When to Fertilize Roses and Peonies

Updated: Jun. 06, 2023

Are your rose blooms looking a bit droopy? Learn when to fertilize roses for strong, healthy plants. Plus get tips for fertilizing peonies.

Ask the Experts: When to Fertilize Your Roses

when to fertilize roses NewdawndavidaustinrosesDavid Austin Roses
New Dawn climbing rose

I have six David Austin English roses in my yard. A couple of them have blooms that droop over and hang almost upside down. What causes this?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Gayle Romines of Greenbackville, Virginia.

Horticultural expert Melinda Myers: Large rose blossoms, common on many David Austin roses, often nod or droop. This does vary with varieties. As the plant matures and stems become thicker, the plant provides better support for the blossoms and the drooping is less noticeable.

Prune the plants by no more than half in the winter, and fertilize roses twice a year with a low-nitrogen, organically based fertilizer. These steps will promote sturdy growth without interfering with flowering.

Did You Know: David Austin roses are known for being beautiful, yet easy to maintain.

Check out the best types of roses for every garden.

Fertilize and Revive Peonies

Bnbbyc19 Nick MischoCourtesy Nick Mischo
Peonies in bloom

“Is there any way to revive my 50-year-old peony plant?” asks Hazel Maki of Menominee, Michigan.

Melinda Myers: Peonies can survive many decades when grown in sunny spots with well-draining soils. Increasing shade or competition from tree roots may be causing your plant to decline. If this is the case, move it to a sunnier location this fall.

Prepare the soil before planting, as your peony may stay in place for 50 years or more. Make sure the eyes, the growing points at the base of the stems, are no more than an inch below the soil surface. If the plant is receiving sufficient sunlight (six or more hours), it may need a nutrient boost. Consider adding a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer to the soil in spring. This will encourage slow, steady growth, but will not interfere with flowering.

How to Problem Solve: If a plant you’ve had for years is suddenly not growing well, check if its growing conditions have changed. A mature tree may be casting more shade, or an especially rainy season can affect how well established plants grow and bloom.

Next, learn how to grow peonies in pots and containers.