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Roses in Florida

I was reading how this gentleman grows roses, and it strikes me that he’s been very lucky, or else has naturally excellent soil. In northern Alabama (where he lives) that’s kind of rare, but maybe his land is on an old brickworks. We used to rent a house in a similar situation and the two roses we planted out front did quite well.

Aaanyway. Blackspot was a horrific issue with all the roses we ever planted in Alabama, completely defoliating them at times. So when we moved down here (central Florida for you newbies), with its naturally more swamp-like climate, we had decided we were not going to plant roses at all. Until we discovered Fortuniana rootstock. The quick and dirty summary: this rootstock is more resistant to blackspot, nematodes, and most other typical rose pests/diseases. It is not very cold resistant though, rated only to Zone 7, so for you northern types, stick with the Dr. Huey/multiflora rootstocks.

Soil Preparation and Fertilization

Before planting, we dig the usual twice as wide as deep hole, and amend the soil with bone meal (calcium), blood meal (nitrogen), and (most importantly) triple super phosphate. This last is very, very important for strong root growth and abundant flower production, and it can be added on top of the soil (and should be) every six months or so, as can bone and blood meal. Beware if you have pets, though, as some find blood meal irresistible and will consume it…along with whatever fertilizer is mixed in with. We lost a dog that way. Mulch thickly after planting, and re-mulch every year.

The only fertilizer we use other than the initial soil amendments, is a slow-relase, like Osmacote. This is the best option for replacing the easily-washed away nitrogen, and won’t overfeed the bushes.


Fortunianas need water more often than other roses. New plantings should be watered frequently until well established (6 to 8 weeks). After they’re established, rainfall will generally take care of their needs, but in the dryer times a weekly deep-watering is welcome.


Major pruning in Florida actually happens *twice* a year, once in late winter and once in late summer. The first pruning is the pre-spring growth pruning, we usually do ours in February. Roses are cut back to about 12 inches tall, and are thinned in the center so the canes form a cup shape. This “breathing space” is important for roses, both to form healthy canes and to further avoid fungal problems like blackspot.

The second pruning is done usually around August, and it is the self-defense pruning. The growth on fortuniana rosebushes is tremendous, and the canes are basically head-tall by this time. A conservative pruning, say cutting them back by half their height, ensures continued blooms through to winter.

As always, dead-heading down to the first stem with five leaves ensures more blooms, as well.

Ok, so Fortuniana roses are great, where the heck do I find them?

We used to order from a great company called “Merrygro” but the jerks have inconsiderately gone out of business. Believe it or don’t (at least here in Florida), you can get J&P roses on Fortuniana rootstock at Lowe’s and Home Depot. Just check the pots (I believe they are yellow) there will be something on either pots or tags indicating “fortuniana.” Online sources include:

Yep, that’s it. You’d think there’d be more sources for roses that half the country can grow successfully, and that are disease/pest resistant. It’s a Dr. Huey conspiracy, I tell you.

(Related: Get information at Manhattan Tree Services | Tree Removal Services here and make the best out of them)