Roses are purchased potted or bare root. I prefer bare root roses - these
are dormant and should be planted in the late winter or early-mid spring
local rose society or agricultural extension office for
specific recommendations). Potted roses are grown in a greenhouse and should
be planted after all danger of frost. They should be "hardened" before being
planted by being brought in during cold periods and being acclimated to
It is strongly advisable to plant roses in a raised bed, with good drainage
and with plenty of organic matter. You can see
how I built a bed as a reference, and also look
at an earlier bed I built.
You will want to design the bed, perhaps on graph paper. Here in zone 7B,
roses are typically planted 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart; this will, of course,
vary with the kind of rose and its expected size, and is for bush roses,
Get the best quality roses that you can. I know folks have had success
buying roses at discount stores, perhaps for $5-7 each, but I personally
prefer buying roses from reputed dealers, typically for $11-15 apiece.
What You'll Want to Have On Hand
Your roses. If they are bare root, soak them 24-48 hours. Some people
like to put in a little bit of bleach to kill any unwanted bacteria, but
I simply soak my roses in a big bucket into which I've added vitamin B-1
(I use Alaska brand "Start Up", a natural fertilizer derived from
molasses yeast), which helps reduce transplant shock, and a little bit
of Nitron A-35 enzyme catalyst,
which helps root development, reduces transplant shock, and enhances
the soil the roses will be planted in.
Mycorrhizae Fungi. This
is optional, but is a great thing to sprinkle on the roots before planting.
The fungi live as beneficial parasites on the roots and allow the plant
to become much more efficient at absorbing water and nutrients.
I use an endomycorrhizal inoculant that I get from
Lime and rock phosphate. You will want to have a cup of each
per bush you are planting. Roses like the soil to be just slightly
acidic (around pH 5.5-6.5), and in most of the U.S., anyway (some
western states will have soil that is too alkaline - there one would
use sulfur to acidify if the pH is above 6.5 instead of lime), lime will
neutralize a soil with pH below 5.5. Rock phosphate is great for
root development. Some like to also add a cup of gypsum to break up
clay soil, but if you are planting in a prepared bed, the gypsum should
not be necessary.
Earthworm castings. This is probably the best soil amendment there is;
it not only adds excellent organic matter to the soil, but it builds the
structure of the soil and helps retain water. If you are not working in
a prepared bed, you will need additional organic amendments, such as
horse manure, compost, or well-aged cow manure.
A shovel and any other digging implements.
Newspaper to use as a weed barrier.
Mulch. I use pine bark, but you can use almost any reasonable organic
alternative, such as hardwood bark, cypress bark, cedar, pine straw, or
cocoa shell (which can be expensive; if you live near a chocolate factory,
see if they give the shell, a waste product for them, away. Beware that
chocolate may be poisonous to dogs, so if you have dogs or visitors, you
probably don't want to use cocoa shell. I wish I could find an inexpensive
source - it decomposes quickly, but when wet it gives off a lovely chocolate
fragrance!). Some also use stone, but in particularly hot and sunny weather,
light colored stone can radiate heat back up to the plant. The choice is
largely dictated by your aesthetics.
Why mulch? It keeps weeds down (by smothering and keeping away sunlight, which
can encourage germination),
especially with newspaper below it. It helps the soil, and hence the
rose roots, moderate temperature and avoid quick changes. Mulch keeps
water from evaporating, especially with a drip system that delivers water
below the mulch, right to the roots. Over time, (non-stone) mulch decomposes
and enriches the soil - you should plan to replenish the mulch every spring.
Finally, it gives a finished look to the bed. Try to put down a layer of mulch
about 3-4" thick.
Drip irrigation drippers. If you are using drip irrigation (and I highly
recommend that you consider it), have available the drippers that you can
put in place. You can connect it to the drip system later. I recommend 1/4"
in-line drippers; I use Drip-In company's
that has integrated drippers every foot and which discharges at half a gallon
per hour (at 15 psi). An excellent resource to learn about drip irrigation
and order connectors, 1/2" feeder poly tube, etc.
is The Drip Store.
A watering can. You can water in your newly planted rose with a
hose, but I prefer a watering can so you can easily mix in additives
(as I describe next) and so you can more easily control the flow.
I mix in vitamin B-1 and enzyme A-35,
just as I do in the bare root soaking solution. If you are planting potted
roses with leaves, you can also add a bit of kelp to get some foliar fertilization;
in this case, you'll water to wet the leaves.
You will want to start off digging a hole that will accomodate the
spread-out roots (typically a foot deep by 2 feet in diameter), or the
potted rose sans pot. Ideally, you are
working in a prepared bed, so can dig the hole to dimension as
the surrounding soil is prepared. If not, you will want to make
a hole that is even bigger and mix in half of the native soil to
organic matter like compost, well-rotted manure, etc.
In the case of bare root, replace some of the soil in the center
of the hole to make an inverted cone in which the roots will naturally
sit. Here in zone 7B, we plant to allow the graft to sit slightly
above ground level. Most modern roses in cultivation are grafted onto
rootstock and you will easily see a swelling between the roots and
the canes - this is the graft. By planting the graft above ground, you
are less likely to get suckering and growth of the rootstock instead of
the variety you bought. In colder climates, the graft may need to be
below ground; check with your
local rose society or agricultural extension office. In the case
of own-root roses, there won't be a graft. Typically, these will be
potted roses with stems and not canes; aim to plant the rose, at least
in zone 7B and warmer, mounded slightly above the bed level.
Mix in your cup of rock phosphate and cup of lime (and possibly gypsum);
I actually like to put in half to three quarters of my mixture here
and the rest once the plant is in place and before I water it.
Place the bare root rose on the cone, checking that the graft is at
the level appropriate for your climate. If you are going to use mycorrhizae
fungi, the fungi needs to be in contact with the roots, and now is the
best time to apply it. It is expensive (a dry quart will cost around $12),
so I keep it in a plastic container and use an old spoon to dispense it.
You don't need a lot; once the bare root rose is standing where you want
it (don't forget to measure so it is sitting exactly where you want it
to be consonant with your bed plan), sprinkle half or one tablespoon or
so of the fungi on the roots.
If you are using a potted rose (be sure you have kept it moist and
watered the pot shortly before), remove the rose from the pot (I just
gently turn the pot upside down and carefully catch the soil in my
hand, but you can also use a knife to cut the pot apart) and do your
best to sprinkle the fungi around the bottom and sides to cling as
much of the moist soil -- hopefully some of the fungi will reach roots.
Earthworm castings are perhaps the best soil amendment, but they are
expensive, typically 50 cents to a dollar per pound. I like to put
a shovel or two full here immediately around the roots or transplanted
rose; they will also help to keep the fungi in place.
Fill the hole with the bedding material or your mixture of organics
and native soil. If you haven't used up the lime/rock phosphate/gypsum,
sprinkle the rest around the rose bush now.
Water and gently with
gloved hands push down to ensure there are no air holes in the soil.
It is good to aim to have a slight basin around the rose.
If you are using drip irrigation, now is a good time to install
the drippers. I use inline drippers, and use a 6' segment to give
me 6 drippers @ 1/2 gallon per hour, or 3 gallons total per hour.
I surround the rose about 6" to 12" from the center. I tuck one
end slightly closer to the rose and put a stop plug ("goof plug")
at that end. I leave the other end open and temporarily put
a piece of cellophane tape on the opening to keep soil from
entering - when I'm ready to hook the drippers up to my main
line, I will remove the tape and add the appropriate attachment
part. I use 2 or 3 drip stakes to hold the coil in place.
Make life easy and minimize weeds! I like to put newspaper around the
rose bush (and ultimately throughout the bed, before mulching) and
make sure that the taped end of my dripper is clearly sticking out
so I can find it when I will connect it to the other rose bush drippers and
Mulch the rose. If you are planting bare root, the rose won't yet
have established feeder roots, so is in danger of drying out. You will
want to mound mulch to cover at least 2/3 of the cane height - and
ensure the mulch stays moist. (You can unmound the rose at the later
of the last freeze date -- April 15 here -- and a month or so after
planting when feeder roots have probably developed.) For potted
roses (planted after chances of freeze), just mulch around the rose.
Water again. That's it!
Photography April 30, 2000 courtesy of Alex Semilof