How to Care for China Roses

Written by Natalie Antsey

The China Rose, also known as the Bengal Rose, is an exquisite rose that hails from South West China and was first introduced in 1792. China roses are very often used to create hedges and barriers and can be quite sparse in foliage but are popular for adding splashes of red and crimson to the garden. The original China roses only flowered once but they have since been crossed with repeat-flowering roses to ensure a longer flowering time. China roses can be tender, so make sure to plant them in a warm and sunny spot.

The rosehips from China roses are full of medicinal properties and can be used in cooking and make an excellent jam or soup but make sure you remove the fine hairs from the rosehip as these can hurt your mouth and throat!

Botanical Name:Rosa chinensis
Common Name(s):China Rose, Chinese Rose, Bengal Rose
Plant TypeEvergreen tree
Place of Origin:Flowering, deciduous shrub 
Sun Exposure: Full sun or indirect/filtered sun 
Watering Schedule:Every 5-7 days 
Seasonality: Year-round 
Bloom Time: Spring through autumn
Toxicity:Safe for cats and dogs 

CHINA ROSE LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

Roses do not grow in particularly shady positions and China roses in particular hate shade! They prefer to bask in a sunny spot. Aim for 4 hours of sunlight a day in the growing season (spring-fall) and any more is a bonus!

CHINA ROSE WATER REQUIREMENTS:

From spring to fall, roses do need to be watered, but do not fall into the trap of watering too little often. Roses enjoy a deep watering (about a watering can full) once a week. The soil should be moist to a depth of 15-20 inches and water at the base of the rose for the best results.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Water your roses in the morning as this will allow for any moisture on the leaves to dry off throughout the day. Cold and wet leaves are often a breeding ground for disease such as blackspot so this will avoid any unnecessary moisture when the sun goes down!

CHINA ROSE TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:

China roses can be tender so try and plant them somewhere where they will be protected and get sunshine. Roses do not tolerate temperatures below 32℉ and are best transplanted somewhere more protected for the winter. You could also cover them with horticultural fleece/straw in the winter to protect them from frost. As with all plants, heat can also affect roses. If the leaves or flowers are becoming brown and brittle, maybe think about moving your rose to a more sheltered position. Likewise, if the rose is not thriving maybe think about transplanting into a sunnier spot.

CHINA ROSE HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

China roses have beautiful and large flowers, and can "ball" if the weather is too humid. Balling occurs due to rain and humidity and is when the flower petals stick together and cannot open out fully. It won’t hurt the plant at all; just chop that single bloom off if you notice that the rose is balling. 

CHINA ROSE SOIL:

Roses are tough and can thrive in the most difficult of conditions. When planting roses dig a hole about twice as wide and deep of the pot or bare root and fill with a good quality compost. Gardeners also swear by sprinkling a product called mycorrhizal fungi on the roots or in the planting hole. Mycorrhizal fungi are fungi that draw up water so by sprinkling these on the roots it will ensure your rose gets the best start it possibly can and the roots develop quickly.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: There is an old wives tale that suggests you cannot plant roses where a rose has been before. As with all of these tales passed from generation to generation there is some truth to it but can be sorted out quickly. When a rose has been in the ground a long time it depletes all the goodness and nutrients where it has been planted and that is why new roses do not thrive. Simply dig a hole and add some fresh soil or compost and the rose will have everything it needs for a good start!

CHINA ROSE FERTILIZER:

Use a slow release granular rose feed. Very often, liquid feeds are used but in the long run a granular rose feed is much better. Think of it this way, a liquid feed is like drinking an espresso and expecting to be full all day - it's much better to have a bowl of oats and your rose will thank you for it!

Repeat-flowering roses should be fed in March and again in June after the first flush of flowers, but once-flowering roses only require one feed in March. Nothing could be simpler..just a handful of rose feed around the base and that’s it!

CHINA ROSE REPOTTING:

China roses are best grown in the ground but can be grown in pots successfully  - it just can take a little more work. Rose roots do need space to spread out, so if planting in a pot make sure it is a pot 18-21 inches deep and wide. Plant in a mixture of multipurpose compost and repotting compost; although specialist rose compost will work just as well! As with all plants that are grown in pots they do require a little extra care. Make sure they do not dry out and replenish the soil every 2-3 years for the best results! The best time to do this is during the dormant season, so early spring or late fall is probably the best as the rose should be either dormant or preparing for dormancy. When preparing for dormancy, the rose is put through the least amount of stress and ready for repotting.

CHINA ROSE PRUNING & PROPAGATION:

China roses do not require much pruning. Their growth can look quite bare and twiggy and this is how they like to be kept. Simply tidy up the rose cutting about an inch off each stem and remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems. Remove as much of the foliage as well, as this will ensure that if there are any hidden pests or diseases lurking it will not transfer to the next growing season. Pruning normally takes place in late winter to early spring, so January-March is the best time.

Propagation can be hit or miss but always worth a try! First of all, prepare your pot. Use potting compost along with vermiculite or perlite with a breakdown of 75% compost to 25% perlite/vermiculite. Choose a healthy stem with 3-5 leaves that is about 5-10 inches long and cut at a 45 degree angle using clean tools - if the stem has more leaves than this remove them on the lower part of the stem leaving 3-5 at the top of the stem and remove all flowers and hips. At the bottom of the stem, make 3 snips upwards of an inch long and dip the base in a rooting hormone (this step is not required but yields the best results). Now you can plant the stem in your pot, water and cover with a clear plastic bag to create a greenhouse. Keep your cutting in a warm and sheltered spot and don’t let it dry out. Soon roots will form once the risk of frost has passed it can be planted outside!

CHINA ROSE DISEASES & PESTS:

Although sometimes considered a hard plant to take care of, the Fiddle Leaf Fig is not affected by too many diseases or pests. Below is a list of the most common diseases that can affect your Fiddle Leaf Fig. 

01. Black Spot - This is a very common problem and is an airborne fungus that spreads from garden to garden and LOVES humid conditions. Black spot is exactly as it sounds - dark purple or even yellow patches that cover the leaves, making the leaves the rose look sad and unhealthy. At the first sign of blackspot remove the affected leaves and spray with a fungicide. 

02. Powdery Mildew - Fear not, this is not an insect or mold invading. Powdery mildew is a white coating/fungus and is a sign that the rose has not received sufficient air circulation or water. This is very common with young roses as the roots cannot take up enough water. In this instance, remove the infected leaves and keep the rose well watered and/or increase air circulation.

03. Rust - This is an airborne fungus that spreads from plant to plant and loves humidity. It shows up on leaves as little orange powdery circles that darken over time. Remove the affected leaves and spray with a fungicide.

04. Aphids, Thrips, and Spider Mites - Aphids feast on newly formed buds that are full of juicy sap. Aphids are easy to see on the buds as clear green insects and the buds will wilt and look dehydrated. Remove by hand or spray with insecticide/neem oil. Thrips are also known as Thunder Bugs and are prevalent in the summer. They look like black dots and again they love to munch on fresh rose buds. The rose buds will look distorted and almost burnt with black edges. A little tricky to remove by hand, so use neem oil or an insecticide. Spider Mites are even trickier to spot but leave a trail of destruction gorging on leaves and buds. Look for webbing on the plant along with unusual golden colored leaves. Again use neem oil or an insecticide.

CHINA ROSE TOXICITY:

China roses are not toxic, in fact rose hips can be used in many recipes such as rosehip oil, rosehip jam and even cakes and perfume. Just watch out for the thorns when picking them!

Download the Flora App for more tips and tricks on how to take care of your China Roses! 

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