Now is the time to plant roses

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.

For Release On Or After 02/18/11

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Gardeners often wait until April or May to purchase blooming roses from nurseries and plant them. But earlier planting has advantages. If you’re thinking about adding roses to your garden, here is some advice that will help you get them off to a good start.

Roses are sold in containers or with bare roots and generally become available at nurseries around January. Buy the highest quality bushes available. It is well worth the extra cost for a healthy, vigorous plant that will produce lots of flowers.

It’s 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 earlier planting is much better.

The great advantage of early planting is that rose bushes have a chance to grow new roots and begin to get established before they begin to bloom. They also have more time to settle in before the intense heat of summer arrives. Both blooming and heat place stress on the plants and make establishment more difficult for them. So the more time they have to make new roots before blooming and the onset of high temperatures, the better.

When deciding what kind of roses to grow, first determine 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 or landscape roses, polyantha roses and floribunda roses.

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

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

When placing roses in your landscape, you must consider the growing conditions they need in order to do well. Don’t plant roses in partly shady or shady areas. They must have at least six to eight hours of sun to perform up to your expectations. Any shade they receive should, ideally, 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, carefully prepare the area where they will be planted.

– First remove unwanted vegetation (weeds, turfgrass, etc.) 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 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 3-inch to 4-inch layer of sand could also 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 be need to be added to your soil, have it tested through your local parish LSU AgCenter Extension office.

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

To plant roses

For bare-root roses, remove the roots from the wrapper and place the roots 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 (the large knob on the lower part of the 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.

For container roses, dig a hole in the prepared 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 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 root ball in the hole. Its top should be level with or slightly above the top of the soil in the bed. Make sure the graft union is about 2 inches above soil level. Fill in around the root ball and firm the soil with your hand.

Whether planting bare-root or container roses, once they are in the ground, water-in the plants thoroughly to finish settling the soil, then mulch the area about 2 or 3 inches deep with your favorite mulch.

Rick Bogren

1/31/2011 11:13:37 PM
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