Issue: May 26, 2007

Now that the roses have finished blooming...


Last week my roses were full of blossoms, but now there are only a few that look good. The rest are faded and the petals are falling. What can I do to make them bloom again?


It depends on what roses you are growing. There are some roses that will not bloom again this summer, including a common rose called Dr. Huey. This is the rootstock on which many roses are grafted. In some instances, this rootstock plant begins growing and overwhelms the rose that was grafted on it, or the grafted rose is damaged by winter freezing. When this happens your rose blooms once each year. Dr. Huey's flowers are numerous and very attractive dark red with yellow centers. Many people just keep it for that reason rather than replacing it after it assumes dominance. There are some old-fashioned roses that also bloom only once. Unless you have Dr. Huey or an old-fashioned rose, you can expect more flowers this summer.

Most modern roses will bloom again as long as they have sufficient water. Don't over water, but don't let the plants wilt for lack of water either. A good way to conserve water and keep your roses healthy is to maintain a good layer of mulch around their roots. This will conserve water, keep their roots from getting too hot in the sunlight, and help minimize competition from weeds.

To maximize the production of more blossoms, you can fertilize now with a rose fertilizer. Pruning will help maintain the quality of future blossoms. Pruning to remove the spent flowers is called deadheading and removal of these spent flowers prevents formation of rose hips (fruits). The plant's food, produced by photosynthesis, is then directed in production of more flowers. When you prune, you should cut the plant in a manner that directs growth in the proper direction. Prune back to a bud facing the direction you want new growth. Don't direct growth in the direction of a sidewalk or toward the middle of the plant where there is not enough light for good flower production. Prune far enough back so that the stem is strong enough to support a new flowering stem. A traditional rule of thumb is to prune back at least as far as the first 5-leaflet leaf. The first leaf below the spent flower usually has only one leaflet or perhaps 3 leaflets. Buds from these nodes are often week and do not properly support the new flowers well. You can cut well below the first 5-leaflet leaf if you need to reduce the size of an overly long branch that is growing over a sidewalk.

When the next series of flowers is produced, you can cut some long-stemmed roses to take indoors. This is an appropriate means of pruning and prevents the need for deadheading that particular blossom.

Roses are a favorite garden plant in New Mexico and elsewhere in the country because of their tendency to rebloom and produce a succession of flowers throughout the summer. Enjoy your roses.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!