5 tips for a successful rose garden

March 14, 2023

Taken at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden in 2022.

It’s that season! Soon, our rose garden will be bursting with color and I’m so excited! I have fallen under the spell of those beautiful blooms and enjoy seeing the many vibrant colors we’ve planted–and they bloom during most months of the year. That’s right. Here in northern California, we enjoy our gardens for at least 75% of the year. Just one more fabulous thing about where we live.


We didn’t always have a rose garden. But on our daily walks, we admired one a neighbor had planted on her side yard. Our side yard was overgrown–we hadn’t paid much attention to it. But we were inspired.

At the beginning of the pandemic my husband did some heavy-duty work clearing out our wild side yard and then planted a small rose garden. It turned out beautifully as it gets just the right amount of sun. And he connected our irrigation to it so it was a low maintenance garden.

We’ve added to the rose garden every year. It’s so remarkably lovely anyone walks past compliments it.  The colors! The aroma! The happy vibe! I’ve even found a photographer wandering through it taking close up photos.

Yes, a rose garden is a joyful thing. For everyone.


Koko Loco rose

We’re running out of room there now, but managed to get four more bushes planted this spring, including one variety I saw at our city’s Municipal Rose Garden: Koko Loco, which is kind of a pinky beige. I can’t wait til it blooms! (See it at left)

Yes, San Jose has a Municipal Rose Garden. It’s huge and amazing–so much fun to walk through — many varieties of inspiration.

But then, our garden is colorful, too, if a lot smaller. Last year I fell in love with our salmon and apricot bushes, so this season, we got two more in the orange family and one more pink (a favorite).

Of course, now that we are experienced rose gardeners, we have a lot to say about it. (Michael is chief gardener and I am chief enjoyer.) Here are our tips for a successful rose garden:


From our rose garden last year

Follow planting and care directions for the kind of rose you have. Including how and when to fertilize. Both Jackson Perkins and Heirloom Roses offer extensive planting and care information by video and website. Be sure to use them, especially if you are new to rose gardening. They are a godsend!

Make sure the area gets enough sun. There are varieties that tolerate shade but for the most part, roses do love the sun. We have some plants in the back yard that don’t do as well, since there’s not as much sun.  I’m not going to plant any shade tolerant varieties this year, but for sure, next year.

If you can’t water often enough, install a small irrigation system. Water restrictions in our city limit the days we can water, so we supplement when necessary with the water bucket from our shower. Yes, we conserve water. We are Californians, we have to.

Buy bushes and plants from a reputable dealer. We have had terrible luck with roses we bought locally but excellent results with everything we ordered by mail from Jackson Perkins. You may have had different experiences, but this is ours. Last month we bought four plants from Heirloom Roses (including KokoLoco, which JP doesn’t offer). It’s our first time using this vendor, which is slightly higher priced than Jackson Perkins, so we’ll see how that goes. My fingers are crossed for KokoLoco.

Enjoy them! Thanks to some bad planning on my part I was gone last year for the best part of the spring blooming season. I’m hoping that this year I won’t miss it. I also snip blooms almost daily and put them in vases all over the house. That pop of beautiful color and delicate bloom brings us so much joy.

Oh and one more thing. They transplant well! When our neighbors re-landscaped last summer and discarded half a dozen rose bushes that I’d long admired, I asked if we could transplant them into our garden. Five of them bloomed in our garden that season (to our amazement), and the one we thought hadn’t made it started sprouting this month, about a year later. Just think–it could’ve been discarded! I was so happy we had a home for them. They’re lovely.

In a nod to our advancing age and various infirmities, we now have a professional gardener that helps us plant the roses for maximum results. And it’s paid off.

Can’t say I ever thought I’d be so attached to roses, but I am crazy about that garden.

So tell me, do you have a flower garden?

4 comments on “5 tips for a successful rose garden
  1. Alana says:

    I do have a flower garden in the front of my house (not a big fan of lawns) but there are no roses in it. When my husband and I owned 34 acres of land in Northwest Arkansas back in the early 80’s, we had several varieties of roses. When we bought our New York State house in the later 80’s, it came with a climbing rose that every Japanese Beetle in New York State considered their personal all-they-could-eat-buffet. I am also not into non organic pest control and I gave up. I do have a wild rose on my small plot of land but that’s it. I did enjoy your rose pictures taken in San Jose.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    What a great idea. Just shows that ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ Was it Shakespeare who said that?

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