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How to Grow Long-Stem Roses

Of all the flowering plants, the rose is especially prized for its beauty and fragrance. Roses have become the symbol of love, giving for special occasions and just to say “I love you.” Long-stem roses in particular, are a favorite, sold by the dozens by most florists. 

But growing long-stem roses is something that is usually left up to the professionals. Even experienced gardeners, who might have many types of roses growing in their gardens, will often leave long-stem roses out, because of the care it takes to grow them properly. Yet, while growing long-stem roses is something of a challenge, it is possible to grow your own. 

It Always Starts with the Soil

As with any other gardening efforts, you’ve got to have good soil for growing long-stem roses. Plants receive their nutrients and water from the soil, so if you don’t have good soil, they’re not going to receive what they need. Not only does the soil need to be rich in nutrients, it needs to be well aerated, with an active worm population to keep the soil broken up, so that water can get to the roots. 

Fertilize your garden bed with a fertilizer specific to growing roses. Your rose bushes will need a lot of nutrients to grow the long stems you desire. Roses require fertilizers which are heavy in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You’ll also want to add compost to the garden bed, providing green material for the worms to turn back into the soil and break down. A heavy layer of mulch on top will help keep weeds down and moisture in. Fertilizer and compost should be added in the fall, giving the worms time to break it down and get the nutrients into the soil. 

While roses need the sun, you’re going to be better off planting your long-steam roses in areas where they don’t get too much direct sunlight, but rather, receive a lot of indirect light. 

If you have it, use a greenhouse to grow your long-steam roses. Most professionally grown roses are grown in greenhouses, because growers can better control the climate inside a greenhouse. The big secret that commercial growers use for their long-stem roses comes from growing them in this controlled climate. They add extra carbon dioxide, which stimulates plant growth. 

Choose the Right Roses

Only a few specific varieties of hybrid roses are used for growing long-stem roses. These are hybrid tea roses, which only have a single flower atop the stem. While there are many types of these, the most common varieties used to produce red long-steam roses are Ingrid Bergman, Opening Night and Firefighter. For other colors, Bridal White, Antique Silk and Aalsmeer Gold are popular. 

These particular varieties have been bred to grow as long-stems. The stems grow quickly, but will require proper tending and pruning. Dead or dying stems should be trimmed out quickly, so they do not keep taking water and nutrients needed by the blooms you are trying to grow. As you trim, allowing the overall shape of the plant to look like a vase or a “V”.

You’ll want to plant your roses with plenty of space between the individual plants. Long-stem roses require a lot of pruning, so you’ll need room to get in there and work on them. You’ll also need the ability to see the individual stems clearly, which can be difficult if the plants are intertwined. 

Roses need a lot of water, especially long-stem ones. You need to water them every two days, giving them a total of two to three inches of water per week. Make sure that the water is getting down to the root, not just landing on the leaves. Use a rain gauge, to determine how much water they are receiving, until you have a good idea. Not enough water will prevent the roses from producing good blooms and might cause some stems to die. 

It’s All About Pruning

Other than the aforementioned use of carbon dioxide, the true secret to growing long-stem roses is in the pruning. Even though these varieties of roses have been specifically bred for producing long-stem roses, they are still plants and grow as plants do; in other words, not like we want. 

These roses need a heavy pruning once a year, removing any old, broken dead or damaged stems. Cut the good stems down to about 24 inches, in preparation for the new year’s growth. These cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle, ideally just above an outside facing bloom. Seal the cuts with a plant sealer made for that purpose. If you don’t have any such sealer, white glue or wood glue can be used. 

Long-stem roses only have one bloom on them, at the top. But it’s not unusual for roses to have several blooms on a stem. Therefore, all buds, other than the one at the top of the stem, should be removed as soon as possible. This will cause the plant to send more of the nutrients to the remaining bloom at the top, producing a larger flower. 

In addition to removing unneeded buds, be sure to remove all lateral leaves and supporting branches, cutting them at a diagonal, close to the main stem. These are unnecessary and will end up detracting from the final bloom. 

Your blooms should be cut when the bloom is about one inch in diameter, before the rose hip begins to form. Long-stem roses are typically cut to have a 24 inch stem. 

Wintering Your Rose Bushes

If you live in a cold climate, you should properly prepare your rose bushes for the winter, before the first freeze. Tie the stems together in a bundle and mound soil or compost around the base of the plant. Cover this mound with a thick layer of leaves, straw or mulch for insulation. Then wrap the bush with cardboard or burlap, forming a cylinder. If you use cardboard or another material that doesn’t have air holes in it, be sure to poke some into it.