Alfalfa on Roses

– Posted in: Garden chores, Roses

cluster of pink rose blossoms

Cape Diamond, purchased from Der Rosenmeister in Ithaca, NY last year

Today I put alfalfa pellets around my roses and scratched it into the soil. The odd thing was, I couldn’t remember why I was doing it. I knew I had read, or had been told, that it was good to give roses some alfalfa as they’re just leafing out. But I couldn’t remember where I had read it, or who had told me, or how, exactly, alfalfa would help my roses.

If you’ve been gardening for any length of time, a multitude of these routines accumulate after a while. Often they are based on research, or on the little booklet that came with the plant, or because your dad always did it that way. Follow the same maintenance care for a plant–or a garden–for a decade or so, and I guarantee the “why” of what you are doing, at least for some things, will fade into oblivion.

That’s why we have books like The Truth About Garden Remedies and The Informed Gardener. That’s also why we have search engines on the internet.

According to Rayford Reddell, as alfalfa decomposes it yields triacontanol, which acts as a growth stimulant, encouraging basal breaks. Basal breaks is rosarian-speak for “increased vigor and flower production.” Now, I know I didn’t know that before, but I’m glad I found out.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Cheryl April 26, 2010, 5:27 pm

I’ve used ground up alfalfa as a mulch around the roses, it both feeds them and helps retain moisture.
.-= Cheryl´s last blog ..2010 Flower Subscriptions Available =-.

Monica C. Webster April 26, 2010, 9:31 am

Excellent. I’d never heard of that one before, but will definitely try it!

MissTammy April 25, 2010, 8:19 pm

Epsom salts encourage basal breaking, too. I wonder if alfalfa and epsom salts would be too much? I liek the idea of fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Sasha April 25, 2010, 7:11 am

Alfalfa on Roses, no. Nothing what i, my mother or grandma do.
But i agree with the tea, or whatever it was to the bushes, but never some other plants between her beloved roses.
She had really plenty of them in nearly all possible colors. For me that was the time why i started to love roses and all in all my gardenwork.
I don’t know very much about so things. For me it is a Hobby. But at least i have a lot of bloomer Orchids who comes always again. Maybe thats nothing special. But for me it’s very important and says for me, that i do everything right in my garden.

Happy gardening 🙂
.-= Sasha´s last blog ..Ogtong Cave Beach Resort in Santa Fe =-.

Leslie April 24, 2010, 10:22 pm

I didn’t know that either…and I do it each spring also. Thanks Kathy! Wonder how long I’ll remember that…
.-= Leslie´s last blog ..What’s Wrong With My Lemon Tree? =-.

Liz April 24, 2010, 12:30 pm

It’s nice to know why we do some gardening practices. So many old practices really don’t do anything–I remember one person asking me if adding a type of fertilizer to tomatoes would stop blossom end rot, and it would actually make it worse.

Nancy Bond April 24, 2010, 12:37 am

I believe alfalfa also fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is why so many farmers grow alfalfa crops and plow them under. It is my understanding that it also encourages worm activity…a good thing. 🙂 I’m sure your roses will love it. I remember my aunt making a foul smelling “tea” for her rose bushes and I’m sure it had alfalfa (and heaven knows what else!) in it, if memory serves correctly.
.-= Nancy Bond´s last blog ..What Makes a Post “Legitimately Good”? =-.