Desert Rose Gardening: What to do in March 2016

By Sharon Radice Moore


 I love surprises. However, I fear lurking in the surprising, yet welcome premature warm breath of spring, is the promise of another misbegotten scorched-earth summer.

Nevertheless, in the mesmerizing sight of fresh sunlit green to deep claret colored leaves and the early abundance of vibrant and fragrant blossoms, I place aside my suspicions. For this panorama of blissful elegance, I forgive the weather god’s their ever-evolving climate cycles that stir my mind to memory and still my heart.

tools better homes and gardensLabors of Love for March:

A one-word description of March gardening tasks would be FEED for the organic among you and FERTILIZE   for the inorganic.

Fertilize and feed following the manufacturer’s instructions once you have one-inch or more of new growth after pruning. For the organic assemblage, you may feed immediately after pruning, which is best done in January or February for optimum results.

The frequency of fertilizing/feeding can vary from product to product depending on the concentration of nutrients. Established roses traditionally require application about every four weeks with granular products. Liquid products often call for re-application more regularly because they wash down past the root zone quickly; granular products must dissolve first.


  • In the low desert, we continue to fertilize and feed until the weather becomes too hot, usually in June. Then resume our program in late September or early October after the fall light pruning and summer garden clean up. Yet, a considerable number of rose gardeners are continuing to feed at half the normal concentration, or even less, during the hot summer months. Should you choose to do this, be mindful of the plants wasted energy used to produce young growth that cannot withstand our intense summers.
  • Always water your roses well both before and after fertilizer is applied to avoid burning any tiny roots near the surface and move nutrients from the soil into the plant. When using granular products, you must work them into the soil to release the potassium making it available to the plant.
  • Potassium supplies overall plant health and hardiness to heat, drought, and cold in addition to acting as a catalyst for nitrogen (promotes leaf growth and green foliage) and phosphorus (encourages root growth in addition to flowering).
  • Charles de Gaulle Rosales GisellaRoses are not gourmets; they will be productive on whatever diet you supply. The key is regularity, irrespective of timing or type of product, for a consistent array of blossoms.
  • Continue to add soil amendments and restore mulch from two to four While we do not need the moisture retention so much this part of the year, you are continuing to build the soils biomass and nourish your plants.
  • Plant container roses in the coldest part of the day and shortly after you bring them home. I mix one-half organic planting mix with one-half garden soil watered in with SUPERthrive® (a vitamin and hormone amendment) to get the optimum results.

Check new growth and remove side buds to improve the size and quality of the blossoms. Prune with your fingers, rather than tools, to remove excess growth going to the inside of the plant.


  • Your roses are not the only new growth in your garden. Young tender leaves, as the night follows the day, coincide with the arrival of spider mites and aphids.

Check for spider mite and aphid (plant lice) activity and eradicate them by using a strong blast of water from a hose. Early in the day is the best time to do this and doing it for three consecutive days assures their removal, until more arrive anyway. Do not forget the underside of your leaves, as they love to hide there. You can also remove aphids with your hands; I suggest disposable rubber gloves for this activity! My particular nemeses are spider mites on potted roses.

Spider Mite Web

Spider Mites

My particular nemeses are spider mites on potted roses.



Unfortunately, a strong blast from a hose risks both knocking a small pot to the ground with likely breakage; plus potentially over watering large and small potted plants alike.

Snails, yes, we do have them, leave a trail of slime behind to let you know that they have invaded your garden. Try leaving lettuce leaves, or citrus peels among your plants, whereby they have a place to conceal themselves and feed during the night. In the morning, gather up the snails, drop them in a container of soapy water with a tight lid and invite them to join the other recyclables.


Until next time, from my garden to yours,

Think Rosy Thoughts, Sharon


Photo Credits:

Leonardo da Vinci – Rosales Gisella

Gardening Tools – House and Garden

Charles de Gaulle – Rosales Gisella

Rose Aphids – University of Florida

Spider Mites – Planet Natural