Preparation Timeline for the Upcoming Rose Shows

By John Mueller, Editor, “Tampa Talks Roses”, April 2012
(Adapted for the Tenarky District Rose Shows)


Crescendo, hybrid tea
Crescendo, hybrid tea
Photo courtesy of Weeks Roses
The the local Societies of the Tenarky District of the American Rose Society host several Rose Shows each year. Schedules for the rose shows are on the district website at

For our novice exhibitors, the following preparation timeline will be very helpful in your quest to garner your first blue ribbon or maybe even the Queen of Show! It has been done before!

3 Weeks before the Rose Show

1. Walk through your garden to find “contenders” with long, straight stems and fully closed buds that may be ready in time for the show.
2. Prep the contenders by removing all the side growth at the various leaf axils.
3. Make sure the best canes have an unobstructed opening to be able to grow upright by moving or removing any “blocking” growth.
4. If any important canes are growing at an angle, stake them upright using bamboo stakes and twist ties.
5. Apply Epsom salts and fish emulsion at the rate of 2 Tbs. per gallon and one-half gallon per bush.
6. Remove the center bud from floribunda sprays in order to make the spray more symmetrical.

2 Weeks before the Rose Show

1. Apply chelated iron such as Sequestrene at the rate described on the label. Stop applying fertilizers that contain nitrogen or use low nitrogen, high phosphorus fertilizer.
2. Begin a conscientious effort to remove all side growth. This should be done each day but no less frequently than every other day.
3. Water your rose bushes every day or every other day from now until the rose show.
4. Recheck your staked canes as the twist ties may have to be adjusted because of the cane’s growth.
5. Straighten the necks of the blooms as necessary using either bamboo sticks or skewers and twist ties as a splint.
6. Continue watering and spraying your fungicides. Also, use your insecticides if you see a problem with insects. You can continue liquid fertilizer such as Miracle Grow , Peters or any other liquid fertilizer.
7.  Apply Epsom salts and fish emulsion at the rate of 2 Tbs. per gallon and one-half gallon per bush.
8.  Remove the center bud from floribunda sprays in order to make the spray more symmetrical.

7-10 Days before the Rose Show

1. Spray your bushes early in the week. Do not use powders in your spray, as that will have to be removed from the leaves before the bloom is entered into the show.
2. Just before dark each evening, mist the buds that are about to “show color” as well as opening blooms, with Orthene and Conserve to reduce the damage caused by thrips. The rate of application should be 1/4 tsp. of Orthene and 1/4 tsp. of Conserve SC per quart of water.
3. Make sure your grooming kit is complete.
4. Study the show schedule to determine
5. Attach your name and address stickers, as well as rubber bands to the entry tags that you obtained in advance.
6. Check your garden for blooms at the proper stage to cut. After you have cut your blooms re-cut them underwater to prevent the intrusion of air bubbles into the stem. If you cut some blooms a few days before the show, you may need to refrigerate them, inside a plastic bag, to slow down or preserve their exhibition stage quality. (Some red roses do not refrigerate well.)
7. Make a list of the blooms you have cut and be certain that you have the correct spelling of their names.
8. Clean and trim the foliage on your cut specimens. Do all of your grooming, except for the bloom, at home, as you will not have as much space and time at the rose show.

The Day of the Show

1. Arrive at the show early in order to obtain sufficient space.
2. Make sure that the vases are full of water.
3. Place your roses in vases together with an entry tag containing the correct name.
4. Position the stem to the proper height. (HT’s about 27 to 29 inches overall height from the top of the table).
5. Enter your sprays and fully open blooms early to free up table space.
6. Select blooms that are not yet at “exhibition stage” or too “tight” and start the procedures early to open them.
7. Select your best 4 to 6 blooms and set them aside to enter at the last minute for Queen. Take the remainder of your blooms and enter them in the “Challenge” classes and “Collections”.
8. Don’t forget to enter classes for fully open, floating bowl, artist’s palette, picture frame, etc.
9. Save your Miniatures for entry last as they usually open faster.
10. Ten to fifteen minutes before the entry deadline, stop working on your roses! Carry your remaining entries to the classification table.
11. Put your “un-entered” roses into a bucket of water and give them to the Society to sell during the show.
12. Clean up your work area and carry your grooming materials to your car.
13. Come back and help clean up the preparation area.
14. Now is the time to relax and enjoy talking to your fellow exhibitors or help by being a judge’s clerk.

Bowling Green Rose Society Editor’s Note: Even if you don’t plan to exhibit, go to one of these shows and enjoy the beautiful roses, ask questions, and make new rose friends. Then save this article to use for the rose show!!!

Source: This article appeared in the April 2012 edition of “Tampa Talks”, the newsletter of the Tampa Rose Society, John Meller, Author and Editor. It was adapted for the September 2018 issue of “Rosebuds”, the newsletter of the Bowling Green Rose Society, Mary Ann Hext, Editor.