Care for Antique Roses

Antique roses are not as fussy as most of the modern hybrids, but they do perform best if given a little bit of care.

Plant them in full sun if possible. If that's not possible, the next best thing is 6 - 8 hours of morning sun, and afternoon shade.

When they are first planted, they appreciate being watered deeply at least once a week. After the first few years, when they are better established, they still do better with regular watering, but they won't die if they are neglected.

If you can fertilize them in spring three or four weeks before the last freeze, they will put on their best show. Use any good fertilizer that lists roses on the label - there are quite a few on the market. Granular or liquid are both fine. If you use granular, make sure that you water it in well. They also like it if you can spread some well-rotted manure around their base. Stop fertilizing in late summer or fall - otherwise the plant will put out a lot of tender new growth that will freeze back.

Mulching is optional, but it does hold in moisture, and protects the roots from extreme heat and cold. It also cuts down weed problems tremendously.

Once-blooming roses should be pruned one to three months after they flower in the spring - DO NOT PRUNE THEM BEFORE THEY BLOOM!!! If you do, you won't get any blooms, because the once-bloomers bloom only on last year's wood. Where I live in zone 8, Valentine's Day is the ideal time to prune repeat bloomers.

Repeat blooming roses should be pruned three or four weeks before the last freeze in the spring. You can also prune them lightly in the summer three or four weeks before the hot weather breaks to encourage a good fall show. When you prune, never cut the bush back more than a third of its height. Antique roses can actually do quite well without pruning if the bush is shaped well. On some varieties I just do a little bit of shaping, but no real pruning. The modern roses generally do best with hard pruning.


Some roses put out long canes that are suitable for "pegging", that is, staking the ends of the canes into the ground, so that the whole bush looks like a big spider. If you do this, every node along the horizontal canes will sprout and produce a bud, instead of the buds mainly being borne at the ends of the canes.

Common Problems:

By far the most common problem where I live is blackspot. The leaves will get black spots on them, turn yellow, and fall off the bush. The antique roses are fairly resistant to this, but they will still get it occasionally.

It won't kill them, but it does defoliate them for a little while. Blackspot is caused by a fungus. When you water, avoid getting the leaves wet, as this encourages blackspot. If you feel like you have to spray them, look for a fungicide that specifically lists blackspot as something it can treat. It won't cure the diseased leaves, but it will prevent the disease from spreading.

Powdery mildew also occasionally attacks old roses - it looks like a white powder on the leaves and buds. Again, it won't kill the bush, but it doesn't look very attractive. You can spray it with a chemical specifically meant for that if you want. Often you can find complete rose sprays that will take care of blackspot, powdery mildew, and many other pests.

Thrips are very small insects that find the blooms on roses irresistable. They especially like light colored roses. You will know they are there if your roses look all brown, and if upon further investigation you see little brown spots crawling around on the bud or flower. Sometimes your roses will shrivel and turn brown in the bud stage, because the thrips have already blighted them. You can spray these with an insecticide - just spray the flowers, they don't waste their time on the foliage.

If you have any problems or questions, please feel free to e-mail me at :

Feel free to print this out to refer to if you'd like.

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