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In the Garden

Planting Roses: A "How To" Guide

O.K., so you dig a hole and drop in the rose and that's it, right?! Well, you could plant your rose that way, but chances are your rose just might not grow real well. So, we've got a few pointers for you -- from the basics that you might have heard or read about before, to a few tricks and tips we've learned along the way.

Planting a Rose

Planting a bareroot roseFirst thing to know is that roses can be purchased two different ways: bareroot or in a container. If you ordered your rose through the mail, then it's probably bareroot, meaning it arrived dormant (no leaves) and wasn't in a container. If you picked up your rose at your local nursery, then it's probably in a container.

Bareroot roses have different planting needs than container or potted roses. So, we've got two sets of "what to do first" instructions described below. After that, we move on to the basics of digging in the dirt.

Don't worry about any of this -- remember to have fun! All we're basically doing is digging a hole in the ground and putting a rose in it, then filling in the hole with dirt again. We just elaborate on the digging part a bit.

Preparing Your New Rose for Planting

Bareroot Rose

Bareroot roses are shipped when they are dormant. They aren't actively growing but they need your immediate attention as soon as you receive them.

First, take your rose out of the package and check it over. Cut off any broken canes or roots that might have been damaged during shipping.

Next, soak your rose in a pail of room-temperature water (keep all roots immersed) for at least four hours, but no more than 24 hours, before you plant. Soaking helps to rehydrate the plant. You may want to add a biostimulant such as ROOTST or SuperThriveT or a Vitamin B solution to the water to reduce transplant shock and encourage growth.

If you can't plant your roses right away, soak your rose in water for four hours, then place it in a plastic bag. Keep the top of the bag open, and store the plants in a cool (40 to 50 F), dark place; your basement or garage may be a suitable place. Keep the plant moist-not soaking wet-by misting it daily. Also, don't let it overheat or freeze.

Try to plant your bareroot roses as soon as possible! If you have to store your plants for more than two weeks, plant them in 2-gallon containers and keep them well-watered and protected from the wind.

Container Rose

If you purchased container-grown roses, remember that they are actively growing and have probably been watered every day at the nursery. So, don't neglect them! If you can't plant your potted roses right away, make sure they are watered every day -- they can dry out fast. And, keep them in full sun.

Selecting a Place to Plant Your Rose

Roses are tough plants, but they will grow best under the right conditions. To produce the best show of blossoms, roses need at least 6 hours of full sun daily; preferably in the morning to dry the leaves and reduce the risk of foliage disease. Also, try not to plant the roses next to large trees, because they will compete with the roses for sun, water and nutrients.

The planting site should have soil that drains well. If water puddles at the site for more than an hour after it rains, you'll need to improve the drainage. Placing tiles, french drains, or gravel two to three feet below the planting hole can help improve drainage.

Make sure the site you select will accommodate the eventual size of the mature rose plant. A good rule of thumb is to always give the plant a foot more space than you think it will need. Giving your plant extra space will also increase air circulation around the plant, and help reduce foliage disease.

Preparing the Site

First, prepare the planting site by removing all other vegetation-either mechanically or chemically. A little extra work now will save you a lot of weeding time later.

Second, incorporate lots of organic matter. No matter what type of soil you have, you can improve it with organic matter. Compost is one of the best sources of organic matter and it is readily available either in bags from your local garden center, or from your neighborhood leaf-composting center. Composted manure is a great soil amendment; however, make sure it is well-cured so it doesn't burn the roots. Roses are heavy feeders, so be generous with compost.

Planting Your Rose

  • Prepare the planting site by removing all other vegetation-either mechanically or chemically. A little extra work now will save you a lot of weeding time later.

  • Dig a hole. The hole you dig for your rose plant should be at least 1 feet deep by 1 feet wide (yes, that's big) with a mound in the center of the hole on which to place your rose. A large hole allows you to spread out the roots without bending or wrapping them. Keep the topsoil from this hole (first eight inches of dirt) and discard the rest.

  • Mix the topsoil that you took out of the hole with well-cured compost or very good black soil (50:50 ratio) and one-half cup of bone meal or phosphorous (0-20-0). Blend this mix well.

  • Place the plant in the hole to a depth that will keep all the roots about one or two inches below the soil line after the hole is filled in. Spread or fan the roots over the mound in the bottom of the hole. If the roots wrap around the bottom of the hole you can do two things: a) dig a deeper hole to accomodate the roots, or b) prune the roots to fit the hole (as long as the hole is at least 1 feet deep).

  • Refill one-third of the hole with the amended soil, and lightly firm the soil around the plant (no stomping, please!) Then fill up the rest of the hole with the remaining soil and gently press down.

  • Water, water, water. Slowly pour about two or three gallons of water over and around the base of the plant or until it pools on top of the soil. If the water is running away from the plant and not soaking in, make a one-inch-high wall of soil around the circumference of the plant about one foot from the center. This will keep the water from running away and allow it to soak in around the plant. The most important thing you can give your new rose is water. Water settles the soil around the root system, and helps the roots transport nutrients to the plant.

  • IMPORTANT STEP THAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED: Mound up soil over the crown of the plant to about six-inches high so that at least two inches of the canes show. Keep the soil there for about two weeks-it will help keep the newly planted rose from drying out. After two weeks, gently pull or wash away the soil mound. Be careful with this process-new leaf buds can be easily knocked off.

  • Prune canes back so that only a few inches appear above the soilPrune back the top of the plant so that there are only 3 to 4 inches of canes showing above the mounded soil. long. Prune back to a bud that faces out—this encourages the new growth to grow out rather than into the center of the plant.

  • Place mulch around the base of the plant about three inches thick. Some good types of mulch include: wood chips/bark, compost or cocoa bean hulls. Mulch reduces moisture loss, adds organic matter, suppresses weed growth and keeps the feeder roots of your roses cool.

Important!! Newly planted roses are very vulnerable to heat and dry weather, so shelter them from wind and keep them well watered so they don't dry out.

What's Next? O.K., so now you've planted your rose. Want to know how to make them grow? Check out our previously published article on fertilizing and other cultural information available on this Web site:

This page was last updated January 11, 2014

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