Rose Gardening, Planting Roses, Pruning Roses, Growing Roses

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How To Plant Roses

Get your roses off to the best possible start by choosing their growing site carefully and then planting them using the techniques most suitable for your climate. Bare-root rose plants--those sold without soil--offer the best value and grow quickly after planting.

Tools and Materials
  • Bare-root rose plant
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel or spade
  • Wheelbarrow or tarp
  • Soil amendments, see text
  • Water source, hose or bucket
  • Organic mulch, such as shredded bark
    Choose the planting site.
    Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sun each day, although some afternoon shade is best in hot climates. Plant them in a spot where air can circulate and dry their leaves soon after a rain, and give them fertile soil that drains quickly.

    Determine the depth to plant.
    Most rose plants consist of two parts: the rootstock and the flowering canes. The bulge where the parts join, called the graft union, gets planted just at or below ground level, depending on your climate. Where winter temperatures drop to -10F or colder, plant the graft union 4 to 6 inches deep. In warmer climates, place it just at or slightly above the soil surface.

    Dig the hole.
    Keep the rose roots cool and moist while you dig the planting hole. The hole should be deep enough to set the graft union at the proper depth and at least wide enough to allow the roots to extend without bending. Put the removed soil in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.

    Amend the soil.
    Very sandy or heavy clay soils benefit from the addition of organic material. Mix the soil from the planting hole with 25 percent compost and 25 percent composted bark plus a few handfuls of composted manure. Mix well. Get your roses off to the best possible start by choosing their growing site carefully and then planting them using the techniques most suitable for your climate. Bare-root rose plants--those sold without soil--offer the best value and grow quickly after planting. Partially fill the hole with the soil mix, making a cone or mound in the center over which to drape the roots.

    Set the rose in the hole.
    Adjust the height of the cone so that the graft union is at the right level, as determined using the guidelines above. Spread the roots evenly around the cone.

    Backfill and water.
    Holding the rose at the right planting depth, fill the hole with soil, working it carefully around the roots. When the hole is nearly full, water thoroughly to settle the soil. Finish filling the hole and create a low ring of soil around the perimeter of the hole. Water again. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch in a circle around the plant, taking care to keep the mulch 3 to 4 inches away from the canes. Water as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist until the rose resumes vigorous growth.

    After your roses become dormant in the fall, protect them from severe freezing weather by piling a mound of soil over the canes. Lay down climbing rose canes and cover them, too. Buy non-grafted or "own-root" roses if you live where temperatures drop to -20oF or colder. These roses can often grow back from their roots if their tops die from winter cold.

When and how to prune roses:

Prune Roses In The Spring: Some Basic Rules
Cut stems at an angle. Cut about 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud at a 45-degree angle. Dab pruning seal (white glue will work) on the pruning cuts to seal them, especially if you live where rose borers are a problem.

Cutting above an outward-facing bud forces growth up and away from the center of the plant, improving air circulation, which reduces pest problems. Wait until early spring when buds swell and are easy to spot.

Cut back to live tissue. After you cut, examine the pithy tissue in the center. Is it white and healthy clear through? If not, cut back farther.

Remove dead branches completely. Brown and shriveled canes stand out like sore thumbs. Cut them to the base, using a saw if necessary.

Never give a sucker an even break. Suckers are vigorous canes growing from the rootstock below the graft union on grafted roses. Cut these off to the main stem, even if you have to dig away some soil to get to them.

Kinds of roses
The preceding guidelines would allow you to do a pretty good job of pruning any rose. But knowing the idiosyncrasies of the different kinds of roses also helps.

Hybrid teas and grandifloras
Keep the thickest green canes evenly spaced around the bush. Prune out all canes with diameters less than a pencil width and old, brown canes that tend to be less productive. A new hybrid tea should have three to five canes left. Grandifloras such as 'Queen Elizabeth' and older hybrid teas can support six to eight canes.

Later in the season you'll be pruning again when you're make bouquets for indoors. Cut so that you've a long enough stem for a vase but don't remove too many leaves. Try to leave at least two 5-leaflet leaves on the remaining stem. Therefore the ideal place to cut is just above an outward growing bud and/or the uppermost 5-leaflet leaf.

Floribundas and polyanthas
Leave six to eight main canes, and remove most of the twiggy growth in the center of the bush. Compared to hybrid teas and grandifloras, leave more minor branches, especially toward the top of the plant. Prune the remaining canes to give the plant a rounded shape.

Climbing roses
Don't prune any climber, except to remove dead or broken branches, for two or three years. That's enough time for the plant to develop strong branches that can produce flowers for many years. On established plants, prune dead or damaged branches to the base.

Train main branches to grow as horizontally as possible. How you do this varies with your situation. Imagine the arching canes of a climbing rose along a split-rail fence; canes arching in this fashion produce many more flowers than canes growing straight up.

The two most common types of climbing roses are the naturally vigorous mutations (sports) of hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas, and those simply called "large-flowered climbers." Both types produce flowers on long-lived side branches (laterals) off the main canes. Flowers develop on the side branches. In late winter or early spring, shorten those laterals to about 6 inches.

Shrub roses
Modern shrub roses require minimal maintenance. Vigorous plants can be pruned more, while slow-growing plants should be pruned less. Some, like 'Carefree Beauty' and some of the Meidiland series, require only light annual pruning.

Some need no regular pruning at all. If you have a few plants indoors, use narrow-bladed pruning shears (or scissors) to prune and shape. For miniatures used as landscape plants, use hedge shears to maintain size.

Old-fashioned heirlooms
How and when to prune depends somewhat on the type. Alba: Prune after spring flowering. Bourbon and Portland: Just before spring growth, shorten main canes by a third and side shoots to three buds. Centifolia and moss: After blooms fade in spring, shorten main canes and side shoots. China: In winter, remove twiggy growth and shorten main canes by a third. Damask: After spring flowering, remove twiggy growth and cut back laterals to three buds. Gallica: Just before spring growth and after spring flowering, remove twiggy growth. Hybrid perpetual: After spring blooms fade, cut back main shoots by a third and shorten side shoots. Tea: Just before spring growth, remove twiggy growth and shorten main canes by a third.

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