Want to give a Valentine’s gift that keeps on giving? Buy a rose plant! While it may not look like much now, get it in the ground now and you can have roses April through November! Nurseries are brimming with a wide variety of roses in sizes, forms and flower color not available other times of the year. You’ll find them potted up and ready to plant, packed in a box or bare-root (without soil) – wrapped in plastic. Ever heard the old adage about planting your 50 cent plant in a five dollar hole? Well, adjusted for inflation, that $20 rose should go in a $200 hole! Invest the time and energy in planting your rose now and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.
Start by preparing the planting site; it’s all about location, location, location! Go for full sun – roses are sun lovers and need a minimum of five to six hours each day to produce abundant flowers. Morning sun is best, as it helps dry moisture on the leaves early, and is less intense that hot afternoon sun. Protect the rose from wind to prevent it from drying out quickly and damaging tender new canes. Don’t plant too close to a tree whose big, greedy roots systems will compete with the rose for water and nutrients. Provide plenty of space around the plant – while the plant you’re sinking in the ground may be scrawny today, given the right environment, it’s likely to grow into a good sized plant. Also, good air circulation around the plant reduces the potential for disease.
Dig a large planting hole about 18 inches in diameter and 20 inches deep. Check that the planting hole has adequate drainage; as much as roses love water, they do not like to sit in it. If you need to improve the drainage, add organic materials like compost, soil conditioner or similar materials.
If you brought home a bare-root rose, unpack and remove all broken roots, weak or damaged stems. The plant may have dried out, so to plump up the roots and canes, fill a container deep enough to submerge the entire plant; add one tablespoon of household bleach per gallon of water then completely immerse the bare-root rose and let it soak for about 24 hours.
How you plant your rose will depend on what you purchased. For all types, assess the plant and decide how to orient it – have the “best side” facing the direction where it is most visible. If the plant is in a degradable pot (a “plantable” container that breaks down over time), place the container directly in the planting hole. The pot should sit a little above grade level as it will settle with time. Add soil to fill in the hole and tamp down lightly. For plants that come in a box, remove the outer container and transfer the plant and accompanying soil into the hole and do the same as above. For true bare-root plants, add soil to the hole to form a cone (think upside-down ice cream cone). Spread the roots out over the cone, and add soil to completely fill the planting hole. Tamp the soil lightly, and then let it settle to its final height naturally. Water well to saturate the soil around the plant.
The majority of these container, boxed or bare-root roses have few roots, short stubby canes and little to no foliage. To protect them from drying out while getting established, mound mulch, compost or soil conditioner high up around the plant, covering the base of the plant and most of the canes. Keep the rose well watered, and, after about six weeks (when leaves begin to emerge), carefully remove the mulch (especially on those new leaves), stand back and watch your new rose perform!
By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian