Roses and Soil

Soil can influence both the health and fertility of roses (and other plants). I happened across this item that mentions some specifics.

The Rose Book, a practical treatise on the culture of the rose (1864)

James Shirley Hibberd

"When the utmost has been done to improve the soil, it may still be quite unsuitable for many of the choicer kinds; and where there is any reasonable cause for doubt it would be rash to plant extensively, and especially with expensive sorts. In fact it is not possible to decide to what extent roses may be grown on even the best soils until the thing has been tried, and therefore on one which bears the appearance of unfitness, let actual experiment determine before you risk much in the adventure. Many roses will make a good start in soils quite unfit for them, and when the first flush of youth is over they sicken and become worthless, or die outright; and on the best of soils for general purposes there are some sorts that refuse to make themselves ‘at home.’ Where Gloire de Rosamene does well you are pretty sure to find that La Reine turns consumptive, and vice versa. "

“In the planting of a dry sand with roses those worked on Brier stocks are pretty sure to fail, for the dog rose demands a cool, moist, rich loam: sand, or any kind of loose shifting soil, it abominates. Here it is that roses on their own roots or on Manetti stocks prove especially valuable. Hybrid Perpetuals on their own roots are very accommodating, and when an uncongenial soil has been made the best of, those are the roses to risk upon it. Indeed, wherever there is a doubt about the suitability of a soil, roses on their own roots are to be preferred; for those that are worked are in an artificial condition, and less able to battle with adverse influences than such as from head to foot are ‘all of a piece,’ and carry their sap in continuous currents, the warfare between stocks and inserted buds being often greater than appears for a time, and even if trifling and of no moment when all external influences are favourable, every unfavourable circumstance aggravates it, and a bad soil most of all.”


It may be soil that makes ‘Basye’s Purple’ thrive or fail. The only specimen I have seen looked chlorotic and weak, as though it were being starved of some essential nutrient. I have read that this variety requires a neutral to slightly acidic soil.

Has anyone out there had success with ‘Basye’s Purple’? If so, is it own-root or grafted? And what kind of soil do you have?

In the native, un amended, Santa Clarita Valley adobe, upon which nothing other than natives and “introduced weeds” had ever grown, BP was rather chlorotic. The ground water which seeped from under the homes on the facing slope, was so highly alkaline, it was said to be impossible to clean. There was a slimy, pink algae which grew in it where it continuously flowed down the side of the asphalt fire road. There was no ground water on the slope upon which the garden sat. Soil samples to a depth of sixty feet which were taken to determine seismic stability prior to construction, showed it all to be dry. Though BP and Fedtschenkoana grew in the water gap between two hill tops, at their bases where they joined. One extremely wet El Nino year, water flowed through both plants for nearly 8 weeks as it seeped from the hillsides, making its way down to the community golf course. Most years, that area dried out fairly well and required irrigation over summer to keep the plants growing.

Copious applications of fresh horse manure amended it quite well so after two summers of deep “poop”, BP greened up without any additional fertilizers. I only used nutrition other than horse manure on the terminally chlorotic types such as Reine des Violettes (ironic as it was budded to Huey and badly infected with RMV, being an old ROYAT plant); Blue Mist (own root); International Herald Tribune (budded to whatever root stock the Harkenss nursery used in early 1980s); Baby Faurax (own root); Mister Bluebird (own root). Also ironically, Cardinal Hume (both on Harkness’ rootstock of the same vintage as IHT and own root) NEVER experienced chlorosis in exactly the same soil in that garden. The Baby Faurax standard I budded to Cardinal Hume in 1994 doesn’t show chlorosis, either.

I’m doing a small test of four types of seedlings. Thirty six each to the trial of potting soil, half compost-half flower bed soil and straight flower bed soil. Everything else the same. Too early to see a difference yet.