How to Keep Your Rosebushes Blooming Every Year

woman pruning roses

There's nothing like the beautiful bloom of roses. From love, to friendship, to peace, these flowers symbolize some of our most powerful emotions, and rank among our favorite decorations. So when your roses don't bloom, either skipping a year or staying dormant season after season, it can be a major disappointment.

If your roses stop blooming, it could be for one of several reasons. The fertilizer you're using might be depleted after years of use. The plant might be getting insufficient light, maybe because other nearby plants have grown larger and are now throwing more shade. It could be infested with bugs, overgrown from lack of pruning, or suffering the residual effects of environmental stresses like a very cold winter. It could even be a varietal that doesn't keep flowering forever, or a plant that's just tapped out.

Start closing in on the problem by eliminating the possible causes. Over time, you'll bring your beautiful blossoms back.

Plant Newer Varietals

Older roses don't always do a great job of blooming regularly, so you might want to avoid heirlooms if you're looking for consistency. Your area’s department of Parks and Recreation might be able to recommend places that sell discounted rose bushes, and tell you what kinds are most likely to thrive in your climate.

Maximize Light

Producing gorgeous flowers takes lots of energy. Your roses need at least six hours of direct sunlight to do their best work. Make sure no nearby shrubberies are robbing them of their precious photons.

a fountain in a rose garden

Water Regularly

Drought stress can trigger an energy conservation mechanism that will prevent your rose from blooming or limit it to just a few blossoms. Make sure your plants are getting regular water—in most kinds of climate, two inches a week should be plenty.

Prevent Disease

While you're watering, it's crucial that you focus on the roots, not the leaves. Use a soaker hose or watering can to apply the drink directly—don't rely on sprinklers that will get the whole plant wet.

Fungi and bacteria will flourish in wet environments, so if the whole plant is getting regularly soaked, it's vulnerable to disease.

Protect Your Roses In Winter

Cover the roots of your roses with some extra soil as colder months approach. A layer of grass, bark, or hay will help keep moisture and cold out, too. Don't be shy, you can add as much as two extra feet of earth for protection.

To trigger your rose's natural systems for dealing with cold, hold off on the pruning as fall sets in, allowing your plants to grow the seedpods they've been trying to develop with their flowers.

Fertilize Effectively

To get a sense of how much and what kind of fertilizer you need, test your soil’s PH balance. A neutralizing soil complement like compost, manure, or a PH balanced plant food will help provide healthier food for the roses.

two hands clipping a rose blossom


rune Smarter

If you don't carefully prune your rose bush, it can develop into a tangled mess with very few flowering stems. For the first few years of its life, though, you mostly want to let it grow as it pleases, intervening only to get rid of dead or struggling parts of the plant.

Once it's growing strong, you can take more drastic action. Remove all but the healthiest looking stems from each main shoot (keep the top two to three) to cue your rose to put more of its energy into creating beautiful flowers. If you have a varietal that blooms multiple times each year, prune it towards the end of winter. For plants that bloom just once a year, the ideal pruning time is in summer, shortly after the flowers have come and gone.

Fight Pests

Aphids, rose slugs, and Japanese beetles all like to munch on rose plants, which can send the bushes into a kind of shock, preventing them from blooming. Use natural, homemade sprays to treat your roses. Mixtures with elements like pepper, vinegar, and mint can discourage hungry bugs.