Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2007
Regional Report

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My 'Ballerina' rose is still blooming -- one good thing about our lack of "real" winter weather so far!

Planting Bare-Root Roses

Planting bare-root roses is perhaps the simplest of all gardening tasks. Here are some of the fine points:

1. Shop at a nursery that carries fresh plants and stores them outdoors in a bed of sawdust or mulch. Stay away from plants that have been packaged and stuck on a shelf indoors because chances are these have been kept too warm for too long and have broken dormancy. Once foliage leafs out, it's time to plant immediately or the plant will expend its strength and not recover very easily.

2. Choose roots that look healthy -- flesh firm and filled-out, evenly-colored, with no blotches or other damaged or diseased areas. You can trim broken ends later.

3. When you get the rootstock home, keep it in a cool place (34 to 50 degrees) out of direct sun in a protected area for up to a week.

4. Just before planting, submerge the roots in a pail of lukewarm water. Don't keep it there for longer than three or four hours, however, or the tiny root hairs may begin to suffocate.

5. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. If you must plant it where it's shaded for part of the day, and you have a choice of morning or afternoon sun, plant it where it'll get morning sun. When plants are shaded in the morning, foliage remains moist with dew longer, and this favors the development of diseases. Light shade in the afternoon is fine, especially for the more delicately colored blooms, which will bleach out in intense afternoon sun.

6. Roots spread out as wide as the foliage grows tall, so allow enough space so roots won't compete with shrubs or trees. Good air circulation is also important.

7. Dig a hole or row 18 inches across and deep. This will allow sufficient space for the roots to develop well in loosened soil. Incorporate organic matter such as humus, leaf mold, compost, and well-rotted manure for increased aeration and some slow-release nutrition.

8. For container-growing, choose a pot that's at least 24 inches across and 18 inches deep. When filled with soil, it'll be heavy, so place it in its permanent spot -- or mount the container on casters -- before you begin to plant. A good planting mix is equal parts soil, sand, and humus. Be sure to place gravel or other coarse material at the bottom of the container for good drainage. Horticultural charcoal will purify water that settles at the bottom. The final soil level should be 1 or 2 inches below the top of the container to allow for irrigation.

9. Form a mound of the soil mix at the base of the hole or container, tall enough to accommodate the outstretched roots without bending when the plant is set on top. Spread roots out around the mound, trimming any that are damaged or that start bending in a circle at the outer edge. Refill the hole halfway with soil mix, carefully tucking it around the roots so all are in contact with the soil. Tamp the fill gently with your fist. Don't stomp with your foot, as this will compact the soil too much.

10. Water with a gallon or two of a half-strength compost tea or manure tea, and jiggle the roots slightly to help settle the lower layers of soil and remove air pockets.

11. Fill in the hole to the original level of the soil. A stick or shovel handle laid across the hole will help determine this. The soil mix will sink a bit as it settles, forming a water basin just the right size for summer soaking. Gather excess soil in a circle a foot or so away from the trunk to add height to the basin wall.

12. Water the plant again with another gallon or so of the tea solution to thoroughly moisten the planting hole soil.

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