Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roses and Their Preferred pH Level

Roses do best in a soil with a pH at about 6.0 to 6.5. This is because important nutrients are most available to a rose at this level of acidity. The soil in my area is generally alkaline. To make matters worse for the roses, our well water contains a high pH level. The result adds further to the alkalinity issue in the soil. Our pH level in the soil and ground water varies slightly, but it averages from a high 7 to an 8.

I'm not a science buff, just a simple gardener. It doesn't take an expert to know that roses do not like a higher pH level. They prefer conditions closer to neutral or slightly acidic.

What's the answer? Well, my first choice would be RAIN, of course. But, seeing as how most of Texas is in an exceptional drought, my second choice is to counter the alkalinity in the soil. Adding sulfur, pine needles, coffee grounds, urea (yuck thought!), and acidic mulches / compost to my rose beds will at least provide acid into the soil, correcting the alkalinity issue to a certain degree.

I like this chart. It shows me the pH level for 
different sources of water. I would rank my well water with the baking soda / sea water box. According to the chart, maybe I should water my roses with milk!

Another option is incorporating more older China roses to my beds. They can tolerate a higher pH level. 

A normal summer in south Texas brings afternoon "pop-up" showers, which can dump an inch of rain in less than an hour. However, nine years ago, my family moved further inland, decreasing the number of coastal showers we receive. Still, south-central Texas usually receives summer showers, but not this year. Rain water is preferred by the roses because it generally has a pH level of neutral to slightly acidic.

At this point, the roses are going to have to settle for what I can give them. The bushes that do not survive, I will replace with Chinas, as they have proved to be the toughest so far. 

My last option is to take out all my roses and replace with West Texas flora, which will most likely not happen. I can't imagine my gardens without roses. The thought makes me pout. I've visited West Texas, and they grow roses right along side of their yucca and agave. If they can do it, I can.

I also need to convince myself that losing a few is nothing to get my britches in a twist over. Just move on. Replant. Improve the soil, plant tougher varieties, and get over it.


  1. Hi Candy
    That's rough. I like the bright chart though! I grow portulacas and California poppies on my city deck, which is often scorching in the sun. Both of these flowers are super-colorful and drought-resistant. But yeah, I do adore my yellow rose...

  2. Catherine, I love portulacas. My gramma always called them moss roses. They're extremely drought tolerant, but also a delicacy for chickens! The only place I can keep them is in a hanging basket on my porch. What yellow rose do you grow?

  3. My local rose expert encouraged me to feed my roses with banana peels. We get plenty of rain up here in Washington, too much.

    I tagged you for a blog award. Hope you don't mind. The details are posted on my blog today.

  4. Roses love banana peels! Thank you so much for the blog award! I'm perusing the deets at the moment!