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It’s Time to Plant Roses
by Dan Gill
by Dan Gill


Dan Gill earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in horticulture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and is an Associate Professor in Consumer Horticulture with the LSU AgCenter.

He is the spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter’s Get It Growing project, a statewide educational effort in home horticulture utilizing radio, Internet, TV and newsprint. Gardeners throughout Louisiana read his columns in local newspapers, watch his gardening segments on local TV stations and listen to him on local radio. In the New Orleans area, Dan appears weekly on the Channel 4 Morning News, writes a weekly gardening column for The Times-Picayune and hosts the Saturday morning WWWL Garden Show, a live call-in radio program.

Dan is co-author of the Louisiana Gardener’s Guide and author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana. His “South Louisiana Region Report” and “Only in Louisiana” columns appear monthly in the Louisiana Gardener Magazine.

February 12, 2012

Around the world, there is no better loved or more recognizable flower in the plant kingdom than the rose. It you are thinking about adding roses to your garden, here’s some information that will help you get them off to a good start.

First, decide how you want to use roses in the landscape and why you intend to grow them. The trend these days is to incorporate roses into landscape plantings just like any other shrub. This works particularly well with the old garden roses, shrub roses, landscape roses, polyantha roses and floribunda roses.

If you want to grow roses with perfect flowers on long stems for cutting, you will probably choose the hybrid tea and grandiflora roses. These rose bushes often have rather awkward shapes that do not combine easily with other plants. That, along with their exacting cultural requirements, is why these roses are often grown in separate beds.

If you want to train roses on a trellis, arbor or fence, you’ll want to choose rose varieties from the climbers, ramblers and old garden roses that produce long, vigorous canes.

When placing roses in your landscape, you must also consider the growing conditions they require to do well. Do not plant roses in partly shady or shady areas. They must have at least six to eight hours of sun to perform up to your expectations. Any shade they receive should, ideally, come in the afternoon. Morning sun helps dry the foliage early in the day, which can help reduce disease problems. Roses also need excellent drainage, so avoid low areas that stay wet.

Whether planting your roses into a bed devoted exclusively to them or including them in existing beds with other types of plants, prepare the area where they will be planted carefully.

– First, remove unwanted vegetation (weeds, turfgrass, etc.) from the area. You may use the herbicide glyphosate to kill unwanted plants if they are green and growing

– Turn the soil at least 8 to 10 inches deep.

– Spread amendments over the turned soil. Add at least 2 inches of organic matter, such as compost, sphagnum peat moss, rotted manure or finely ground pine bark. Next, sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer appropriate to your area over the bed according to label directions and thoroughly dig everything into the soil of the bed.

If the soil is heavy clay, a 2- to 3-inch layer of sand could also be added. Sulfur should be applied if the pH of the soil is over 7. Lime is needed if the pH is lower than 5.5 and calcium levels are low. To find what might be need to be added to your soil, have it tested through your local parish LSU AgCenter office.

– Thoroughly blend the amendments into the existing soil and rake it smooth.

You may also choose to build a raised bed and fill it with a purchased topsoil or garden soil mix. This can work very well, especially if drainage needs to be improved and you want to grow your roses together in a bed. Choose a high-quality soil mix rich in decayed organic matter such as compost.

Roses are sold in containers or with bare roots, and they generally become available at nurseries around January. Buy the highest quality bushes available, preferably 1 or 1½ grade. It is well worth the extra cost for a healthy, vigorous plant that will produce lots of flowers.

It is best to purchase and plant roses in late winter or early spring so they can get established before beginning to bloom. Avoid purchasing bare-root roses after February when they have already begun to sprout in the package. Container roses can be planted as late as May with acceptable results, but an earlier planting is much better.

To plant roses

– For bare-root roses, remove the roots from the wrapper and put the roots in a bucket of water. Dig a hole in a well-prepared bed as deep and wide as the root system. Place a cone of soil in the hole, position the plant over the cone and spread the roots out over it. Hold the plant in place so the graft union (the large knob on lower part of plant) is about 2 inches higher than the soil of the bed. Use your other hand to push and firm soil into the hole to cover the roots. Make sure the graft union is 2 inches above soil level when you finish.

– For container roses, dig a hole in the bed about the same size as the root ball in the container. Slide the plant out of the container. Sometimes roses have been not been potted long enough for their roots to fill the container and hold together the soil. If the soil falls away, that’s OK. Just follow the procedure for bare-root roses. Otherwise, put the root ball in the hole. Its top should be level with the soil of the bed. Make sure the graft union is 2 inches above soil level. Fill in around the root ball and firm the soil with your hand.

– Water plants thoroughly to finish settling the soil, and apply mulch.

Don’t forget that we typically prune back everblooming roses in the spring to control size, encourage a full, bushy growth habit, remove dead growth and shape the bushes. Get this done by mid-February. This will get your roses in good shape going into the outstanding spring and early summer blooming season.

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