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Rose Planting Guide

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You’d never guess that such lovely flowers could spring from anything as homely as a bare-root rose. This awkward assemblage of stubby, thorny canes and wiry roots is poised for quick growth, making bare-roots the first choice of experienced gardeners. Look for dormant plants, their roots swaddled in plastic, in garden centers or nursery catalogs. Bare-root roses settle in with a minimum of transplant shock, then swiftly move on to the business of cranking out flowers.

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1. On planting day, refresh the roots in a bucket of water while you dig the planting hole. An hour-long soaking plumps up shriveled roots.

2. Clip off damaged roots (this one is cracked). Shorten roots that are too long to fit in the planting hole without bending.

3. Some rose sellers trim the stems, or canes, for you. More likely, you’ll need to prune them yourself. Remove the broken ends of canes, canes with blackened or diseased spots, and twiggy growth. Leave three to five sturdy canes in an open-centered arrangement. Cut back any extra-long canes so all are about the same length. Don’t worry about making a pruning mistake; it’s hard to go wrong.

4. Timing is crucial for bare-root planting: in most areas bare-root roses should be planted in early spring before their leaves unfurl; where temperatures rarely dip below 20 degrees, winter planting is best. If you can’t plant a bare-root rose right away, keep its roots moist and cool. An alternative to bare-root roses — container-grown or “potted” roses — can be planted any time they’re available. Potted roses are a convenient way to extend the planting season.

Cutting & Pruning Rosebushes

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1. Make your pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above a leaf axle with a dormant eye.

2. Choose an eye on the outside of the cane and slope the cut down and away on the opposite side. This allows excess natural sap to rise and seal the cut without interfering with the developing eye. Pruning to an outward-facing bud also promotes outward growth, opens up the plant to air circulation, creates more pleasing shapes, resists disease, and prevents the canes from becoming a tangle. Cuts closer to the eye than 1/4 inch may damage it. Cuts higher than that will leave a visible stubble — a haven for both pests and disease.

. If the rose bush has foliage present, the location for your cut is easy to spot. Where there is no foliage to guide you, find the dormant eye by locating where the foliage was once connected. The eye is normally visible as a slight swelling above the surface of the cane.

4. Use this same pruning technique when cutting stems for display and when removing spent blooms. Remember to sharpen your pruning tools periodically — either do it your self or have someone do it who’s specially trained.

5. Wipe metal surfaces after each use with a soft, lightly oiled rag to prevent rust. Store tools in a dry area.

Feeding Roses

Roses need three primary nutrients — nitrogen (the “N” on a fertilizer label), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) — as well as a number of secondary and trace elements in order to thrive. Nitrogen promotes foliage growth; phosphorus encourages healthy root and flower development; and potassium maintains vigor. Calcium, magnesium, and sulphur (secondary elements) and trace elements (boron, chlorine, copper, and iron) also promote plant-cell and root growth.

Primary nutrients are available from both organic (derived from plant or animal life) and synthetic or inorganic materials. Synthetic fertilizers come in dry, liquid, or foliar liquid form. Work dry fertilizers into the soil (moisten the soil first) and water after application to carry the nutrients to the roots. Liquid fertilizers are added to water with an in-hose applicator, and foliar liquids are sprayed on and absorbed by the leaves. Whatever you use, be sure to follow the directions and dosages exactly. Excessive doses can damage plants.

 

Most roses need regular feeding

— with fertilizers that are balanced for roses, your region, and your garden soil. Begin fertilizing newly planted roses once they are established — about three to four weeks after planting. Start feeding older plants in spring when new growth is about 6 inches long. At a minimum, species roses, old roses, and climbers need an application in the early spring as the buds prepare to open. Repeat-blooming roses, old roses, and climbers will benefit from a second feeding of liquid fertilizer after the first bloom, and modern roses need regular feeding.

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Alfalfa pellets worked into the soil are an organic source of nitrogen and can be used as a slow-release supplement in spring. Use pellets that are not feed-grade so your rose food doesn’t feed the rabbits. A time-release synthetic fertilizer applied in the spring and again in July will reduce the need for reapplications. In zone 6 and colder, stop fertilizer six weeks before the average date of the first frost and let plants harden off for their winter rest.

A Guaranteed Analysis statement must appear on all mixed fertilizer labels. The label must indicate the proportion of each element present, as well as its sources (in this example, ammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate, etc.). The numbers 8-10-8 denote the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium present in this mix. This example contains 8 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 8 percent potassium. Some fertilizers also contain secondary and micro-nutrients. Look for fertilizers with micro nutrients derived from EDTA complexes as they are water soluble and hence immediately available to the root system. Rose foods containing all three levels of nutrients (primary, secondary, and micro-) are the best choice. In some cases, a soil penetrate will be added to the fertilizer to assist in delivery of the nutrients in clay soils.

Regular Feeding Schedule

Roses are heavy feeders. They require a constant supply of nutrients to sustain growth and bloom production. Here are two methods that will meet their demand for food:

1. The Organic Method: For a continuing cycle of decomposition, regularly space applications of fertilizers on the rose beds about every four weeks. It is best to work the fertilizer into the upper soil levels. This program can be supplemented with biweekly applications of fish emulsion.

2. The Chemical-Fertilizer Method: Start with a time-release synthetic in the spring and reapply midsummer, with monthly applications of a complete rose food (with all primary, secondary, and micro-nutrients) in between major feedings. Always follow label application and safety instructions when using a chemical rose food

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