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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Roses

Shrub Roses (page 2 of 3)

by Karen Dardick

Buying and Planting

Shrub roses are sold in the traditional ways. If you purchase your roses mail order, they will arrive bare root. Most mail-order nurseries ship in early spring, and the roses should be planted immediately -- don't let the roots dry out. If mail-order source can be persuaded to ship in the fall, planting then will give roses a head start in the spring. Be certain to cover canes of fall-planted roses with soil prior to freezing weather.

All the shrub roses listed here need at least eight hours a day of full sun for maximum flower production and well-drained soil.

Once you've selected a site, dig a hole wide enough to extend the roots of a bare-root plant without bending them. Spread the roots over a low cone of soil in the center of the planting hole. Backfill with the soil removed from the hole, firming it in place with your hands.

If you buy your plants at a nursery or garden center during the growing season, they will be growing in containers. The advantage of buying this way is that you see the plant in leaf or even in bloom. When transplanting a potted rose to the garden, dig a hole that is twice the width and about the same depth as the container (see "Hardiness" below for exceptions). Use a utility knife to cut the pot away so that the roots are disturbed as little as possible.

Roses need water, although once established, shrubs require less than a hybrid tea. If you live where rainfall during the growing season is slight or nonexistent, give the young plants a deep, thorough soaking once or twice weekly through the summer. For optimum growth, fertilize in early spring, late spring and early fall with either organic fertilizer, fertilizers formulated specifically for roses, or both.

Most shrub roses are "self-cleaning," meaning faded flowers drop and plants generally look neater. Deadheading or cutting off faded blooms is not necessary. Prune to shape or to cut flowers for indoors any time of year. In spring, remove dead wood, and if necessary, shorten two- and three-year-old growth or extra-vigorous growth by one-third to one-half.


If you live where winter temperatures are 20?F or above, plant at the container depth or so that the bud union of grafted roses (the swollen area between the roots and where the plant branches) is at soil level. Unless otherwise noted, most roses die to ground level at temperatures around -20°F. Where winter temperatures range between 20? and -20?F, set the bud union deeper, two or more inches below the soil surface.

In climates where winter temperatures reach lower than -20?F choose nongrafted roses grown on their own roots. "Own-root" roses are more likely to survive and regrow after severe cold. Several are available. These include the Morden and Explorer series, and specific varieties, such as 'Simplicity'.

Plant own-root roses at the previous soil line, indicated by the color change on the thick shank above roots. (All of the hardiness figures offered here are based upon a healthy, vigorous rose. Weak and poorly growing plants are less cold-tolerant.)

Climate has another important effect on rose performance. Roses growing in sunny, temperate regions tend to become larger than stated in some catalogs. For instance, 'Sally Holmes' and 'Lady of the Dawn' are essentially climbers in warm, southern regions, but are medium-sized shrubs in the North.

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