Continuing our simple guide to rose-growing from last week…
Now that you have got your bare-rooted new rose plants safely home, and soaked them in water for the prescribed length of time, let’s move on to the thoroughly enjoyable job of planting them out in the areas and pots you previously prepared.
Dig planting holes of approximately 15 to 18 inches deep and 12 inches across — recommended planting distances will be discussed later in this column — carefully heaping the removed soil on one side.
Next, mix up a bucket of earth and water until the consistency is like that of thick custard and slather this all over the roots of the bushes waiting to be planted out. You can try dipping the roots in the bucket full of goo but may need to resort to dolloping it on by hand. Let this goo set in place for a little while before actually planting the roses.
The reason for doing this is quite simple: it helps to protect the tender, sometimes surprisingly brittle, rose roots from being inadvertently damaged during the planting procedure.
The next step is to gently insert the new plant into its planting hole, carefully spreading its roots out in all directions around the main stem to aid balance and to encourage natural root development. If you just cram the roots into the hole they are liable to suffer damage. Plus, it will be too overcrowded for the new plant — it is already stressed, remember — to survive.
The second part of a simple guide to growing the queen of flowers
Hold the plant firmly in an upright position with one hand and, with the other, trickle the previously removed soil in and around the roots until the hole is about three-quarters full. Do not, at any stage, push or stamp down the soil or root damage is bound to occur.
Instead, when the hole is three-quarters full, pour in enough water — using a watering can to do this, not a pressurised hose — to fill it, allowing the water to soak away before filling up with more soil, almost to the brim and then watering it again.
Once this is done, leave everything to settle in naturally for two or three days and then, without disturbing roots or plants, level off the bed and give it all a good soaking.
Allow the plants a couple of weeks to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and then — difficult as it may be, especially if the bushes were sold in flower or in bud — they should be pruned back to a height of just six to eight inches.
Knowing full well that the vast majority of you will baulk at even the thought of pruning your new roses at this stage, I still highly recommend that you sharpen your secateurs, grit your teeth and do so!
As always, there is a reason for this.
Newly planted roses, particularly bare-rooted ones, have, over the preceding few weeks, undergone a series of shocks and thus need all of their remaining energy to strengthen and develop their compromised root systems. The last thing they should be expected to do is to waste precious energy on struggling to bloom.
Allowing them to do so at this delicate stage, results in one of two things. The plant battles for survival for a while before giving up and dying or, it manages to survive but fails to grow into the beautiful, strong specimen expected.
Pruning back means that the plant can use its energy where most needed — its root system. A strong root system results, over a period of time, in a strong healthy plant with major blooming potential.
Roses, in general, are otherwise best pruned towards the end of October, with all dead or diseased wood being totally cut out, any weak-stemmed shoots being cut back to just three inches and strong, leading shoots to six inches or thereabouts. Cuts should preferably be made just above an outward facing ‘eye’ (leaf bud) to help prevent the centre of the plant becoming congested. Climbing and rambling roses should have any dead/diseased wood pruned out, plus, wayward shoots pruned back, but otherwise leave them alone.
Types of roses and planting distances
• Hybrid tea roses — 30 to 36 inches apart
• Floribundas — 24 to 30 inches apart
• Desi and Damask roses — 30 to 36 inches apart
• Roses for hedging — 24 inches apart
• Old fashioned shrub roses — 30 inches apart
• Miniature roses 12 to 18 inches apart
• Climbing and rambling roses — four to six feet apart
• Banksia roses — six to eight feet apart.
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Originally published in Dawn, EOS, January 24th, 2021