How Do I Fertilize Roses Organically?

Last Updated on August 8, 2022 by Stephanie

They are heavy feeders and require a wide range of nutrients during the growing season to ensure the most beautiful blooms. So, using a variety of organic fertilizers in your rose beds will yield the most effective results.

To get the best results from for organically fertilizing roses, you require an emulsion of fish blood/bone meal, alfalfa and blood applied every four weeks during the growing season . You can also include Epsom salts to increase the formation of basal breaks. Organic fertilizers can stimulate the soils ecology and provide the essential nutrients that roses require to be healthy and strong with plenty of blooms.

Organic, natural fertilizers work as a healthy, balanced diet, whereas chemical fertilizers act similar to multivitamins that provide an increase in nutrients, but are not able to improve soil ecosystems and dont contribute to the long-term fertility of the soil.

Organic natural fertilizers like alfalfa, fish emulsions regular mulch, bone meal and blood are healthier for the environment since they do dont just directly feed the rose, but also improve the long-term health and fertility of the soil as well.

1. Mulching as Fertilizer for Healthy Roses

Applying mulch to the roses base twice every year is the most effective method to ensure soil health and to add organic nutrients to the soil.

The addition of mulch to the rose beds is more about feeding the soil instead of directly feeding the plant, which then creates healthy, disease-resistant roses.

Leaf mould, well-rotted horses manure and worm casts, grass clippings, and compost are all great options because they do not just add nutrients but also enhance the soils structure and feed the soils ecological.

The well-rotted horse manure is especially beneficial to enrich soil because it is a source of energy, and is rich in phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphate, and all of these are essential for the growth of healthy roses.

The manure is broken down slowly and releases nutrients over time to ensure that water-soluble components like potassium are slowly added to the soil and are not washed away by the first heavy rain like they would be when fertilizers are chemical in nature.

Manure reenergizes the beneficial bacteria, microbes, earthworms and fungi within the soil. Earthworms eat organic matter that is decomposing and also the highly nutritious, fertile worm castings.

Worm castings are digested, extremely concentrated and nutrient-rich package of nutrients that your roses will appreciate since they come in a form thats more easy for roots to take in.

If you have access to decayed horse manure thats soft and has does not smell anymore, then you can use it as mulch on your roses in the spring.

If the manure stinks, its an excellent idea to add it in the compost heap. The microbes and energy in the manure help heat the compost pile and increase the rate of decomposition , so you will be able to use your compost earlier.

If you add brown materials in the compost (such as dried leaves, cardboard, and shreds of paper) immediately stops the manures unpleasant smell from expanding!

It is essential to wait for the horse manure to turn into a form that is decomposed, as fresh manure could ignite its roots on roses as well as other plants in the process of decomposition.

cut roses

When to Apply Mulch to Roses

To maximize the success of your project, I suggest applying mulch at minimum twice every year.

  1. The first application should occur in the beginning of the spring growing season. The mulch will be able to disintegrate and release nutrients to the soil all throughout during the growth season. The mulch assists in keeping the roots of the rose neat and cool. It also aids in retaining water and enhances the structure to allow to allow for better drainage as and also reducing the growth of weeds.
  2. The second application should be made prior to the beginning of winter towards the end of September. This helps to protect your roots against the harshest cold, allowing them to repair any damage that occurs over winter, and it will give your rose a head start for the spring following.

If its an extremely hot summer, I will apply a second layer of mulch because organic material has much higher capacity to soak up water than most soils and the roots are able to draw on the moisture they require to, in order to avoid dryness and to keep the roots cool.

Mulch can be sprinkled on the ground at any time for the purpose to disguise the scent of other organic fertilizers like bone meal and fish emulsion.

How do I apply Mulch for Rose beds

Spread a 2 inch layer of mulch on the rose garden. It is not necessary to dig it in because it could disturb the soils ecosystem, and you may cut the roses roots through with your spade.

Spread the mulch at the area of the plants base and let the worms and rain to incorporate the mulch naturally into the soil.

Be sure to leave 5-6 inches of ground between the layer of mulch and the rose canes which emerge from the soil. The rosewood which is naturally above ground is not able to withstand long-term exposure to organic matter that is moist because it can cause the onset of rot.

2. Alfalfa for Fertilizing Roses

Alfalfa is a well-known natural fertilizer thats been around for a long time and is a favorite of organic gardeners. Its often the primary ingredient in pre-made natural fertilizer mix.

Alfalfa is a rich source of high quantities of nitrogen and magnesium as well as phosphorus, magnesium as well as calcium, iron and zinc, all of which help to promote healthy growth of rosebushes and a large blooms.

I personally prefer alfalfa pellets because it breaks down in time, slowly release the nutrients into the soil, which will benefit the rose during the growing season. However, chemical fertilizers such as those that contain water-soluble nutrients are removed when heavy rain or watering and there is little time to allow the root system absorb the nutrients, and the product ends up being washed away.

Alfalfa is also praised because it contains a stimulant for growth called triacontanol, which boosts the amount of basal breaks on rose bush. Basal breaks are regarded as a must by rose-lovers as they permit new canes to appear, which will produce more flowers , and eventually replace old, worn-out canes whenever you decide to cut your roses.

How and When to Apply Alfalfa For Roses

Alfalfa is a good choice for a once every month during the growing season beginning from the beginning of spring to the middle of August to allow new growth to set prior to winter dormancy.

I personally apply alfalfa pellets on the ground in April and May (when flowers of my roses are beginning to unfold) prior to applying mulch on the ground around the roses base. I then give it a long irrigation using an irrigation the hose (or 4 gallons using watering cans).

After applying the alfalfa pellets in the following month, I just apply the mulch on one side, then scatter some pellets on the soil. I then apply the mulch using the rake to promote decay so that the nutrients can reach the roots.

Theres no need to dig into the soil since they break down and the nutrients make them way into the root as you water the roses. In addition to being inefficient it is also a risk to harm the roots of your roses with the spade.

3. Epsom Salts for Roses

If the foliage of your roses becoming yellow, despite a regular routine of watering, the soil could be deficient in magnesium.

A magnesium deficiency in soil could be a result of soil erosion , or the fact that magnesium is not easily available in soils with acidic pH that are favored by rose shrubs.

Epsom salts are rich in of magnesium. They are believed to help for bringing greenness to the leaves, forming stronger canes, and bringing forth more flowers.

Application of Epsom Salts for Roses

Applying Epsom salts isnt that difficult. The only thing your rose will require is a half cup every year, applied in spring, when the temperature is rising. Mix the half cup in a 2 gallon watering container and then water it around the bottom of the rose.

But if your garden is very salinized, then it is best to avoid the fertilizer altogether. Gardening with a heavy-compacted soil (such like clay) with poor drainage may build up salt in the soil , which could hinder plant growth.

If you have a well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter, then it is unlikely to pose an issue.

4. Blood and Bone Meal for Fertilizing Roses

The meal of blood and bone is a byproduct of slaughterhouses and is available in the form of a powder. It has a high concentration of nitrogen that helps to green the leaves and encourage the growth of new plants. It also contains iron which is vital for photosynthesis and assists the leaves to produce chlorophyll.

It also provides fuel for the ecological health of soils, which will in turn degrade organic matter and improve the availability of nutrients in the soil, ensuring that your roses will grow stronger produce more flowers and are more resistant to diseases.

It is a must avoid if youre opposed to the use of animal products. If you regularly use other fertilizers made from plants (such manure, alfalfa as well as coffee ground) then avoiding bone meal or fish emulsion should not be a problem since there are alternatives made from plants with similar levels of nitrogen.

Application of Blood and Bone Meal for Roses

The scent of bone meal is appealing to dogs, cats and possibly other animals that are frequent visitors to your garden, so be cautious in the application.

The most effective method is to remove any mulch or soil that is around the rose bush, and then put the meal of bone directly on the ground, then apply the mulch and soil over the top. You must give it a particularly good long , slow soak. It is best to do this using a soaker hose since it will require many watering cans of water.

The combination of the slow-watering and mulch is a great way to eliminate any smells, which in turn increases it is attractive to wildlife and helps bone meal penetrate into the soil and get to the roots.

Bone meal can also assist in improving the soils structure to allow for better drainage, and also to reduce soil compaction.

It is possible to apply bone meal in spring beginning in March, every month, but you shouldnt add any more soil amendments following August 15 the 15th because the plant has to focus its energy on getting ready for winter, rather than encouraging the growth of new plants.

5. Banana Peels For Fertilizing Roses

This attractive fertilizer (sorry I needed to!) is among my top choices for planting roses due to its simplicity.

As simple as it sounds, you can simply throw an orange peel in the hole you dug for your rose , and place the rose in it.

It will provide your newly planted (or transferred) rose a welcome increase in potassium levels within the soil that will encourage bigger, more stunning blooms.

The sugars found in the peel also provide fuel for microbes and stimulate the activity of worms, which helps to form channels to the roses roots and improve drainage.

If you dont want to plant the rose, you can just throw banana peels in your compost, and once it is rotting down, you can use it as a composted potassium-rich addition to the foundation of your rose in the springtime, at the beginning of spring.


You can see that there are a variety of ways to fertilize your roses organically . These options, when combined, provide all the minerals and nutrients required by your rose bush to flourish and create stunning blooms.

My preferred method of fertilization is to apply either alfalfa, fish emulsion or some bone meal every 4-6 weeks throughout this growing time.

The rose is a very hardy plant but theyre heavy feeders, so although three fertilizers might seem excessive but your roses will repay you with an amazing display. By rotating three fertilizers youre ensuring that your rose and the soil ecology have an equilibrated diet, and that your rose gets every nutrient it requires to flourish.

There is no need to apply a premium grade of every fertilizer you apply it. One product will last for many seasons, which means that in the in the long run, its economical.

There is also the additional benefit of using organic fertilizers that do not work in stimulating the soils ecology and may cause harm to the environment, creating over-saturated algae blooms in waters that then die , thereby depriving that water from oxygen, and consequently have a negative effect on the fauna and flora of the earth.

If youd like to know more details about the negative effects of chemical fertilizers, take an in-depth look at this article and discover the reasons why theyre so harmful to the environment as well as the long-term health of soils, take a look at this article.

6. Fish Emulsion For Fertilizing Roses

The fish emulsion is an excellent option to add organic fertilizers to your arsenal. It is because it contains 5% of nitrogen that directly provides the plant with nutrients to encourage healthy, new growth in the spring.

It is a vital element that plants require to create chlorophyll within the leaves and to stimulate the photosynthesis process. It also has potassium and phosphate to aid in the prevention of disease and to boost flower production.

It is also an astringent for soil because it increases bacteria within the soil that help break down organic matter and release nutrition into soil, which benefit the rose bush.

Applying the emulsion of fish once per month in spring can help to improve resistance to disease and health earlier in the year.

The advantage of Fish emulsion in comparison to others is the fact that it can get to the roots fast. This is the reason it is great when combined along with slower release fertilizers like alfalfa, which can provide a wide range of nutrients over the duration during the growth season.

How and When to Apply Fish Emulsion for Roses

The downside of emulsions made from fish is the strong, unpleasant smell it emits and the animals it draws. Cats, flies and even dogs are all attracted by this smell , so it is important to be cautious when using it.

Always adhere to the directions on the label, however the most commonly used recommendation is to dilute 1 tablespoon of the fish emulsion to one gallon of water inside your watering container.

The application is as simple as watering it at the base of your rose.

However, before watering in, like all fertilizers that smell, the best method is to remove any mulch that youve laid around the rose. Place it to one side, and then apply the emulsion, and then put the mulch back in the proper position.

It does a great job of taking in the smell and will hopefully deter any curious wildlife.

I personally prefer using the fish emulsion which can be dilute into water instead of powdered fish meal because the emulsion is able to drain into the soil to reach the roots, and the smell is less strong than fish meal, which takes some time to break down and allow the smell to fade.

Like all fertilizers that contain nitrogen, you should use this fertilizer once per month during the spring (from April to May) and finish your final application prior to August 15th in order to avoid stimulating growth in the days before winter.

Rotate fertilizers since they have diverse amounts of minerals and nutrients.



Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)