When to Fertilize Roses – Find the Best Time!

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Roses are the real star of a garden. Having gorgeous roses in a myriad of colors will create a sense of pride in any gardener. In order to help roses reach their dazzling potential, an essential step is fertilizing them.

When to fertilize roses: Roses are all about gorgeous beauty and to help them out it’s important to regularly fertilize them. Start in the spring, once the threat of frost is over, and continue after each time they bloom. Add your last round of fertilizer in the fall, about six weeks before the first frost. You can use organic fertilizer, such as aged manure or bone meal. You can also use a specific inorganic rose fertilizer that is a blend of nitrogen, phosphorous, and nitrogen.

Benefits of Fertilizing Roses

  • Larger blooms
  • Healthier root structure
  • More resistance to diseases

Types of Fertilizers

Before you set out to fertilize your roses, you will want to first choose what type you will use. There are two main categories, including organic and inorganic.


The prime example of organic fertilizer for roses is manure. Many backyard gardeners might have access to manure but if you don’t, there are many varieties you can purchase from your local gardening center.

The one thing you want to remember with rose fertilizer, however, is that it shouldn’t have too much nitrogen in it. This means that you should use aged or composted manure that is not fresh.

Dig up part of your garden, although be careful around the roots of your roses. Aim to dig about two to three inches and add the manure to the soil before covering it with the current soil.

Another organic fertilizer you can use for roses is bone meal. If you’re wondering exactly what bone meal is, it is in fact ground-up powder that comes from animal bones.

Finally, another organic option for your roses is a dried blood meal. While you may not find this altogether pleasant, as it is indeed a dried powder made from animal blood, it has plenty of nutrients and as a bonus will repel wildlife.

If you use dried blood meal or bone meal, you don’t need too much as it is rich in nitrogen. Simply use one tablespoon per rose bush and then add it to the soil around the roots.


For those that are worried about the exact ratio of fertilizer you are using for your rose plant, you can always purchase an inorganic fertilizer instead. These are specially designed for rose plants and will give your plants exactly what they need.

Most fertilizers will have three numbers on them, which explain the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Because roses often need more phosphorous, you may want to look for a rose fertilizer that has numbers such as 18-24-16.

If you already have a general fertilizer but aren’t sure if you can use it for your roses, just make sure the middle number is higher, such as 5-10-5.

When you purchase a pre-made fertilizer, it will have instructions on the container which you should follow. This usually includes pouring half a cup into a larger container of water, or if you just use the granules, to spread it out evenly.

Always water your roses after you add an inorganic fertilizer. Otherwise, the granules can sit atop the soil and not penetrate into the roots.  

How do you fertilize roses?

Decide on type

As we mentioned above, there are two types of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. While organic fertilizer may be cheaper and more natural, inorganic fertilizer is custom-made for roses.

Set a schedule

The number of times you will fertilize your roses depends on the variety. For example, tea roses need more nutrients and some roses have longer growing seasons.

Decide on when your final spring frost date is as well as your first frost date. Then, make a rough schedule so you don’t forget.

Water afterward

While you don’t have to worry as much about watering if you use organic fertilizer, you definitely need to give your roses a thorough watering if you use an inorganic material. This will help the fertilizer absorb into the soil so the root structure has access to it.

How often should I fertilize roses?

When you first plant your roses, you should add some fertilizer but it should only be phosphorous. This is so that the root structure gets the most attention.

Once your rose plant is established, you can start to regularly fertilize it. Start in the spring, after the threat of frost has passed.

If you have roses that have multiple bloom cycles through the year, then you want to fertilize after each of these cycles to restore nutrients back into the plant.

Your last round of fertilization should be in the fall, about six weeks before your local frost date. If your roses are encouraged to grow late in the season, their new growth will become damaged in the winter and the whole plant can suffer.

Signs of over-fertilizing roses

Sign 1 – Fertilizer crust on soil

If you use inorganic fertilizer, it needs to penetrate deep into the soil to work. If you over-fertilize or don’t use enough water afterward, you may see a crust on the top of the soil.

Sign 2 – Bushy leaves

The point of fertilizer is so that your rose blooms are large and fragrant. Too much fertilizer that has a high nitrogen content will target the foliage of the roses and not the blooms.

When is it too late to fertilize roses?

Before the first fall frost, at least six weeks prior, you should stop fertilizing your roses. You don’t want them to have new growth as the cold sets in; otherwise, the plants can weaken.

However, you can actually fertilize your roses in the winter, as long as all growth has stopped and they are dormant. While this won’t encourage growth in the winter, it will prepare them for the spring and give them a head start once the ground starts to thaw.


Fertilize your roses once spring hits and then after every bloom cycle. You can stop before the first frost to promote a healthier plant.

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