Calgary Rose Society - Growing Roses in Calgary
So, you want to know how to grow roses in Calgary? Well, there's good news and some bad news. We have some of the best conditions for rose growing, but we also face some challenges. Our growing season may be short, but our summer days are loaded with sunshine. Our winters are milder than anywhere else on the prairies but unfortunately our climate is very dry. Our Chinooks break up the cold season nicely, but can be murder on tender shoots. Our soils are not the best, but there are worse, and they can be easily improved.
Remember that the growing conditions here in the Chinook belt of the Foothills of the Rockies are unique. Rose cultivation advice valid in other areas of Canada or North America is not necessarily of value to Calgary rosarians. The CRS members have developed growing and cultivation skills to overcome the challenges. Beautiful roses CAN be grown in Calgary - all of the pictures on this website are of Calgary area roses and gardens.
For tips on growing roses,select one of the following options:
Rose Care in Spring:
Removing Winter Protection: Once the soil has started to thaw and a hard freeze is no longer expected (by mid to the end of April), the protection on your tender roses should be removed. Once the canes begin to show signs of growth, prune your established rose bushes. Tender roses should be pruned quite severely; hardy shrubs should just have the dead branches or branch ends removed.
Selecting a Rose Bed Site: Tender and hardy roses need a site with about 6 hours of direct sunlight, away from the roots of large trees and roof overhangs. With less sun, the roses will be spindly and will not bloom and in general, morning sun is better for roses than evening sun. Tree roots will compete with the roses for water (and win).
Soil Amendment: Make sure that you amend the soil in your rose beds! Roses like well-drained, organic-rich, acidic soil. So, add sphagnum peat moss, well-decomposed compost or manure and amendments like vermiculite, perlite and/or well sorted coarse quartz sand to your rose beds before planting. Remember that in Calgary, adding peat moss is pretty much a must!
Planting New Roses: Plant your new roses once the ground has completely thawed and there is no risk of below-freezing temperatures (usually in May). If you've purchased the roses before planting is possible, allow them to harden off by putting them outside during the day and inside (in the garage or the house) at night. Do NOT fertilize newly planted roses until after their first bloom. If the rose is grafted, make sure that the graft union (the large bulge above the root mass) is at least 5 cm below the ground - if not, you might get growth from the root stock rather than the rose you wanted. And plant on the slant to increase winter survival potential and the longevity of your new roses.
Choosing Roses: Make sure if you're ordering or buying hardy roses that you get OWN-ROOT roses - these will do much better in Calgary over the long-term than ones that are grafted. Tender roses may be either grafted or own root. Grafted tender roses will likely be bigger for the first 2 years. However, own root roses will come back from the root if they suffer winter damage, whereas a grafted rose will revert to the root stock if the tender grafted top of the rose winter kills.Back to top
Frequently Asked Questions:
What book(s) would the CRS recommend as background material for growing roses in Calgary?
The Calgary Horticultural Society has a book called "The Calgary Gardener: The Essential Guide to Gardening in Alberta's Chinook Country" which will help with growing anything in Calgary.
Also, the Calgary rose Society has recently published a book entitled Growing Roses in Calgary, now available for purchase on this site. This book includes everything that you need to know in order to grow beautiful roses in our city. You will find advice for growing both hardy and tender roses. Visit our Publications page for ordering information and sample pages.
What roses would the CRS recommend for growing in Calgary?
Everyone at the CRS has their own particular favourites in all rose categories. It boils down to this - how much time do you want to invest in your roses?
If the answer is essentially none (other than the usual soil preparation, watering and fertilization), then choose hardy roses that do well in Zone 3. These will not need winter protection, only a little pruning in the spring. There are many to choose from - check out the Explorer and Parkland Series of Winter Hardy Roses, developed by Agriculture Canada especially for Canadian winters.
If you are willing to spend more time in the fall and spring cutting the roses back and covering them for the winter and then uncovering them, then the sky is the limit: mini-roses, hybrid teas, floribundas, tea roses, polyanthas, grandifloras and shrubs. If you want it, it will grow here (perhaps not exactly like a picture of an English garden or one in the southern States, but it will grow).
Where in my garden should I be planting roses?
Roses should be planted in amended acidic soil in an area away from tree roots and where they will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
My tender/hardy rose has any number of bugs on it. What should I do?
Well, this depends on what bug it is. Most times an insecticide spray, used according to the directions, will do. But you need to be sure what bug you're dealing with - buy/borrow a book with common rose pests and determine what you've got. Or take a picture of it and bring it into one of our meetings. We'll be happy to suggest solutions! Common pests in Calgary include leaf-cutter bees (for which there is nothing you can do), aphids, green caterpillars and thrips. Please visit our bugs and diseases page for more information.
My tender/hardy rose has a white powdery coating on the leaves. What should I do?
Your rose has powdery mildew! This results from water on the leaves. How to avoid it? Water in the mornings so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. Or try not to get water on the leaves if you must water in the evenings. To get rid of it, remove the infected leaves and spray a mixture of 1 part skim milk and 3 parts water on the rest - this will give the leaves a nice shiny colour and appears to prevent the spread of the mildew (at least in my garden). In the fall, remove infected leaves from the plant so that they won't reinfect the plant next year. You will need to re-spray every week and especially after rain. Please visit our bugs and diseases page for more information.
If your question is missing from the list, please feel free to e-mail it to us by clicking here. Or stop by our table at any event or drop by one of our meetings - we would be more than happy to help with your roses!Back to top