Saturday, March 29, 2003

Early spring best time to plant bare-root roses



When buying dormant bare-root roses, turn to reputable nurseries that provide roses with strong canes and fresh-looking, well-formed root systems. I usually buy dormant bare-root roses in the early spring from mail-order nurseries.

When they arrive in the mail, I take care that the plants do not dry out. I plant them immediately or place them in a bucket of water, keeping them out of direct sun and wind.

If the weather is bad, you can heel roses in the ground temporarily by making a trench in a shady spot in the garden and covering the roots with moist soil.

When the weather is suitable, soak the plants in water for several hours to make sure the roots and canes are full of moisture.

Planting bare-root roses

• Choose a sunny location - with at least six hours of direct sun per day - and make certain the soil is well-drained.

Dig a planting hole about 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Add compost, premoistened Canadian sphagnum peat moss and a sprinkling of a good time-release fertilizer to the backfill soil you will return to the hole for surrounding the roots.

• Position the rose over the hole, checking the planting depth. Just before planting your rose, cut off any damaged roots or broken canes. I position roses so that the bud union - the swollen or knobby part of the crown which gives rise to the canes - is 1-2 inches below the soil level.

• Hold the plant upright as you backfill the soil around the roots. Two people make this job easier. When the backfilling is almost complete, pour in enough water to fill the hole. This helps to settle the soil around the roots and eliminates air pockets.

• Mound soil loosely over the bud union and the lower few inches of the canes to protect them from sun, cold and wind while the plant establishes roots. As the plant forms new leaves, gently remove this protection with a gentle stream from the hose.

Always check for soil moisture before watering and when you do water, try not to splash the rose foliage. Don't over-water; soggy soil may inhibit the growth of new feeder roots. Using your finger, check the soil and add water only if it is fairly dry.

Contact Tim Morehouse by Web site:; mail: c/o the Cincinnati Enquirer. (If writing, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

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