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place plants in the best spot. This is the mantra of
the Master Gardener, “put the right plant in the right place”.
Almost all roses will grow and flower best where they receive 6-
10 hours of sun daily. Some are more tolerant of light shade than
others but they are exceptions. In our region of the country, a
site where the rose receives morning and midday sun then a bit of
evening shade is optimal. Roses also greatly benefit from proper
spacing, 12 or more inches apart when mature (not when first
planted). Ensure adequate room for each plant in the landscape,
considering its growth habits and mature size beforehand.
Proper placement allows beneficial, natural airflow and will
help prevent or minimize fungal diseases in our typically humid
Soil: prepare a growing bed of native soil that incorporates
lots of rich organic matter. Carolina soils include rocky
Appalachian slopes, the red clay of the piedmont plateau and
the loose, quick drying sand or boggy wetlands of the coastal
plain. Almost any soil, almost anywhere in the Carolinas will
benefit from the addition of organic materials. All roses grow
and flower best in nutrient rich soil. Some are more tolerant
of nutrient deficiencies than others but again, they are the
exceptions. Most Carolina soils are acidic to some degree. This
benefits roses which generally appreciate a mildly acidic root
environment. Extremely acidic or extremely alkaline soil will
need modification before planting. Sampling the soil of a planned
landscape area and having it tested by your local Cooperative
Extension office is free and highly recommended.
Moisture: ensure that plants receive the proper amount of water.
Almost all roses prefer well drained soil and an average
of 1 inch of rainfall per week once established. Some are more
tolerant of drier soils and others tolerant of wetland boundaries
but once more, these are exceptions. Almost no roses like “wet
feet” or consistently boggy environments. Extended periods of
drought and hot temperatures in summer, common in our region,
can stress roses. Judicious use of supplemental water will likely be
necessary for the best health of landscape roses at some point,
especially before plants have become established (i.e. the first
Once the perfect sunny spot has been picked out, availability
of a reliable source of water within a reasonable distance
ensured and the soil amended with vegetable compost, cured manure
or humus (or all three) the fun part begins- picking out and
planting the roses!
Globally, roses are planted and cultivated more than any other
garden ornamental. Thus, there a huge number of ways to acquire
them: local garden centers and nurseries, big box retailers,
mail order nurseries and distributors or by taking a cutting of
grandma’s favorite heirloom. I’ll cover propagating roses from
cuttings in a later entry.
The vast majority of market roses sold in America come either as
bare root specimens or potted plants. There are advantages and
disadvantages to both forms. Bare root plants, usually offered
by mail order nurseries, either own root grown or grafted tend
to be less expensive. They may require a little bit of research
before ordering. Pot grown plants offer the buyer more immediate
information- size, bloom color, shape, etc. but will likely be
more expensive than bare root roses. They are also available in
own root and grafted forms.
Always buy or order from a reputable vendor with a proven record
of quality plant offerings and service guarantees. That super
inexpensive rose on the bargain shelf at the end of the season
is rarely a good bet. The old proverb is true: an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Bare root roses should arrive packaged safely in moist media such
as peat moss, sawdust or damp paper. The root structure should
appear healthy with several main leaders. Concurrently, the top
growth should also have several main stems/canes. A good rule of
thumb: main roots and canes should equal at least the diameter of
a standard pencil, preferably larger. Roots of these roses should
be soaked in water for 8-24 hours before planting. A clean bucket
or plant pot will do just fine.
Potted roses should have a firm, moist root system. The plant
should be slightly mobile in its pot and not be rootbound.
Foliage should be evenly balanced, green and sturdy, not droopy,
diseased or malformed. Any blooms or buds present should evenly
cover the plant. Pot grown roses should be tagged appropriately
including information regarding the plant name, cultivar or
variety, bloom and foliage habits, mature size, shape and
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