roses should be planted where they will receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight, preferably where they can receive the morning sun because it will dry the dew on the leaves and lessen the chance of black spot.

Roses should be planted in rich, but well-drained soil. Since sand drains too quickly and does not hold nutrients well it should be improved by adding amendments such as peat, composted cow manure, and compost. Add as much as 4″ to 6″ of any or all of these amendments to improve your soil.

Roses are heavy feeders and a wide variety of fertilizer is recommended to feed them. The secret to feeding Florida roses is to apply fertilizer once a month. It is recommended that newly-planted roses should not be fertilized until new growth emerges, although one-half cup of Milorganite may be applied as a top dressing on new plantings.

Water your roses well once a week unless the rain does it for you. Water in the morning so that the leaves are not wet during the night. Wet leaves can host foliage diseases.


Some of the named roses which will do well in Florida are:

Hybrid Tea Roses Recommended for Florida
     Red — Crimson Glory, Etoile de Holland, Mirandy, Tropicana
     Pink — Charlotte, Armstrong, Dainty Bess (single)
     Yellow — Eclipse, Golden Scepter, Kings Ransom, Lady Elgin,
     Mrs. P.S. DuPont
     White — K.A. Victoria, White Knight
     Bicolor — Comtesse Vandal, Lucky Piece, Pres. Herbert Hoover,

Floribunda Varieties Recommended for Florida
     Red — El Capitan, Floradora, Fusilier, Red Pinocchio
     Pink — Fashion, Pink Chiffon, Pinocchio
     Yellow — Allgold, Gold Cup, Goldilocks
     White — Ivory, Fashion, Saratoga
     Bicolor — Circus, Rumba

Not all of the plants which do well in Florida have been listed above.

When you go to buy your rose bushes remember that: 

  • You should buy your roses from a reputable nursery to prevent disappointment and poor quality rose bushes;
  • Roses are graded with numbers: 1, 1 1/2 and 2. Number 1 bushes are the best (strong roots and vigorous canes). Number 1 1/2 will be of middle quality, and Number 2 will be weak and slow to produce good blooms;
  • Florida container-grown roses are the best buy because you can see the rose in flower when you buy it and you can be fairly sure that the plant is healthy and vigorous;
  • Many rose bushes have “All American Rose Selection” on their tags. This means that the rose has been tested and has outperformed other varieties under an assortment of soils and climates and will undoubtedly perform well in your garden.