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How to Plant Roses
by Jerry Yoneda


This Series of 'Jerry and June' articles was written to show that there is more than one way to perform each and every task in rose growing. The format is a humorous dialogue between two members of the Utah Rose Society, who have VERY differing views on rose growing. With a bit of experience, The novice will eventually develop his or her own unique way of growing roses. As the old adage says: "There is more than one way to skin a cat". And from the point of view of the long term rose grower "...if it ain't broke don't fix it."


June: Well Jerry, I'm here to discuss our article on planting roses. It looks like you've been busy getting prepared.

Jerry: Actually I've done nothing.

June: I don't understand what you mean, that is a very large hole you're standing in..

Jerry: This better not be another short joke! Just kidding! Actually you don't understand I am standing on the ground. You're understanding of the Zen of gardening leaves a lot to be desired.

June: What do you mean?

Jerry: If you consider a hole, it is nothing. You cannot see it, touch it, or sense a hole in anyway. Therefore it is nothing.

June: So your saying the hole is nothing.

Jerry: No, only in digging the hole have I created nothing. But to the rose, the hole is everything.

June: I understand that part. As you know SOIL is my speciality. At the time you plant the rose, all the necessary soil amendments need to be in place. No matter whether your soil is clay or sand the addition of organic matter is imperative.

Jerry: You've always been good at adding organic matter to any conversation, but dirt is MY specialty. Well, as Rogers and Hammerstein said: "Alet's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." With bare root roses that starts with their arrival in the mail. The first thing you need to do is rehydrate the bushes from the rigors of long term storage and shipping.

June: I, like most members of the rose society soak their roots in water at least overnight, but you can leave them soaking at least a week if the weather is, like you, uncooperative. I have taken to adding the Superthrive I won in the Rose Society monthly raffle a couple of years ago for this purpose.

Jerry: I find Superthrive to be better than B-1 because it not only has hormones that reduce the stress placed on a newly planted rose; but it contains triconatol, the growth hormone from decomposing alfalfa. Also because of fungal diseases that are sometimes on the bushes that can be transferred to the garden by new roses, I have taken to soaking my roses, canes and all in water with Superthrive and bleach. I use about a 1/4 cup of bleach in the large trash can for this purpose.

June: So now we are back to nothing. That is digging the hole. Right?

Jerry: Well to paraphrase R&H again, "...nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever should". Well onward and downward. Or nothing ventured nothing gained.

June: Enough with the puns. I have had enough punishment to last a lifetime.

Jerry: Okay, okay. Before digging the hole you need to locate a site with at least 6 hours of sunlight and good drainage. Next you test the site for drainage by digging a hole 1 to 2 feet deep and fill it with water. If after 2 hours there is still standing water, you must either choose another site or improve the drainage. The drainage may be improved by adding sand to the bottom of the hole, raising the planting beds, or adding drainage pipes to the soil. Once you have chosen the site then you dig a hole from 18" X 18" to 24" X 24", depending on the type of rose and the spacing in your rose garden.

It is at this point that you must prune your roses for planting if you have not done so earlier. You should prune the average bare root rose to three or four canes about 12" to 18" long. The canes should be pruned to an outside budeye. Then prune any damaged, broken, or overlong roots.

This reminds me of the story of Roy Hennesey, who used to sell roses from his own nursery in Oregon. He used to grow these mammoth bushes that he shipped with three foot long roots and instructions to not trim the roses before planting. Go figure. Well, lets move on. Next it is time to talk about amending the soil, and since it is your specialty I'll let you handle that.

June: This is the point at which we add organic matter to the soil. I usually add one quarter to one half as much organic matter as soil removed. Then I mix it up well with the removed dirt. Next I hold the bush in the hole to make sure the bud union, the point where the graft is, is placed even with the soil line without smashing the roots. If this cannot be done, I need to dig the hole a little deeper. I then place a small handful of phosphorous, either bone meal or superphosphate in the bottom of the hole and cover it with a little dirt. The reason you cover the phosphorous source with a little dirt is because bone meal used to always contain some nitrogen, which would burn the hair roots on a newly planted bush. This is no longer the case since bone meal is processed in a different manner, but there is no use taken chances. It is imperative you add the phosphorous source at this time as it does not move and some of the original phosphorous material will still be there if you dig a bush up within five years. Next I build a cone of soil in the bottom of the hole, spread the roots out over the cone, fill halfway with dirt, and add about a gallon of water containing Superthrive to help the soil settle properly. Then I completely fill the hole with soil, water in and..... voila. Do you have anything to add?

Jerry: I have experimented with several methods in the past. First I don't believe in the conehead thing you do. To me its Curtains (as in Jane...), sorry could not resist one more pun. Well my point is that if you dig up a rose, the roots will not be growing in a perfect cone shape. In fact they will be going every which way.

I know you have a personality in which everything is orderly and nothing is left to chance, so if it makes you feel good to build your cone, I'm all for it. I have obtained just as good of success by holding the rose over the hole with the bud union at soil level and back filling with the pile of dirt.

Furthermore, I have read such things as: the bush should be planted with the bud union facing south so the sun would hit it and you would get more basal breaks. I've also heard that the side with the fewest canes should be planted to the south to induce the rose to produce canes on that side. I have found none of these old saws to be true. And I even used to place a cone of soil around the canes to keep them from desiccating, as most books instruct. I have also abandoned this practice.

June: It is pretty well agreed by most rosarians in our society that in our semi-arid climate the so called 'protective mound of soil' will dessicate rather than protect the canes. Although some members have taken to placing cardboard or fiberglass around their roses to protect them. I take it you do that too.

Jerry: Nope. Since I started using Superthrive I have not placed anything around the roses and have had no roses that refused to sprout. Although three years ago, my Louise Estes did not sprout until July. So are you ready to tell us how to plant containerized roses?

June: It looks like you want me to go to pot, like you. I too can tell awful puns.

Jerry: You mean there are good puns? I find most of them rather pungent.

June: Well if you prefer to buy roses already in a container you should do what was described above with a few modifications. After you have the hole dug and the soil amended, you should place the pot in the hole and adjust the hole such that the bud union will be even with the soil line. Then add the phosporous, cover it with a little soil, and carefully remove the bush from the pot before placing it in the hole. Back fill with soil, and proceed as previously described.

Jerry: Now all you have to do is tell us how to plant non-established rose bushes. As you know, a non-established bush is one without sufficient root growth to hold the root ball together when it is removed from the pot. If the root ball falls apart you could damage the hair roots, which are crucial to the health of the bush.

June: If the bush has not sprouted, or is just beginning to sprout, you can just pull it out and treat it as a bareroot plant, soaking it first. If it has started to grow fairly well but still has loose soil in the pot, you begin by adjusting the soil level in the bottom of the hole.

Carefully cut the bottom of the pot off with a sharp knife or your secateurs. Carefully cut two slits up from the bottom within 2-3" of the top of the pot. Next place the bottom back on the pot and place the pot in the hole while holding the bottom in place. Then you carefully slide the bottom of the pot out and backfill with soil until you are within 4-5" of the top of the pot. Finally, you finish cutting the last 2 to 3 inches of the slits from the top with your hand pruners and slide both halves of the pot up and out. Fill the hole with water and proceed as described earlier.

Jerry: June, let's go get something to drink. I never knew doing nothing could make me so thirsty.

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