Homemade Organic Rose Food

Don Juan Roses

“I don’t know whether nice people tend to grow roses or growing roses makes people nice.”  – Roland A. Browne    

I have been searching for natural methods to care for our rose bush. Not really a bush. It’s a Don Juan climbing rose. I’m looking because I feel a bit guilty for how I have cared for this forgiving plant.
This all started because I neglected to cut back our Don Juan roses this past winter. Long and leggy after last years growth, the canes were bare and hanging out from their trellis 4 to 5 feet. Hanging out ready to grab anyone nearby. And, as often happens when we put off pruning, the roses decided to NOT wait on me to prune them before they bloomed. This sturdiness is one of the things that I like about Don Juan roses. I can neglect them off and on and they still grow and bloom. Roses 4 to 6 inches across and velvety red. Still, what needs to be done has to be done. They needed to  be chopped.

Don Juan Rose Bud
Don Juan Rose Bud

Carrying this guilt, I gave them  couple of weeks to put on a show. It’s too bad the fragrance cannot be captured in these photos. Before you ask, yes, I do stop to smell the roses. Especially since these are at our front door.

Anyways, I “pruned” them yesterday. Now, this the point when many of us say…”I sure hope it comes back”. Of course, inside we know that it will, but there can always be that wondering thought. “How strong is this plant that I just severely pruned?
Having removed the majority of the canes, I start thinking about how I would like to take care of this plant. Out of guilt?  Because I never want to see plants die? (except for the weeds) Or because I know that if I give this rose some quality care it will return with more vigor and beauty?  Whatever the reason, the search for organic rose care tips and food recipes began.

Below are some of the tips and results for homemade  rose foods that are readily available on the web.

First, a few tips.

  1. If you are unsure what type of soil you have, get a soil test done. Knowing a bit about your soil will be helpful in your planning.
  2. Banana peels work great. Smash the peels flat and bury them 4-6 inches at the base of the plants. They provide a nice shot of potassium.
  3. Coffee grounds help most slightly acidic plants thrive. Most roses like slightly acidic soil.
  4. I know a man who swears by feeding his roses  lawn fertilizer a couple of times a year. I can only say that his roses are always blooming profusely and the foliage looks great all the time.
  5. Fish tank water can be high in nitrogen. The roses will love the shot of nitrogen. However, if the water has been sitting in the tank for a lengthy time or is moldy, do not use it. We’re talking about regular fish tank water changes.
  6. The old-fashioned way…use manure. (Another warning:  if you are not sure of the difference between chicken, rabbit, horse, cow and steer manures, consider getting bagged composted manure at your garden center.)
  7. Include bone meal in your mix.  It is a good  source of phosphorus. Root growth will benefit.
  8. Kelp and green sand are  good potassium sources. Your plants will withstand disease and cold better with the help of potassium.

For the recipes, here are a few that I plan to test.

Don Juan Rose
Don Juan Rose

One common recipe calls for 4 ingredients
4 parts of alfalfa meal (slow release fertilizer)
1/2 part greensand (to loosen the soil)
and 1/2 part bone meal.
Mix up a little or a lot and combine it with your favorite well rotted manure.

Another requires 5 items for the mix:
1 part fish meal
1 part alfalfa meal
1 part greensand
1 part gypsum
and 1/2 part bone meal
Mix the ingredients well. Then sprinkle and work the mix into the soil around the base of the plant before watering.

Yet another popular mix requires a few more ingredients.
With this recipe you mix:
1 part alfalfa meal
1 part fish meal
1 part greensand
1 part gypsum
1/2 part bone meal
1 tablespoon Epsom salts
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon kelp extract
and 3 cups water.
Mix the ingredients together into a quart measuring cup . Then pour the mix into a 2 gallon bucket or watering can. Fill the bucket or can with water and use it as a foliage fertilizer. You can also pour it around the roots. Give each small rose bush about 1/2 gallon. Larger plants can use a gallon.

Don Juan Roses
Don Juan Roses at our front door

I hope you find these tips and mixes useful for your own rose feeding plan. If you have any more tips or recipes and care to contribute, your suggestions and ideas are always welcome.

Roses are wonderful plants and worthy of our care and attention. To comment on Roland Browne’s statement…..Yes, nice people grow roses. But, I also believe that the time we spend caring for them makes us nicer and more caring folks. They can give us a better outlook on any of life’s situations.

Happy Gardening,
Dave and Trish
Check the links below for more rose food information:
Rose Growing Tips
Roses For Dummies
Growing Roses Organically
Diane’s Seeds
Garden Guides
If you want to read about organic fertilizers in general, please visit these sites.
21+ Organic Fertilizers and How To Use Them In Your Garden
13 Homemade Plant Food Recipes

Two Florida gardeners living in a sub-tropical paradise. Find us on Google+!


  1. I have some roses that used to bloom profusely every year even if I neglected them. I’m in a very dry climate with normally no rain. However, two years ago we had weeks of rain and the roses developed what I think was powdery mildew. I tried to cut off the affected areas but the roses have looked pathetic ever since, even after pruning them back hard and fertilizing . Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

  2. Hi
    I am looking for some help with my floribunda rose planted only last month in a north facing garden.Something seems to be eating all the leaves at the top of the rose leave at the bottom are fine. Feeding with banana peel and miracle grow no luck and no flower so far. Any suggestions please.
    Regards Lucia

    1. Hi Lucia,
      Thanks for contacting us. I’m afraid I need more information concerning you problem. If you would like to send me an email through our “contact” page or to gardeningonadime@gmail.com, I would be happy to help. Perhaps you could send a photo of your chewed leaves, your location and what other, if any, plants are being effected. As for blooming, did the plant have mature buds on it when you planted it a month ago?

    2. It sounds like Aphids are eating ur leafs off ur rose . I’v had problem with them for 3yrs now. The Best thing I found was to put flour on ur roses. Put alot around the top where the rose an new leafs are coming in. Do it on a week when there’s no rain in sight. The Adhids will gather right around the stem going to the new Rose. Slide ur fingers up in that spot an ur fingers will have been moisture on them. Flour makes These bug constipated an it kills them . Check every 3 days .if need to put more flour on them Just plan or self rising flour will do. Good luck. My knockout roses are doing great.

  3. I had spider mites on my rosebush, so I pruned it down to basics, and then with a Qtip I cleaned off the branches with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. That was 2 wks. ago when the branches were still.green. Now they’re brown, and I think I may hv destroyed my bush.. What happens after this? Can it ever come back?

    1. Hi Joyce,
      I’m not sure how to answer your question. Personally, I have never used vinegar or apple cider vinegar on my rose bushes. I’ve read where vinegar can be used as part of a fertilizer mixture, applied to the ground. But, vinegar has also been used to spray on the foliage of weeds as a weed killer. Not knowing what mixture you used, (water to vinegar ratio) I’m afraid to give any advise. Hopefully, you just sent the plant into shock when you cut it back and it will start showing signs of new growth soon. I’m sorry, I wish that I could be of more help.

  4. Muchas gracias por compartir tan valiosa información, me hubiera gustado encontrarla antes de que se me secaran dos rosales, no se si fue por falta de nutriente, por mucho o poco riego, no lo se. pero con los que me quedan voy a poner en práctica tan valiosa información.
    Muchas gracias, quiero que sepas que seré a partir de hoy tu más fiel seguidora.

    1. I hope this is translated correctly…..

      “Thank you very much for sharing such valuable information, I would have liked to find it before I dried two roses, not if it was for lack of nutrient, by much or little irrigation, I do not know. But with the ones I have left I will put such valuable information into practice.
      Thank you very much, I want you to know that I will be your most loyal follower today.”

      If so, good luck with your remaining roses and thanks!

  5. Thank you for your helpful recipes, while they show teaspoon, tablespoons and gallons, I’m a little unsure how big a part is. My sister’s part of desert was always bigger than my part, and nowin my70’s the part in my hair, once a thin line is now a chasm. But these things do now help me with the recipe if you could kindly tell me how big your parts are I will be indebted, as will my roses.

    1. “Parts” can be interpreted several ways, depending on how much you need for how many plants. I usually use 1/2 cup as my reference for “1 part”. After applying, if it seems that I didn’t make enough, I simply mix another batch.
      If I am feeding several plants at one time, I increase the “1 part” to a full cup.
      I hope that this helps.
      Thanks for the question.

      1. Thank you for answering I did not see it till now 3/14/21. I was referring to the below, and the confusion comes with some items being “parts and others measured. looper1943@yahoo.com:
        Yet another popular mix requires a few more ingredients.
        With this recipe you mix:
        1 part alfalfa meal
        1 part fish meal
        1 part greensand
        1 part gypsum
        1/2 part bone meal
        1 tablespoon Epsom salts
        2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
        2 tablespoons molasses
        1 teaspoon kelp extract
        and 3 cups water.
        Mix the ingredients together into a quart measuring cup. Then pour the mix into a 2-gallon bucket or watering can. Fill the bucket or can with water and use it as a foliage fertilizer. You can also pour it around the roots. Give each small rose bush about 1/2 gallon. Larger plants can use a gallon.

      2. Hi David,
        I have a gardening hand scoop that probably holds about two to two and a half cups of soil. I’m not one for measuring too precisely and I usually just scoop up some soil and call each scoop a “part’. I know, not very scientific, but it seems to work for me and is a lot less stressful. LOL.

  6. Thank you for the article. The last recipe with acv, I will try for sure. I agree about Don Juan, I can never quite capture it in a pic(you have come very close). It’s like crimson velvet, thick petals, nice fragrance at least in my garden and very forgiving, it’s never been without a bloom yet. It’s second year for Don Juan, hasn’t grown a whole lot. Perfect from bud to the last petal

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thank you for the “thank you”.
      Our Don Juan has been in the same spot for almost a dozen years. Some years, the blooms are huge and other years they are smaller. I have noticed over the years that the smaller blooms are much more fragrant.
      I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.
      Thanks again,

  7. I’m new at this. Where can you get greensand & gypsum? Is there another name for these? I’ve never heard of it. Is the alfalfa meal in pellets? Where would you get that as well. I have about 30 roses & have been using chemicals to spray & feed but I would really like to go organic. Your help would be very much appreciated. I live in Louisville, Ky.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for asking the questions.
      I’ve only seen greensand available online. Both Lowes and Home Depot sell bags of gypsum for the yard. As for the alfafa meal in pellet form, try your local feed store. If you are lucky, the feed store may also have the greensand.
      Good Luck!

  8. I have also noticed that a tbs of regular dawn dish detergent mixed in a 5 gallon bucket of water poured over the bushes help with disease and pest ALOT!

    1. Great idea. I’ve always believed in giving our plants a good cleansing shower every now and then.
      I had an old orange tree years ago and I would wash it down with soap and water from a hose end sprayer. That worked great for keeping the sooty mold at bay.
      Thanks for the tip!

    1. I’ve never tried using actual fish but I’ve heard the same advise elsewhere. Years ago, I used fish emulsion on some newly planted palm trees and the results were pretty good. A little smelly at first, but not unbearable.
      Thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi I am from South Africa where roses at their best between August right up toapril.
      We feed them with aspirin whole banana egg shell works wonders and yes spray your roses with baking powder and cooking oil.this also fights scales yellow spots spider mite.from
      Rai1@ansamail.co.za. Durban south africa

      1. Aspirin? A new one for me.
        Bananas and egg shells? More great ideas.
        Roses are great! From all over the world, folks love them, experiment with them, and find so many cool ways to take care of them.
        Thanks for your tips on how South Africans care for their roses.

  9. I have over ninety antique roses in my backyard. I would like a homemade fertilizer for my roses. I live in San antonio,Texas . What is the best climbing rose for our heat in summer? I’d like one that blooms all year, not just one time. Please answer this if you have the time.

    1. Hi Trisha,
      Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry that I am late in responding, but it was a beautiful weekend and I spent most of it outside. away from my computer.
      My goodness…..90 roses? With that many plants I would think that you could benefit from just about any of the recipes that I have listed in the post. Personally I like Sage Butterfly’s tip, in the comments below, with the bananas and compost. Good organic compost always seems to make things grow better, no matter what the plant.
      As for that perfect rose that blooms all the time, can handle the heat and not get black spot. ??? That’s a tough one for me to answer. Here in Florida, we have the high humidity and black spot to battle all summer. I think that’s why I’ve only ventured into growing the Don Juan roses.
      I’ve heard that Earth Kind roses, developed by Texas A&M University are supposed to do well in your area. There are about 6 different varieties. Here’s a link to more information about them. – Earth Kind Roses
      Good luck and please let us know which fertilizer program works best for you and if you have any luck with the Earth Kind Roses.
      Thanks again,

  10. Hi,
    im not sure if u will check this comment…still trying…i have a rose plant in my balcony. It had a big rose on it when i had bought it an year ago…almost…after 8months it had got another big rose…but again no flower since then…plant is v.healthy and grows fast…i put packet manure every month…thanks

    1. Thanks for commenting…
      The rose that was on the plant when you bought it does not count. Growers succeed when he/she produces flowering plants to sell.
      What type of rose are you growing?
      Does the sunlight it receives remain the same throughout the seasons?
      Does the plant look healthy?
      Instead of the manure packets, you might try some bloom booster (lots of phosphorous) or some well rounded rose food (organic and/or homemade, I hope).
      Let us know how it grows.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *