The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Roses,

Question: My neighbor just moved away. She told me I could have her three rose bushes that she planted in her yard last spring. When is the best time to transplant them from her yard to mine? Any tips on the best way to do so? When should I prune them?

Answer: I'd say you have a very generous neighbor! Roses do best planted from November through March. They're moisture sensitive, so trying to plant once the weather heats up can cause problems. 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.

Pruning roses can be confusing because different varieties require different treatments. If you have hybrid teas or grandifloras, here are the basics: In the spring, remove the dead and damaged canes as far back as necessary. Then, remove any suckers that arise from below the graft union, if there is one (the swelling near the base of the plant). Next, select the healthiest canes (thicker and bright green) and cut off the rest. If your roses are just a couple of years old, save about 3-5 canes. Save more on older plants. Lastly, cut the flowering canes back by one-third to one-half. Make your cuts about 1/4" above an outward-facing bud.

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