Planting Bareroot Roses

Falling in Love™ Rose is new this year, available from Dutch Gardens.

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“Petals are a romantic shade of warm pink with a creamy reverse. The perfume is a heady blend of traditional rose fragrance and the aroma of fruit” That’s how the catalog describes the new rose variety called Falling in Love. The dormant shrub—newly arrived on my doorstep—reveals none of this potential. It’s difficult to imagine that the bare roots and leafless canes in the plastic bag will ever deliver on the catalog’s promises.

Planting a dormant, bareroot rose requires a leap of faith from novice gardeners. Experienced gardeners know that the thick roots will anchor themselves firmly and leafy buds will burst from the waxy green canes within weeks. With proper planting and care, this shrub will bloom for many years.

How bareroot roses look before planting. This one is Maria Stern, an especially hardy variety.

Site selection, soil preparation, and planting technique are the initial secrets to success. The ideal garden site gets at least 6 hours of direct sun a day and is open to allow summer breezes to pass through. The rich, fertile soil drains quickly, but holds moisture.

It’s critical to keep the rose plant hydrated until its roots can take up water on their own. Prompt planting hastens the process. I’ll get my Falling in Love rose into the soil within a day or two or spritz it with water and keep it cool and wrapped in its plastic bag. Before planting, I’ll soak the roots in a bucket of tepid water for a couple of hours. If the rose is dehydrated, experts recommend soaking the entire plant—canes and all—for up to eight hours. It’s best to trim broken roots back to healthy tissue and prune the canes so that each one has three to five buds. This step encourages strong growth and branching.

I expect this rose to live in my garden for years, so now’s the time to prepare the soil. My planting hole is two times wider than the root spread and 15” to 18” deep. To increase the fertility, I add 1 part compost or composted manure to every 3 or 4 parts of the removed soil plus a handful of bone meal and 5 cups each of alfalfa and soybean meals.

The roots and canes join at the knobby graft union. The planting depth depends on your growing zone.

After mixing, I make a cone of soil in the hole using the enriched backfill and set the roots over it. I adjust the height of the cone so that the graft union (see illustration) is 2-3″ below the surface to protect it from freezing. In Zones 6 and warmer, the graft can be placed just above the soil surface. Hold the rose at the proper height while backfilling the hole. Press the soil lightly around the roots, and then water thoroughly to settle the soil. Adding more backfill to level the soil.

To prevent the rose from drying out during the first few weeks after planting, I make a raised ring of soil around the outside of the planting hole to retain water. In addition, I’ll pile 6-8″ of soil around the base of the plant covering the graft union and lower canes to keep the canes moist and encourage bud break. After three to four weeks, I’ll gently wash the mound away and level the soil ring as the buds begin to grow.

Nurturing new rose bushes for the first month or two is well worth the effort. By mid- to late-summer, I expect these leafless canes to be filled with ruffled petals, intoxicating fragrance, and dark green foliage that fulfill the catalog’s promise.

For more on growing roses, read Success With Roses. And, if you’d like to plant some bareroot roses of your own, check out the full lineup of roses from Dutch Gardens.

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