By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District
Mulch for rose gardens truly is a marvelous thing! Mulch helps to hold in the priceless moisture for rose bushes and other plants, saving on the amount of watering we need to do. The mulch also stops, or at least discourages, weeds from coming up in rose beds and robbing the moisture, not to mention keeping the weeds and grass from robbing the nutrients intended for rose plants.
Best Mulch for Roses
Having tried several different types of mulch over the years as well, I have narrowed it down to two types that I use around my rose bushes and in the gardens, one non-organic mulch and one organic mulch.
Gravel Mulch for Roses
I use ¾ inch (2 cm.) gravel mulch called Colorado Rose Stone around nearly all of my rose bushes. The gravel mulch is knocked by some, as they say it will make the root zone too hot and kill off the plant. I have not found that to be the case in my climate here in northern Colorado at all.
I like the gravel, as I can fertilize all of my rose bushes and plants by sprinkling the fertilizer over the gravel around the bushes, rock the gravel back and forth a bit with a hard tooth rake, and then water it in well. I can add some organic matter as well by sprinkling some bagged top dressing over the gravel and water it down in well. The zone under my gravel is then a very good soil zone and the organics do their thing to mix further down into the actual root zone.
Organic Mulch for Roses
Another type of mulch to use with roses is cedar mulch. I have found that shredded cedar mulch stays put okay for me in the very windy times and can be fluffed up and around a bit during the season to keep it looking nice. The shredded cedar mulch can be easily moved back with a rake and granular feedings conducted. After the feeding, it is easy to move back in place before watering everything well. This mulch comes in various colors but I just use the natural product without the coloring additives in it.
There are many mulch types for rose beds. Some types of organic mulch add great organic materials to the soil homes of our various plantings. Over the years, I have seen many things used as mulch from grass clippings, straw, and tree bark to shredded wood (some finely shredded recycled redwood is even called Gorilla Hair!) and various colors of gravel or pebbles. I hear the Gorilla Hair mulch really stays put if you have a lot of wind to deal with.
Be careful about where you get your mulch and how cheap it seems as well. There have been cases where some diseased trees were cut down and shredded into mulch, and then the mulch shipped off to various parts of the country and used by unsuspecting gardeners. In some of those cases, entire gardens and pets became sick, some severely ill. Checking out the mulch you plan to use in your garden or rose bed first can pay you some big rewards by keeping things happy, healthy, and looking as beautiful as you want them to. Once something bad is introduced, it can take months and much frustration to bring things back.
Yes indeed, mulch can be marvelous with just a little attention from the gardener. Always remember, “No garden can grow well without the shadow of the gardener being there.”