Monday, January 30

‘A rose, by any other name’ — Part 2: Tips on aftercare


According to the vendors at the Serikin Market, these roses are cultivated at the Singkawang area in Kalimantan. — Photo by Ravena Lages

FORMER Dean of Rochester, Samuel Reynolds Hole (1819-1904) had, in 1869, written: ‘He who would have beautiful Roses in his garden must have beautiful roses in his heart’, in his ‘A Book About Roses’, which had truly popularised the rose in English gardens perhaps more than any other publication ever did.

In the previous article, I talked about the origins and varieties of roses. For this week, I will touch more on the maintenance and aftercare.

Well, roses are among the easy flowers to grow, but this does not mean that they are those that you just plant and then forget about.

You must attend to the details. Here are some basic recommendations and key points that you must pay attention to.

  • Choose the right variety.
  • Only buy top-quality plants.
  • Place the plant at a location with at least half a day of sunlight coverage.
  • Prepare and enrich the soil; have it deep enough to keep the roots cool, supplemented by humus and organic fertilisers.
  • Fertilise and water regularly; get a medium with good drainage.
  • Prune lightly, with appropriate timing.
  • Watch out for pests and diseases.

In this regard, one may wonder: “Do green fingers exist?”

Surely they do, but there is nothing magical about it. A gardener who is blessed with ‘green fingers’ is the one who never forgets about plants being living things that enjoy good care and every little attention that they get. The question is: “Do we, as gardeners, know what their needs are?”

For this article, I am sharing with you some tips for growing beautiful blooms, just like those imported from the highlands or the temperate zones.

Sarawak is situated in a warm tropical zone with high rainfall – not quite favourable for growing roses, except for some mini-varieties. One of the foremost considerations is to grow it in a mobile way, meaning using pots. A rain-shade over it would be good, but it might be beyond the things that a home gardener could afford.

That said, hybridisation of new flowers is done by crossing pollens from different plants and the resultant seeds for growing new offspring that might be successful in creating new flowers.

Tips for growing

  • Select the right variety, one with healthy budded plantlets and with the medium attached.
  • Insert the roots into the already-prepared new mixture in beds or pots.
  • Compact the planting and add in more soil mixture.
  • Water the plant, keeping it away from direct sunlight for three days before exposing it to regular lighting.
  • Check the growth, and add water regularly.
  • Roses need fertilisers; ‘feed’ them regularly to ensure good growth and also to prepare for blooming.
  • Pruning is needed, more on the side-branches to promote more blooms.
  • Then, sit back and wait for the beautiful buds to emerge and the flowers to bloom soon.
  • Also, it is good to remove the dead flowers to encourage blooming later on.

Maintenance and aftercare

Roses needs regular maintenance including fertilisers and inputs, as well as pruning and watering. Most importantly, watch out for pests and diseases.


  • Mealy bugs – They can be easily identified by the white powdery coating on their bodies. They are immobile most of the time until they lack food, or it becomes overcrowded for them; then, they would fly off to other leaves. For pest control, spray white oil mixed with malathion (a man-made organophosphate insecticide), or try using a spray mixed in with some droplets of light dishwashing soap solution that may also work.
  • Red spider mites – This notorious type of pest is common in a dry and hot condition, such as our own tropical zone. The mites are hardly visible to the naked eye, but you can use a magnifying lens to detect them on the underside of leaves, where they are stuck on, sucking the sap out – resulting in the leaves turning pale and wrinkly. Control by using miticide (also called ‘Acaricide’) – do not use insecticide.
  • Scale bugs – These are immobile pests stuck to the older stems like grains of sand, resulting in the plant becoming stunted and losing its greenish bark. Way to address this is using white oil and scratching the bugs off the stem carefully.
  • Lead eaters – Mainly caterpillars and beetles, which cause visible damage. This can be controlled by picking them out and discard them away.

Photo shows the damage to the plant caused by scale bugs.


  • Black spots – These fungal attack occur under wet and warm condition, mostly after late afternoon rain or watering. It is better not to water by spraying on the leaves. Fungicidal spray using ‘Mancozate’ may prevent this.
  • Rust – Seen as tiny orange spots on the ventral side of leaves and they may enlarge, damaging the leaves. Rust may appear on stems too. Remove them physically (by wiping) or use fungicides.
  • Powdery, downy mildew – It develops as powder on the leaves, and can cause leaves to fall off prematurely. This can be controlled by using baking powder mixed in water, which is them sprayed onto the affected parts.
  • Rose wilt virus (also known as ‘rose dieback’) – Another headache for rose growers. This is spread through planting materials. Remove the infected plants from the healthy ones.

This photo-set lists several diseases that attack a plant.

Happy Gardening!