Sundays in the South – 10 Commandments For Growing Roses

Dean Hodge, Consulting Rosarian
Birmingham, Alabama

Dean Hodge in her rose garden


Keeping the biblical 10 commandments ensures a good and rewarding
life. They are guides for human behavior. Also growing roses has
established rules. These are:

I. Thou shall have a sincere interest in roses—not just a passing fancy—but love and devotion. Without this desire, the work that follows will be in vain.

II. Thou shall choose good plants. Select healthy plants by inspecting the canes, which should be strong and have at least three stalks. They need to be a Grade 1.

III. Thou shall choose a planting site—one that has at least six hours of sunlight, good drainage, and free from tree roots.

IV. Thou shall provide a good soil. The basic formula is one-third topsoil, one-third sand, and one-third compost. A soil test that gives a ph reading of 6.5 is the most desirable.

V. Thou shall fertilize. Roses are heavy feeders and need a fertilizer
every month during the growing season.

VI. Thou shall spray the bushes regularly. To prevent fungus disease,
weekly spraying is required. Spray for insects when the need arises, which could be weekly or bi-weekly.

VII. Thou shall prune. Remove unproductive growth and shape the bushes in the spring and fall.

VIII. Thou shall deadhead. The quicker the deadheading (cutting faded blooms) takes place, the sooner the new bloom will appear.

IX. Thou shall winterize. Cover the bud union with pine straw or mulch for insulation against cool weather and freeze.

X. Thou shall irrigate the rose bushes. Watering is the most important
factor for keeping healthy roses. They should have at least two to three gallons of water per bush weekly.

With all the rules that I have listed, you may decide growing roses is too much trouble, but hark; I have “good news” for you. The Earthkind roses, of which there are 17 varieties, take very little care. They still require six hours of sunlight and must have good irrigation during the first year. They are disease and fungus resistant. The most popular is the Knockout rose, of which we have 500 bushes planted on our Briarwood Presbyterian grounds. These are red, yellow, and pink. We also have 150 White Iceberg, which is one of my favorites, that we use for our worship center arrangements and weddings.  The other Earthkind roses are Belinda’s Dream, Caldwell Pink, Carefree Beauty, Climbing Pinkie, Ducher, Duchesse de Brabant, Else Poulsen, Georgetown Tea, Marie Daly, Mutabilis, Perle d’Or’, Sea Foam, Spice, The Fairy, New Dawn, Madame Antoine Mari.

My home garden has 300 rose bushes of many varieties. My gardener
(husband Glenn) does all the planting, pruning, and spraying. He leaves the deadheading and making flower arrangements to lucky me. My favorite rose is Double Delight. It is a cream with red edges and has a wonderful sweet fragrance.

“When I come to the garden alone, He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.” Thank You Jesus, for creating the rose.

About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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8 Responses to Sundays in the South – 10 Commandments For Growing Roses

  1. Paul Daniels says:

    That’s about the best post I ever got, not just the 10 Commandments which I already try to do but just enjoyed the nice reminder that was your post. The information about the Earthkind roses planted in your church grounds, the Knockouts and the White Icebergs were just icing on the cake. You talked me into it, ‘White Icebergs’ are going into my garden this fall……So for that and all your twits and tweets and posts and newsletters I always look forward to, THANKS


  2. Paul Daniels says:

    Wanted to make sure the thanks got spread around, to you Chris, the RedneckRosarian and Dean Hodge also, again thanks. By the way I grew ‘Ducher’ once when I first started growing roses. I lost it, I was more my fault that ‘Ducher’s’. but I had a lady over to my house once and when she smelled it she started crying, true story. Here is what happened in “little story” form:


  3. Autumn Belle says:

    Thanks for the tips. Luckily I practise most of them. I have just purchased 3 more rose plants for my garden. Hopefully, they’ll survive. I love all your roses.


  4. Dear Chris, Great post! What do you spray with (#5)? I am a totally organic gardener, so this is one commandment I am not following. I am sorry to say my roses are not good this year – I think because of all the rain – and now the Japanese beetles are attacking. I’m a bit discouraged, because they were wonderful last year. Thanks. P.


    • Pam, so sorry to hear your roses are not doing well this year. I am having great luck with a new spray product called Green Cure for organic production. It has helped my garden. We had a round of beetles for the past 2 weeks. Hang in there. You have several more flushed of bloom yet to go!


  5. Greggo says:

    Chris thanks for this post. A lot of truth be known. Life is the ‘Great Adventure’.


  6. Thanks, Chris. I have located a store near my home that stocks Green Cure and I’ll give it a try. P.


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