Gardener Applying Rose Fertilizer
fertilizing the soil
(Image credit: Valeriy_G)

Roses need fertilizer, but fertilizing roses does not need to be complicated. There is a simple timetable for feeding roses. Keep reading to learn more about when to fertilize roses.

When to Fertilize Roses

I perform my first feeding around mid to late spring-- the weather patterns really dictate the first feeding of roses. If there has been a string of good, warm days and steady night temps in the upper 40's, (8 C.), it is safe to start feeding the roses and watering them in well with either my choice of chemical dry mix (granular rose bush food) rose food or one of my choices of organic mix rose food. Organic rose foods tend to do better once the soil has warmed up a bit. Approximately a week after the first spring feeding, I will give each of my rosebushes some Epsom salts and some kelp meal. Whatever I use to feed the rose bushes for their first feeding of the season is then alternated with another of those rose foods or fertilizers on my list for the next dry mix (granular) feeding. That next dry mix feeding is around early summer. Between the granular or dry mix feedings, I like to give the rose bushes a little boost feeding of foliar or water-soluble fertilizer. A foliar feeding is done approximately halfway between the dry mix (granular) feedings.

Types of Rose Fertilizer

Here are the rose food fertilizers I currently use in my rotation feeding program (Apply all of these per the Manufacturers' Listed Directions. Always read the label first!):

Granular/Dry Mix Rose Fertilizers

  • Vigoro Rose Food -- Chemical Mix
  • Mile Hi Rose Food -- Organic Mix (Made locally and sold by local Rose Societies)
  • Nature's Touch Rose & Flower Food -- Organic and Chemical blend

Foliar/Water Soluble Rose Fertilizer

  • Peter's Multi-Purpose Fertilizer
  • Miracle Gro Multi-Purpose Fertilizer

Other Nutrient Containing Rose Feeding Items Added

  • Alfalfa Meal-- 1 cup (236 ml.) alfalfa meal-- Twice per growing season for all rose bushes, except miniature rose bushes, 1/3 cup (78 ml.) per mini-rose bush. Mix into soil well and water in to help keep it from attracting rabbits that will then nibble on your roses! (Alfalfa tea is very good as well but also very smelly to make.)
  • Kelp Meal-- Same amounts as listed above for the alfalfa meal. I only give the roses kelp meal once per growing season. Usually at the July feeding.
  • Epsom Salts-- 1 cup (236 ml.) for all rose bushes except miniature roses, ½ cup (118 ml.) for mini-roses. (Epsom salts are given once per growing season, usually at the time of first feeding.) NOTE: If high soil salt problems plague your rose beds, cut the amounts given in half at least. I recommend using it every other year instead of every year.
Stan V. Griep

Stan V. Griep contributed to Gardening Know How for many years. An American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian in the Rocky Mountain District, he served as Gardening Know How's in-house expert on all things roses.