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. 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.

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