Welcome to Growing Roses in the Desert – Fall 2014

My name is Sharon Radice Moore, better known to my friends who do not live in the postcard pretty Coachella Valley, as the lady who lives beyond the windmills. I garden in La Quinta, California, a desert community about forty minutes east of Palm Springs. The goal of my blog is to provide my readers not only information on the care and culture of growing roses in the desert, but to inspire them in all of their garden endeavors. Please stay with me as I journey through learning how to use this program; possibly better to consider content and forgive me form for now!

Fall 2014


As summer gasps it last sizzle, it is time to celebrate the end of it and the coming of our “second spring” better known as fall in other climates. While our summers are intense, our climate offers the benefit of two blooming periods, fall and spring, of which fall is considered the best. Due to the cooler weather, the buds develop slowly and produce larger flowers and stunningly beautiful leaves.

So, what becomes a Coachella Valley rose garden most in its “second spring?” Why it is a spring-cleaning of course! In rose garden terms that means a light pruning, debris removal, fertilizing, feeding, soil amending and then waiting on the will of the garden gods for the those big, luscious flowers that have only been a faint memory all summer.

Typically mid-September to early October, keep a vigilant eye out for sustained temperatures below 100 degrees in the daytime and 80 degrees at night before starting your “spring cleaning” in the coolest part of your garden. It is easy to be seduced by early cool crisp September mornings that suddenly spiral into the infamous last blasts of summer so common in the Coachella Valley in the fall. These blasts can incinerate new growth, scald canes and kill the rose. Most areas discuss their last freeze dates, here it is our last sunscald dates.


  • Unlike spring pruning, remove only what is needed to stimulate or clean-up the plant. Treat each rose individually. Start your light pruning by making cuts at a 45-degree angle ¼ to ½ inch above the nearest outward facing bud eye, slopping down and away from it. Remove dead canes, crossed stems, blind shoots and stems smaller than a lead pencil, dead leaves, and any “twiggy” growth.
  • You may also want to consider pruning the roses that take the longest to re-bloom first. The re-bloom cycle from longest to shortest after pruning are climbers, hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, shrubs, minifloras, miniatures and container grown roses in that order. Several of my minis only needed some serious deadheading and dead leaf removal this year. They are sincerely the workhorses of my garden; many bloomed to some degree all summer.

Last year I experimented with giving my climbers their spring hard pruning in October. This worked very well for both of us. Too many springs found me short on time to give my full attention to my climbers thus the genesis of this plan was born. In the spring, I give them their October light pruning, and we are both blooming happy!

  • Also, unlike spring, unless you are using organics in the spring, start your fall fertilizing and feeding program immediately after pruning. You should be in bloom again in about six (6) to eight (8) weeks or less depending on the type of rose.

I like to include some fish emulsion alternately when I do not use other fertilizes especially to begin the season as it has a high nitrogen (5-1-1) component that stimulates growth whereas most rose fertilizers concentrate on phosphorus (like Magnum Rose Food @ 8-10-8) to stimulate for blossoms. Dilute the fish emulsion per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then apply it to each plant at a rate of at least one gallon for each hybrid tea, climber, shrub or floribunda, and one-half gallon for mini roses depending on their size.

  • Thoroughly clean up all waste around each plant to discourage pest infestation and provide good air circulation. In addition, a good wash down with a strong blast of water can dislodge any pests looking for winter real estate in your garden. Do not forget that your roses breathe though their leaves and choking roses upset garden fairies. Cannot find the garden fairies? Just listen for the sound of tiny ringing bells; they are there. Just checking to see that you are still with me!
  • Add soil amendments:

    • Epsom salts for larger flowers at about ½ to ¾ cup per plant scratched in around the base of the plant at the drip line.
    • Mycorrhizae to nourish the root system on established plants and in the planting hole for new additions. Follow manufactures instructions for amounts and timing (heat can destroy or reduce potency).
    • Manures to improve the biomass and provide additional organic fodder to feed the plant. I only scratch this in lightly if at all, as it can burn the plant.
    • Finally, as always, a layer of compost topped with additional mulch restoring it in combination to about three to four inches above the ground. I am always amazed at how much of the mulch the soil consumes every summer.


  • Adjust your watering to changes in temperature. When daytime temperatures fall below 85 degrees, watering once a day is sufficient for fewer minutes depending on the micro- climate in your garden. Just be sure you are watering long enough to reach the roots. Inspect your sprinkler system carefully; the summer heat can cause many parts to crack and split often below the ground.
  • Fall is for planting also! In fact, fall is one of the best seasons to plant roses in the Coachella Valley. It gives them longer to become established before they face the survival test of a desert summer. Most of all relax and enjoy yourself; the beautiful roses you remember will soon be back. How about relaxing with a few rose catalogues or a turn around online. You must have some grass left the needs shovel pruning.

Think Rosy Thoughts,












This entry was posted on October 11, 2014. 4 Comments