“Roses are red,
Or yellow or white,
But whichever color,
You’d best feed ’em right.”
OK, so we’re not about to win any poetry prizes, but there’s a fundamental truth in the rhyme.
Roses are both hungry and picky ‘eaters,’ and if you want to get the best blooms, with that sumptuous depth of color and fragrance you’re used to, with the glossy green foliage that sets them off and has made them an image of perfection in nature for hundreds, if not thousands of years, you’re going to need to feed them a balanced diet of nutrients.
Don’t panic. We’ve pulled together not just the top ten rose fertilizers on the market, but the best 11. And we can also advise you on when to feed them with which fertilizer, so your roses have all the elegance, the intense color, and the fragrance you expect of them.
The Rose Banquet – All The Nutrients They Need
What are the nutrients to look out for in any commercial fertilizer? The ones your roses need to grow the way you want them? Take a look at the menu.
Phosphorus: Just as we need Calcium to build strong bones and teeth, so your roses need Phosphorus to grow healthy roots and flowers. How do we know this?
Because roses with a diet low in Phosphorus have weaker stems, and their buds are unlikely to fully open. Roses are meant to be bold and bright, not shy wall flowers. Phosphorus in their fertilizer can make the difference.
Nitrogen: You need to walk a fine line with roses and Nitrogen. Think of it as like sugar with children. Get the balance right and your roses will grow energetically, with vigorous leaf production and flowers aplenty.
Starve them of Nitrogen and you’ll have smaller roses with yellower leaves. Giving them too much Nitrogen will give you lots of foliage, but fewer sprouting blooms. Respect the effect of Nitrogen on rose growth and walk the line.
Potassium: Potassium is the rose equivalent of white blood cells. When roses are attacked by bugs or wounded by weather (and they will be – it’s not like they can move out of the way with anything like the required speed), Potassium is what will help your roses recover.
Without enough Potassium in their fertilizer, you’ll see leaves with yellow round the edges, and weak, smaller buds.
Macronutrients: These are the things roses need in small but important amounts to be the best roses they can. If you’ve ever popped a multivitamin, you’ll be familiar with the idea.
For roses, you’re looking at elements like Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iron, Boron, and even Sulfur.
You can’t force a multivitamin pill on your roses, because apart from anything else, a rose with a swallow reflex would be science fiction levels of disturbing, but by making sure your fertilizer is rich in macronutrients, you can achieve the same perky results.
So how do you choose which is the best fertilizer for your roses?
Choose Your Fertilizer
Rose fertilizer breaks down into two types: Organic fertilizer and inorganic fertilizer.
What are the differences?
Well, organic fertilizer is derived from plant and animal matter. It also releases its nutrients slowly over time, which can give your roses regular boosts of the nutrients they need.
That said, the actual concentration of nutrients in organic fertilizers isn’t as high as it is in inorganic fertilizers and aren’t always ready to use, for the simple reason that there’s been no thought involved in creating them, no purpose saying “this will be good for roses.”
Usually, they’re plant and animal by-products, like composted animal dung, bone meal, dried blood meal and greensand. Nobody put those into the world as a gift to roses, so while they’re good, they’re not scientifically good.
You want scientific, impeccable goodness to feed your roses, you’re looking at the inorganics. The clever, precise, compounds, dreamed up in a lab somewhere by people with a rose in one hand and a test tube in the other.
The inorganic fertilizers can bring the chemicals that are best for various elements of rose growth – leaf-boosters, flower-developers, stem-strengtheners, etc – all together in one compound, where they would be colossally unlikely ever to naturally occur.
That’s because the dedicated thought “What would be good for roses?” has gone into their creation.
Perhaps weirdly, these highly concentrated fertilizers are often cheaper than the haphazard, organic varieties, both because people believe that “organic” and “good” are necessarily the same, and because, if the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that people appear not to trust scientists, even when they’re trying to help, and therefore anything they’ve had a hand in is valued less.
This is in spite of the fact that inorganic fertilizers can revive dying roses, release their nutrients into the soil quickly so the flower can absorb them immediately, and are more efficient all around due to being created with the explicit intention of growing roses.
Ultimately, the choice is down to you. Neither choice will in any way harm your roses. But if you want faster, more precise results, you’ll go with the inorganic aid of science, whereas if you believe organic is inherently better, you have that pathway to follow and pay for.
If you’re still unsure, a good solution is to look for fertilizers that advertise themselves as “complete” rose fertilizers. Those will – if they want to use the word – contain the right balance of Phosphorus, Potassium, and Nitrogen for effective, healthy rose growth.
The Best Rose Fertilizers – Turned Up To 11
We know, we know – we said the inorganics gave you more certain results, but if you have lackluster blooms, these granules from Jobe’s Organics are the way to go. Officially certified as organic by those friends of horticulture, the USDA, one of the secrets of the blend is that it contains Archaea.
Sounds like a science fiction disaster waiting to happen, but it’s actually a microorganism that helps break the granules down rapidly, so they get to work with a similar speed to the inorganics – and certainly much faster than most organic fertilizers on the market.
That’s why, for instance, it can perk up drooping blooms – something that’s often outside the timescale of operation of organic fertilizers.
Keep applying these granules throughout the growing season and you enhance the soil, promoting better blooms, preventing blight and disease, and even protecting against the pests that love to chomp on roses.
There’s no real heavy lifting in applying Jobe’s Organic Granules either – apply a layer every couple of months and rake it into the topsoil from May-September, and your work here is done.
If you’re transplanting roses from pots, give them a sprinkle around the root ball when you’re putting them in their final position, and they’ll have a meal and a shield in one. Although it’s also available as fertilizer spikes and in a water-soluble version, we love a granule, and that’s why this version takes our top spot.
- These granules work much faster than most organic fertilizers
- You can get rapid new growth and healthy flowers with this fertilizer
- This is easy to apply – just shake and rake
- You may need a replacement nose, because this is organic – and smells like it
- Organic granular fertilizer; Fast acting fertilizer for roses; Formulated for more abundant beautiful flowers
- OMRI listed for organic gardening by USDA; Certified organic means no synthetic chemicals
- Contains Jobe’s Biozome…the proprietary microorganism archaea that aggressively breaks down material for faster results
- Jobe’s Biozome improves soil conditions, helps resist disease, insects, and drought during the growing season
- Easy pour bag; Guaranteed analysis: (3-5-3) 4 pound bag, (3-5-3) 16 pound bag; Apply at planting and every 6 weeks
Rose growers know that while they’re joyous and bold and bright and wonderful, roses are almost ridiculously prone to disease. This organic rose food specializes in building your roses’ robustness against the swarm of diseases to which roses are traditionally prone.
Entirely free of industrialized chemicals, it nevertheless contains 15 nutrients that promote strong and healthy rose growth. That makes the Espoma a complete banquet that you can use all season long, whether your roses are potted or growing in beds or borders.
One of the things you often have to watch for with rose food is that it’s tuned to promote the growth of roses, but often that’s at the expense of other beautiful flowers.
The Espoma plays well with others though, so you can use it on peonies, lilies, and even clematis without any fear. Just sprinkle it around your plans and hoe it gently into the soil.
On any given day, the Jobe’s Organic and the Espoma could switch places, with one giving better results in some soil types, and the other in others. Either way, you’re going to get a great rose fertilizer if you go with these options.
- This is a complete rose food, so you buy it and you’re done
- It plays well with other flowering plants, unlike some other fertilizers
- It boosts your roses’ robustness against disease
- Another organic fertilizer that competes to burn your nose hairs off with the stench of its composition
- FOR USE ON: Use Rose-tone organic fertilizer for all types of roses including knockouts, and climbers. Also, for flowering plants including viburnum, bougainvillea & clematis.
- CONTAINS: Rose-tone is a rich blend of the finest natural & organic ingredients enhanced with our exclusive Bio-tone formula; 4-3-2 Fertilizer analysis with 5% calcium. Rose-tone is environmentally Safe - No sludges or toxic ingredients.
- WHEN / HOW TO USE: Best to use Rose-tone fertilizer monthly through the growing season; generally, May through September. Apply to the soil around the drip line of the plant and then water thoroughly. Rose-tone is ready to use and requires no mixing.
- FOR ORGANIC GARDENING: Rose-tone is approved for organic gardening; It is a registered Organic Input Material meaning it meets all requirements for organic production.
- MADE IN THE USA: Product of the Espoma Company. The leader in natural organics since 1929.
Now, we’ve said we love a granule, and we do, but there’s always a slight risk with them that you might end up burning any particularly young or tender plants.
Soluble rose food is the way to go if you’re worried about your flowers feeling the burn. And if you’re going to go soluble, you can’t really do better than Miracle-Gro soluble.
Simply dilute it with water in your watering can and water as normal, making sure you distribute the solution fairly evenly around the base of your roses.
For those who are scared of the inorganics and their effect on the soil, be aware this is not an organic, so it’s best avoided if “Only Ever Natural” is your creed.
If you’re willing to give it a try though, you’ll get rapid results, impressive growth and spectacular flowers in relatively short order. You’ll need to use this every week or two to keep up the results, and because you’re diluting it in water, there’s no hoeing or raking required.
Just mix, pour, and watch your roses grow. If there’s a downside that even the pro-science crowd can get behind, it’s that Miracle-Gro, being a pretty well-known name, can cost you more than most, especially for the amount of fertilizer you get.
- Miracle-Gro is great for boosting younger and more tender plants
- It delivers rapid results, giving strong growth and healthy blooms
- It’s highly convenient, in that you just dissolve it and water your roses as normal
- It’s expensive for the amount you get, and you’ll need several packets to get you through a whole rose growing season.
- Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Rose Plant Food grows bigger, more beautiful roses versus unfed plants
- This rose food starts to feed instantly
- Feed with our rose fertilizer every 7 to 14 days
- Use with Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder or any watering can
- Guaranteed not to burn when used as directed
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You won’t be surprised to learn that with a name like Dr. Earth, we’re returning to organic fertilizer for our fourth slot.
Yes, it’s organic, so yes, like the others in the same vein, it stinks like dead things in a sewer, because… well, basically, dead things and sewage are what we’re looking at. But however much like the creeping reek of death it might smell, roses love the stuff, and it’s full of the nutrients they need.
Dr. Earth has extra special natural ingredients to make it especially useful to roses in super dry conditions – Ecto and Endo Mycorrhizae can give you blooms in a practical dessert, though extra mulching and watering will also help you to keep up the Dr. Earth effect over the longer term, by feeding and moistening the soil.
You need both nutrients and moisture to get the blooms you want in the long term, so while Dr. Earth is a great solution during rose season, improving the quality and richness of the soil around the year will also help improve your results exponentially.
Dr. Earth does try to help you as much as it can – there are other soil-enriching ingredients, including a handful of beneficial microbes, all of which will increase and improve the size and the quality of your flowers.
The point perhaps ultimately being that while Dr. Earth is a great rose season fertilizer, it’s at least as good an idea to dose the soil with it out of season too, to improve the overall richness of the soil in which you’re trying to grow sublime roses.
- You can get impressive results with Dr. Earth, even if you are growing in drought conditions
- Dr. Earth contains beneficial microbes to boost both the quality and size of your roses
- For those who are no fans of Big Fertilizer, it’s entirely organic
- Stinks like a sewer, in common with most organic fertilizers
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Much as we’d like to keep all of our recommendations within the US, sometimes, the Brits, with their centuries of creating formal gardens, come up with a good thing. Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic is a good thing, and you’ll have to order from the UK Amazon to get your green fingers on it.
What could possibly make it worth that hassle? Firstly, it’s less hassle than you think. You go, you select the country to send it to, everything else is pretty much automatic, same as it is with domestic Amazon.
Secondly, Uncle Tom’s comes recommended by Roses UK, an organization funded by the British Association Of Rose Breeders. That right there is some heavyweight recommendation. You’ve got to be curious, no?
What makes Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic special is that it has a double action thing going on. Sure, it will encourage new growth and boost the size of your blooms when they come through, but it also acts to protect your roses from the diseases and pests that usually are their biggest threats.
Nutritious food, plus super shield in one. Not too shabby for your roses.
Add to that the fact that it prevents fungal growth and you have a rose food that’s pretty much got you covered all the way from seed to blossom.
There’s a price that goes along with that – and we don’t just mean the shipping from the UK. You have to feed your roses with this inorganic every 14 days during rose season to get the best out of it.
And, like most inorganics, it’s a good idea to keep it away from pets and children. Organics tend to advertise their nastiness with the whole ‘dead things in sewers’ smell. Inorganics are less demonstrably nasty, so they put the onus on you to keep your loved ones safe while your roses schlurp up all those juicy nutrients.
- This inorganic British food gives you strong growth and larger blooms
- It also protects your roses from disease and pests
- It comes recommended by the British Association of Rose Breeders
- As an inorganic, you should keep it away from kids and pets
- You need to order it from the UK Amazon
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We’ve included a good few fertilizers that demand regular application – once a week, once every two weeks. Eesh.
If you don’t have the time for that, but you still want some beautiful roses, Rose Care’s Toprose may well be the product you’re looking for.
Apply it just twice during rose season and you’re golden. Just sit back and watch those roses thrive.
Great news if you’re a more casual rose-parent than an intensive one, it also helps if you have climbing or rambling roses that you might otherwise miss in your regular rounds of feeding.
Seriously, hit them twice with Toprose and you’re done. In particular, the iron and magnesium in the blend here will give you the bright blooms, the lush foliage and won’t neglect your roses’ roots either.
Sprinkle the Toprose around the base of your roses once in Spring and once in Summer, hoe it lightly in, water well and you’re good all season long.
- This is one low-maintenance rose fertilizer, needing only two applications per season
- Hits climbing roses that might otherwise be overlooked
- Gives your roses’ roots a boost
- Before you administer the fertilizer, you have to break it up, so it’s more hard work than some others
- Easy to apply rose food
- Perfect balance of nutrients for bright and beautiful roses and shrubs
We mentioned the potential complexity of the process of administering the Toprose fertilizer – sure, you don’t do it often, but you have to break it up before you apply it.
The Ross Rose fertilizer refills work with the Ross Root Feeder, that gets your fertilizer right where you need it, with the help of an ingenious feeder chamber device that you attach to your garden hose.
Because the refills are pre-measured, there’s no mess, no fuss, and no measuring – you just drop the refill into the Root Feeder, attach it to the hose, and boom! Aim, spray, and feed.
Any downsides? Sure, if you’re on the organic-only train, this is not your friend, because it’s inorganic.
But it’s useful in that not only does it bring your roses vigor, color and size, but because you can aim the supply of fertilizer precisely, you can minimize water run-off and evaporation, for one of the healthier inorganic deliveries on the market.
- Ease of filling makes this a relatively straightforward process
- The fertilizer gives you bright, healthy roses, because it’s applied where it’s needed
- While it’s inorganic, the delivery system minimizes any contact risks
- As a fertilizer, you need to buy into the Ross Root Feeder system before you can use it effectively
- Pre-measured Ross Fertilizer Refills for Roses and flowering shrubs makes for fast, easy and mess-free fertilizing
- Ross root feeder system stops pollution from fertilizer run-off and costly waste of water from evaporation; ideal for watering during droughts
- Deep feeding fertilizer system supplies nutrients at the root level, where the active roots are growing; encourages deep root development
- Feed newly planted and established roses every two weeks through mid-summer; feed flowering shrubs early spring and late summer
- Analysis: (15-25-20) 12 Refills, (15-25-20) 54 refills
While we’re minimizing skin contact with inorganic fertilizer, it’s time to take a look at our second Miracle-Gro contender, the Shake ’N Feed Continuous Release.
It’s on the clever side of the scientific fertilizers, because it doesn’t just contain all the chemistry you need for strong root growth, bigger, brighter foliage and bigger flowers, too. It also comes with a clever cap dispenser that lets you keep as far from the fertilizer as possible, while getting the fertilizer precisely where you want it to go.
The clue is in the name, really. You shake, you feed. Admittedly, you have to lightly rake it in, which somehow doesn’t make it into the name – which is weird, because Shake ’N Rake would arguably be a better, catchier name (Hey, Miracle-Gro – call us!), but that’s about as hard as life gets with this continuous release fertilizer.
It works by essentially building up an ecosystem in your soil. It feeds the microbes with natural (though inorganic) ingredients.
That in turn nourishes the soil, and the roses you plant too. Whether your roses are pre-established or new to the beds, the Shake ’N Feed works to give you the brightest, most robust roses you can imagine.
And, because of its continuous action, you’re looking at only needing to re-administer the Miracle-Gro once every 3 months – so like the Toprose treatment, twice a season and you’re good. In fact, twice a season and you’re perfect.
One note of caution is that if you get bored or uncertain and decide to overuse the Miracle-Gro, you might actually harm your roses, like an All You Can Eat buffet that ends up with a stomach pump and a determination to make better life choices.
- This is a low-maintenance fertilizer, needing only two applications per rose season
- The cap dispenser design means you can scatter your fertilizer without risk of undue skin contact with the inorganic chemicals
- Continuous release means you can be sure your roses are getting the nutrition they need on an ongoing basis
- Overfeeding with this product can actually be harmful to your roses. Resist the temptation to give them more than they need at all costs
- Contains natural ingredients to feed microbes in the soil
- Promotes more blooms and spectacular color in flowering plants and roses versus unfed plants
- For new and existing roses and flowering plants
- Feeds up to 3 months
- Takes the guesswork out of feeding!
Okay, Miracle-Gro, we get it – you’re good at roses. Cool your jets!
Actually, the Watering Can Singles are a quick, effective, pre-measured way to get liquid fertilizer right to the roots of your roses, where it can be quickly absorbed.
In terms of application, it’s about as uncomplicated as it gets. Fill a watering can with the right amount of water. Add as many sachets as are appropriate for the area. Dissolve. Water as normal – boom.
Job done. Your roses get the water, and the vital nutrient cocktail they need, you get bright, vibrant, strong roses of an admirable size.
What’s at least as useful as the sachets are… well, they’re sachets. That means they’re kept safely away from kids and pets – yes, it’s another inorganic fertilizer, so it doesn’t warn the unwary off with a stink.
That way, you minimize the unnecessary contact between the chemicals and anyone’s skin, you simply focus on pouring them right around your roses, for the roots to do their thing.
While it’s superb for roses, you can also use the Miracle-Gro sachets on other garden plants too – shrubs, trees, fruit and vegetables – none of them will turn their roots up at the chemical compound of the Miracle-Gro individual watering can sachets.
The direct application of liquid fertilizer means you’ll get some pretty rapid results, too – you should see a difference in the vibrancy and size of your roses almost immediately.
But on the other hand, as we saw with some of the other Miracle-Gro fertilizers on our list, there are two things to keep in mind. On the one hand, you’ll need to re-apply it on a regular basis – roughly every 2 weeks during rose season.
And on the other hand, Miracle-Gro results will cost you Miracle-Gro money. Yes, the watering can singles are brilliant – but you’ll feel quite how brilliant as much in the bank account as you will in the roses.
- These singles work on lots of other plants as well as roses
- You get rapid results for your money
- Lots and lots of money.
- Convenient, pre-measured packets
- The quick, no-mess way to feed
- Feed every 1-2 weeks
- Grows Plants Twice as Big! versus unfed plants
- Contains essential nutrients that start to work instantly to promote quick, beautiful results
Hello again, organic fertilizers – and hello again, Espoma. Another fertilizer that plays well with everyone, not just roses, Plant Tone is a combination of nutrients that not only gives you big blooms (you like big blooms and you cannot lie…), but increases the strength of your stems too, for stronger plants all round.
Plant Tone is an organic slow release fertilizer, which means you’re looking at roughly 3 applications per season.
It works well with both young planets and those that are more established. If you’re looking for a general organic fertilizer, rather than a rose-specialist, this is a great option.
- This fertilizer plays well with other plants as well as roses, meaning it’s a great general choice
- As with most organic fertilizers, it stinks
- THE ORIGINAL: Plant-tone is the original organic all-purpose plant food. Plant-tone’s natural organics break down slowly to provide a long-lasting reservoir of plant nutrients.
- FOR USE ON: Use Plant-tone organic fertilizer for flowers (annuals, perennials, and roses), Vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, squash, and lettuce), trees and shrubs.
- CONTAINS: Plant-tone is a rich blend of the finest natural & organic ingredients enhanced with our exclusive Bio-tone formula; 5-3-3 Fertilizer analysis with 5% calcium. Plant-tone is environmentally Safe - No sludges or toxic ingredients.
- WHEN / HOW TO USE: Best to use Plant-tone fertilizer spring and fall on trees and shrubs. For roses, flowers and vegetables use monthly throughout the growing season. Apply to the soil around the drip line of the plant and then water thoroughly. Plant-tone is ready to use and requires no mixing.
- FOR ORGANIC GARDENING: Plant-tone is approved for organic gardening; It is a registered Organic Input Material meaning it meets all requirements for organic production.
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And finally, a water-soluble option from Schultz. As with most water-solubles, you get rapid action here because the fertilizer gets to the roots fast.
Packed with micro-nutrients, you can expect bigger blooms and stronger root growth pretty quickly after applying the Shultz food. Another slow-release fertilizer, it means you can nourish your plants for up to 3 months on a single serving!
- This is a water-soluble fertilizer with no need for stirring
- It’s a very fast-acting, and yet slow-release fertilizer, meaning you get results tomorrow – and months from now
- As an inorganic, it contains chemicals it’s best to keep out of the reach of children and pets
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Fertilizing Rose Plants – A How-To Guide
We’ve divided rose fertilizers into organic and inorganic types, simply because they have different properties. Many rose growers though prefer combining both – the inorganic for instant results, and the organic for increased soil richness over time.
Let’s run through some handy hints on getting the best out of your fertilizers:
- Use organic fertilizers before you start planting your roses in early spring. That will ensure you don’t burn the roots when you’ve planted them. It will also settle your rose plants into a nutrient-rich environment.
- If you use granular fertilizers, you’re going to want to spread them in a circle around the top of the soil, and then work them into the topsoil with a hoe or a rake.
- If you’re using liquid fertilizers, you should be OK to just pour them in a circle some 6 inches from the base of the roses.
- Want some healthy rose growth? Go a little heavier on Sulfur and Magnesium, say a couple of weeks into the fertilizing cycle. You can cut to the chase on these two elements by adding some Epsom salts to the soil, and your roses will get the perk up they need to encourage them to grow bigger and stronger. Think of it like an energy drink a couple of weeks into a fitness routine.
When Should You Be Fertilizing Your Roses?
Roses are both hungry and picky. They need a very precise diet of nutrients to grow to the fullness of their potential, but they’re also picky on when those nutrients should be available to them.
Give your roses their first feed of the season somewhere in mid-to-late Spring. You want to be frost-free, so obviously this is a rough guide and you can tailor it to the reality and the weather where you live.
Once you’ve started feeding them though, they’re going to need more on a fairly regular basis – depending on the fertilizer you use. If you’re using one of the several low-maintenance fertilizers on our list, you won’t need to think about feeding your roses again for a whole month.
If on the other hand, you’re a more zealous, intensive rose-grower, you’ll be looking to lay down some new feed and fertilizer for your roses every 2 to 3 weeks until the end of the season.
Here’s a thing that sounds like cruelty, but is actually in the roses’ best interest. If you’re in a colder climate growing roses – firstly, thank you, people in colder climates need the sight of roses in their lives(!).
But seriously, if you’re in those colder climes, it’s worth stopping your feeding regime between 6-8 weeks before the coming of any frost. That will let the roses preserve any tender shoots, so they can survive any oncoming frost damage.
How do you know when it’s 6-8 weeks before any frost? You’re looking at a long-range gardener’s weather forecast. They’re not 100% accurate, but they’re often good enough to tip you the wink about when to stop feeding your roses.
Roses can be among the divas of the flower world. With a precise diet, the need for specific timings, and an ability to thrive with both organic and inorganic fertilizers, there are rules laid down by nature, and then there are areas where there’s room to maneuver.
Above all – don’t panic. Whatever your personal preference, whatever your soil type, there are rose fertilizers out there that will make the business of growing these flowers that bring instant smiles to everyone’s faces both easy and fun.
Know what your soil is like, know what sort of rose-grower you want to be – minimal stress or maximum efficiency? – and choose the best rose fertilizer for your roses, and for your lifestyle. As you’ve seen, there are plenty to choose from.