Now Is Time To Plant Roses

Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  4/22/2005 12:35:27 AM

Get It Growing News For 02/04/05

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Around the world, there is no better loved or more recognizable flower in the plant kingdom than the rose, and now is a good time to plant them.

It you are thinking about adding roses to your garden, here’s some information that will help you get them off to a good start.

First, decide how you want to use roses in the landscape and why you intend to grow them. The trend these days is to incorporate roses into landscape plantings just like any other shrub. This works particularly well with the old garden roses, shrub roses, landscape roses, polyantha roses and floribunda roses.

If you want to grow roses with perfect flowers on long stems for cutting, you probably will choose the hybrid tea and grandiflora roses. These rose bushes often have rather awkward shapes that do not combine easily with other plants. That, along with their exacting cultural requirements, is why these roses often are grown in separate beds.

If you want to train roses on a trellis, arbor or fence, you’ll want to choose rose cultivars from the climbers, ramblers and old garden roses that produce long vigorous canes.

When placing roses in your landscape, you also must consider the growing conditions they need to do well. Do not plant roses in partly shady or shady areas. They must have at least six hours to eight hours of sun to perform up to your expectations. Any shade they receive ideally should come in the afternoon. Morning sun helps dry the foliage early in the day, which can help reduce disease problems. Roses also need excellent drainage, so avoid low areas that stay wet.

Whether planting your roses into a bed devoted exclusively to them or including them in existing beds with other types of plants, prepare the area where they will be planted carefully. Here are some tips:

–First, remove unwanted vegetation (weeds, turfgrass and so forth) from the area. You may use the herbicide glyphosate to kill unwanted plants if they are green and growing.

–Turn the soil at least 8 inches to 10 inches deep.

–Spread amendments over the turned soil. Add at least 2 inches of organic matter, such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, rotted manure or finely ground pine bark. Next, sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer appropriate to your area over the bed, according to label directions, and thoroughly dig everything into the soil of the bed. If the soil is heavy clay, a 2-inch to 3-inch layer of sand also could be added. Sulfur should be applied if the pH of the soil is over 7. Lime is needed if the pH is lower than 5.5 and calcium levels are low. To find what might need to be added to your soil, have it tested through your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office.

–Thoroughly blend the amendments into the existing soil and rake smooth.

You also may choose to build a raised bed and fill it with a purchased topsoil or garden soil mix. This can work very well, especially if drainage needs to be improved and you want to grow your roses together in a bed. Choose a high quality soil mix rich in decayed organic matter such as compost.

Roses are sold in containers or "bare root" and they generally become available at nurseries around January.

Buy the highest quality bushes available, preferably 1 grade or 1½ grade. It is well worth the extra cost for a healthy, vigorous plant that will produce lots of flowers.

It is best to purchase and plant roses in late winter or early spring so they can get established before beginning to bloom.

Avoid purchasing bare-root roses after February when they have already begun to sprout in the package. Container roses can be planted as late as May with acceptable results, but an earlier planting is much better.

Planting Roses

To bare-root roses, remove the roots from the wrapper and put the roots down in a bucket of water. Dig a hole in a well-prepared bed as deep and wide as the root system. Place a cone of soil in the hole, position the plant over the cone and spread the roots out over it. Hold the plant in place so the graft union (large knob on lower part of plant) is about 2 inches higher than the soil of the bed. Use your other hand to push and firm soil into the hole to cover the roots. Make sure the graft union is 2 inches above soil level when you finish.

To plant container roses, dig a hole in the bed about the same size as the root-ball in the container. Slide the plant out of the container. Sometimes roses have not been potted up long enough for their roots to fill the container and hold the soil together. If the soil falls away, that’s OK. Just follow the procedure for bare-root roses. Otherwise, put the rootball in the hole. Its top should be level with the soil of the bed. Make sure the graft union is 2 inches above soil level. Fill in around the rootball and firm with your hand.

In either case, water plants in thoroughly to finish settling the soil and then mulch.

Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.


Contact:     Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or
Editor:        Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

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