How To Fertilize Roses: 10 Natural Ways

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Let’s be honest! When you’re looking for the best rose fertilizer, for many home gardeners, purchasing a bag of fertilizer for rose bushes is a mystery purchase.

This need not be; with a little knowledge, anyone can select a rose bush fertilizer to fit any particular need.

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You can buy with the assurance of knowing you’ve obtained the proper ingredients for your container roses and get maximum results from each bag.

By law, all fertilizers carry numbers of the guaranteed plant food, such as 10-6-4 or 7-8-5.

The three numbers always indicate the number of units of:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphate
  • Potash

The type of fertilizer for roses, and all plants, has always been and always will be in this order.

Thus a formula or npk ratio of 20-10-5 means:

  • 20 units of nitrogen content which produces top new growth
  • 10 units of phosphate which furnish color and strength
  • 5 units of potash which provide strong root growth

While complete high-nitrogen fertilizers tend to show top growth, this is insufficient to ensure healthy plant growth.

In fact, an imbalance of nitrogen can give the false sense of security that plants or a lawn are developing beautifully when the root systems are being starved.

For this reason, it is essential to feed each type of plant a precise, carefully balanced diet that brings maximum beauty and health to the entire plant.

For healthy shrub roses, one of the best diet formulas is 7-8-5.

Unfortunately, most packages of rose bush food do not give much additional information about the contents.

The reason is that individual states have different rules as to “how to express the contents” of a package and what can and cannot be listed.

Since the fertilizer manufacturer cannot afford to print, fill and inventory different packages for every state, they omit much data and list only the information and terminology agreed upon by all states where it is sold.

Thus a rule to follow is to always ask to see the manufacturer’s literature before you buy. This holds true for organic fertilizers, Miracle-gro, slow-feeding granular fertilizers, and everything in between.


A combination of slow-release rose plant fertilizer or organics, fast-acting chemicals, and trace elements is desirable.

We all know human nutritional factors such as calories and proteins can be obtained from a variety of sources.

Basic nutrients for plant life also are obtainable from various sources. To thrive, roses need micronutrients, including calcium, boron, copper, iron, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, and zinc. 

Many fertilizers are entirely fast-acting, such as straight chemical fertilizers, while some others are called slow-release fertilizers because of their slow-release feature.

While these give nourishment, it is very temporary nourishment because it leaches from the soil mixture around the plant rapidly.

Consequently, such a fertilizer would have to be fed very often, which is costly as well as troublesome.

This is why many serious rose gardeners do not fertilize roses to start their growing season. They begin with a soil test to see what nutrients the soil in and around the rose beds are rich or lacking.

However, it’s important to stop feeding your roses in late summer as they prepare for winter dormancy.

Organic Rose Fertilizers Are The Best And Most Economical

When the right organic matter is combined with fast-acting chemicals in one fertilizer, it produces a dependable combination of fast feeding for quick results and slow feeding for lasting economical results.

As stated above, these elements can be obtained from various sources, but the sources are highly important because they control the rate of release or feeding.

Sources of Slow-Feeding Organics


Phosphate – helps produce strong flower stems


  • Wood ashes (Related Reading: Is Wood Ash Good For Roses?)
  • Dried manure

*Dried blood is an especially excellent source of organic nitrogen for rose culture.

Sources of Fast-Acting Chemicals


  • Sulfate of ammonia
  • Nitrate of soda
  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Urea


  • Phosphate
  • Phosphate rock


  • Muriate of potash
  • Potassium nitrate

Plants, like humans, can have what could be termed “vitamin deficiencies.” One of the foods or nutrients that roses need but often miss is the minor or “trace” elements.

These are the minerals:

To make sure in your rose care that your roses get these elements, buy your rose flower fertilizer from a well-informed dealer who can tell you definitely whether or not their rose food contains trace elements.

Like all other things, fertilizers come in all qualities and prices. You usually get what you pay for. Cheap fertilizers produce questionable results.

In these days of self-service shopping, remember to study the package, follow the label instructions, and, if possible, ask questions of the store manager.

In this way, you make sure the rose plant foods chosen contain organics and minor elements in addition to chemicals. A bloom booster food has its place, but a balanced fertilizer provides the best overall.

Related: What Is The Cause Of Rose Leaves Turning Yellow?

10 Natural Fertilizer For Roses In Pots and The Ground

Roses are generally considered heavy feeders due to their large nutrient intake, which positively affects their health and size.

Therefore, ensuring that they have the required nutrients and minerals is vital for a beautiful rose garden.

TIP: Rose gardeners fertilize roses at the start of early spring for vigorous growth and repeat-blooming roses, making sure their roses begin the growing season with a consistent supply of rose food.

The more roses feed, the more they bloom with abundant flower production. Roses can survive without much fertilizer, but they will struggle to develop into the beautiful plants they are.

A natural or homemade rose food provides nutrients roses require for healthy root development and strong plants.

Without exception, when growing roses with vigorous growth and dark green foliage on miniature roses, hybrid teas, species roses, knockout roses, and others, all begin by feeding roses a constant supply of quality fertilizer to the root zone.

Remember, it’s best to start fertilizing your roses at the first sign of foliage after the last winter’s frost. Then, stop feeding them eight weeks before your first frost date to avoid new growth that cold temperatures will damage. 

A calendar is an excellent way to keep track of your fertilizing schedule!

Banana Peels: One Of The Best Fertilizer For Roses

Eating a banana helps one replenish lost potassium. This is the same case for roses. 

Banana peels contain high levels of potassium, which roses need. Simply throw a peel in the hole before planting the rose.

You can also bury a peel 4” to 6” under the soil for them to compost naturally. Bananas help roses bloom more as it releases potassium as they decompose.

Remember that a lack of potassium can result in poorly developed buds, yellow leaf margins, and weak flower stems.

Using Coffee Grounds On Roses

Roses are acid-loving plants. Mix coffee grounds into the soil. It is the nitrogen that helps fertilize roses to develop strong roots.

Sprinkle used grounds of coffee on the soil before watering or pour a liquid fertilizer / water-soluble fertilizer version on the soil.

If you fertilize roses using coffee in a liquid fertilizer soil drench, soak 6 cups of coffee grinds in five gallons of water.

Let the solution rest for 2-3 days, and then saturate the soil around the plant.

Make An Organic Food For Roses From Used Coffee

You can also make organic fertilizer from the ground of used coffee. You will need used coffee grinds, a cookie sheet, and a newspaper.

  • Line the cookie sheet with the newspaper
  • Spread the grounds on the sheet and allow them to dry completely
  • Sprinkle the ground coffee around the base of the rose plant. Avoid overdoing it, as too much acid is not good for the plant.

Coffee grounds work because they are rich in nitrogen, magnesium (Epsom salt – Magnesium sulfate), and potassium which are all important nutrients. This is an addition to their acidic nature.

Use A Seaweed All Purpose Fertilizer

Seaweed does not need to be washed to remove the salt. Both the dried and fresh versions are considered excellent soil amendments. Kelp meal, for example, contains trace elements, and it serves as a food source for soil microbes.

Chop a small bucket of seaweed and soak it in five gallons of water, loosely covered. Allow the rose mixture to steep for two to three days.

Use the mixture to drench the foliage and soil.

  • 2 cups work well for a small plant
  • 4 cups for medium size plants
  • 6 cups for large plants

Use Weeds As Natural Food

Nettles, horsetail, yellow dock, chickweed, and comfrey make wonderful homemade rose fertilizers. Weeds can be used in several ways to make your own fertilizer or speed up a compost pile.

If the weeds have not flowered, they can be dried in the sun and chopped up to use as mulch. The weeds are highly rich in nitrogen and will not rob plants of nutrients.

Starflowers (borage) can also be used as weeds. It has the same nutritional properties as comfrey.

The entire plant is dried and put in the compost tumbler. It helps to break down everything and gives extra heat to the compost.

Weeds can also be soaked in water. Place the weeds and add water until the weed is fully covered.

Stir weekly and wait for 3-5 weeks for the content to be thick and gooey. Dilute the goo in a ratio of 1:10 and use it as a drench fertilizer.

Add Molasses To Compost Tea

The use of molasses in the composting tea recipes increases the microbes that benefit the bacteria feeding on those microbes.

It’s simple to come up with this molasses fertilizer. Just add one or two teaspoons of molasses to a gallon of water. Water your roses with this mixture for healthier and bigger growth.

Use of Human Urine

This may sound absurd, but if it’s from a healthy human body free of diseases, it’s considered sterile to the roses.

Human urine is rich in nitrogen and urea that contains high levels of potassium and phosphorous. Higher than any fertilizer you can buy from a local vendor.

The ratio of water to urine should be 8:1. Collect a cup of urine and pour it into eight cups of water in a watering can for fertilizing roses.

Pour two cups of the mixture around a small rose, four around a medium plant, and six for a large rose.

Using the Grass Clippings

The grass is rich in nitrogen and breaks down with time to enhance your soil. Fill a five-gallon bucket with the grass clippings. You can also add weeds too.

Weeds, as discussed earlier, soak up nutrients from the soil just like grass. Add water at the top of the bucket and let it stay for one day or two.

Put one cup of your liquid grass fertilizer into 10 cups of water and apply two cups for a small rose, four for a medium one, and six for a large rose.

Using Animal Manure To Make Compost Tea

This is one of the fertilizers that is used widely. The composted chicken, cow, or horse manure is beneficial to your roses. The more your manure is composted and aged, the better as a fertilizer it becomes.

Add composted manure to a small permeable bag or use an old towel or T-shirt. Make compost teas by placing the “bagged manure” in a 5-gallon bucket of water and placing it under shade for steeping.

After a few days, apply it to the soil to condition it before you plant it. Remember to discard the bag you used. You can also use manure tea for soaking barefoot roses.

Using Dog And Cat Food

Depending on the type of dog or cat food you use, this may not be considered an organic fertilizer. 

However, even the cheap stuff used to feed dogs and cats contains micro-nutrients and proteins that are beneficial to the soil.

After you have prepared your garden for planting, sprinkle the dry pet food on the bed. Then turn the water and soil and let it decay naturally.

Cover it with cardboard until they decompose to protect the foods from being eaten by wild animals that may visit your garden.

The cardboard is good for trapping moisture and discouraging the development of weeds in your garden. Make sure that the cardboard is wet all the way through, plus cover it with mulch.

Ensure that it’s watered thoroughly every week for 4 weeks. This will leave your soil healthy and fertile for your roses to thrive in.

Alfalfa meal pellets and soybean from the grain store will also work great for your natural organic fertilizer preparation. Check the food use for salt content to avoid pet foods that contain high levels of sodium.

Dry foods containing a minimum of 3% sodium are recommended to support normal growth and development.

Use Fish Tank Water

Fish tank water contains high levels of nitrogen that roses need very much. So instead of pouring the water after cleaning the fish tank, you can replace your regular rose watering with the fish tank water.

Don’t use excessively dirty water or any moldy water. Some people use a fish tank as a replacement for fish fertilizer or fish emulsion.

While they don’t administer the same kind and amount of benefits, both would serve as great sources.

Use Worm Castings To Make “Worm Tea”

It’s easy to make homemade worm tea. Starting with a handful of red wiggler worms, set them up with some cardboard and kitchen leftovers.

This will remove toxins and harmful bacteria from the soil that will help fight the diseases that may attack your roses. It also helps to reduce the heavy metal that may be found in organic waste.

Worm casting is rich in nutrients, as a little tablespoon can provide enough nutrients to feed 6″ inch-potted plants for more than 2 months. Watch the video here to see how easy it is to prepare worm casting.

Roses require nitrogen and phosphorus, and potassium for them to develop into healthy and colorful plants that they are. 

The ordinary fertilizers readily available may have a negative effect on your plants or even make them die.

If possible, always use natural organic fertilizer to ensure your environment is safe and that plant gets the nutrients they require.

Avoid administering excessive amounts of organic or synthetic fertilizers on your rose bushes. This may lead to more healthy foliage growth on the plant, and fewer rose flowers.

This will also save you the cost of buying fertilizers, as some of the materials used for the preparation are readily available around your home. Try them for the best roses in your garden.

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