The Q&A Archives: Desert Roses

Question: How should I plant my roses in Arizona ?

Answer: Roses actually do very well in the low desert, and have two sustained blooming periods, one in the spring (March-May) and another in the fall (Sept-Oct), when temperatures cool. Most people are surprised to learn that Maricopa County grows about 40 percent of all the rose plants sold in the
U.S. However, it's getting a bit hot for planting. Roses do best planted from November through March. They're moisture sensitive, so trying to plant once the weather heats up is more problematic. If you still want to try planting now, be sure to mulch heavily to help the soil retain moisture and lower temperatures. Dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball and amend the backfill heavily with compost and peat moss to provide nutrients, somewhat lower pH, and improve soil's ability to retain water. Mix bone meal (an organic phosphorous source) according to package instructions into the bottom of the planting hole. Water well after planting and apply mulch.

Check the moisture level in the soil regularly. (Push any pointed stick or rod, such as a long screwdriver, into the soil. If it moves through easily, the soil is moist. When the probe stops, it's hit dry soil.) You want to keep the soil uniformly moist, not wet, to a depth of about 2 feet.

Roses in a Desert Garden (ISBN 0-9625961-1-6) by Phoenician Hallie Beck provides all kinds of growing information, as well as varieties that do well here. "Roses for Dummies" is a great, all-around reference book on growing roses. Good luck!

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