The Q&A Archives: Roses?

Question: I work at Home Depot and I really try to broaden my knowledge of the products by using them. I recently planted three bare root rose bush's and I placed them in a well lit area and followed all the planting instructions. One already died and the other three seem to grow at a very slow rate. Is there any plant food that your recommend to boost there growth?

Answer: Keep in mind that bare root roses must spend much of their energy on becoming rooted before they can really begin to grow above ground. Depending on when they were planted and how they were treated prior to planting, and on the weather since they were planted, these may have been somewhat stressed. For instance, if they were dried out prior to planting, or if they leafed out prior to planting, or if they were planted during a very dry spring or during a heat wave, that would stress them badly.

If you just planted them in the past month (mid May on), part of the problem might be the late planting date. Early planting allows them additional time to become rooted before the weather turns warm (or hot) and allows them to establish better before there is seasonal pressure on the plant to try to grow its foliage and canes.

With roses, it is important to plant in a full sun location (or a minimum of six hours including the hour of noon) with evenly moist yet well drained soil, meaning not sopping wet and not dried out. The most important thing you can do is keep the soil damp like a wrung out sponge. Over or underwatering can cause the plant to fail.

Care instructions may vary, but often, bare root roses are planted early in the spring with a pile of soil mounded over them. The soil is removed gradually as they begin to leaf out. The purpose of doing this is to insulate them from cold and prevent them from drying out as they begin to establish. The Another variation can be in whether or not to plant the cardboard container with the rose. In my experience, it is better to remove it.

Planting also involves good soil preparation, loosening the soil over a wide area to encourage rooting into the surrounding soil. Roses will not do well in a poorly drained location or in heavy clay.

Prior to fertilizing, you should run some basic soil tests and also check the soil pH as well. Then you would amend the soil as indicated by the test results. It is no better to overfertilize than to underfertilize. Overfertilizing can "burn" the roots and set the plant back.

In addition to or instead of fertilizer, you could top dress with a good quality compost. Compost generally provides a variety of micronutrients that may be beneficial as well as feeding the soil and soil life. Also, using an organic mulch year round will help keep the soil moister and feed the soil slowly as it breaks down over time.

I hope this helps you trouble shoot the overall situation in addition to considering fertilizer which is only one factor in the process. Good luck with your roses!

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