The Q&A Archives: Roses died after buying

Question: I bought container roses at a local department store last summer. The plants had new growth but died after planting. Did the waxy substance I noticed on the stems of the plants kill the roses? Jackie Proulx Brooklyn, NY

Answer: No, the stems were dipped in wax to prevent desiccation, says Mike Lowe, owner of Lowe's Own Root Roses, grower of more than 1,000 roses in Nashua, New Hampshire. The wax dip helps stop the stems from drying out, but after two or three months in storlocal nurseryman. If you must purchase roses from a department store, look for bare-root plants wrapped in wood shavings. These are more likely to survive than the container roses, whose roots have been pruned to fit the container, notes Lowe. Also, buy early in the season, when the plants are fresh, and choose dormant roses (those showing no sprouts). Once you get the rose home, soak the whole plant in a five-gallon bucket of water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of soluble fertilizer for 48 hours prior to planting, Lowe advises.

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