UC Master Gardeners

Now is the time to buy, plant bare-root roses

UC Master GardenerDecember 18, 2012 

Beautiful roses like this one can be grown in most areas on the Central Coast. Before buying, consider your landscape plan, your microclimate and your available time for plant care.

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    Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or e-mail mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu.

I see bare-root roses in nurseries. Do you have suggestions of what to buy and planting instructions? — Joanne F., Arroyo Grande

This is a good time of year to buy dormant roses, sold as bare root. Nurseries should have a wide selection at good prices. Before buying, however, consider your landscape plan, your microclimate and time available for care.

Beautiful large-blossomed hybrid tea roses or grandifloras are not always the best choice unless you are willing to invest time maintaining regular feedings, pruning and pest control routines. (Some modern varieties are advertised as disease resistant and may be less susceptible to fungal problems.)

Modern landscape roses, floribundas and polyanthas, (also called shrub roses) are easy to maintain, usually disease-resistant and require little or no pruning. They can make good hedges and background plants. In choosing roses, it’s a good idea to check with neighbors who share your microclimate to find varieties that are happy in your growing conditions.

Bare root plants are sold by grades: 1, 1.5, and 2. Try to buy 1, the best quality. Plants should have been kept cool with roots in damp material. Choose those with at least 3 plump, green canes. Buds on canes should be plump, too, but not ready to burst.

Once home, unwrap the rose, shake off storage material, and prune broken roots and canes. If you can’t plant immediately, store in a cool spot in damp sawdust or light sand. At planting time, soak the roots in water for several hours.

To plant, dig a hole about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep in a sunny area of well-drained soil. Make a cone about 10 inches high in the middle of the hole and spread the rose roots over it, making sure the knobby graft union is above soil level.

Fill the hole with soil, amended with up to 1/3 organic material (compost or aged manure.) Press down gently. Water in the planting, rocking the rose back and forth until it is firmly settled. Level soil and form a little barrier about 10 inches around the plant to make an irrigation basin. Your rose should bloom within eight to 12 weeks.

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