Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
February, 2001
Regional Report

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This bloom from the climber 'Reve d'Or' peeks over its sturdy trellis. It's a heritage rose dating from 1869.

Planting and Pruning Roses

February is the prime month for both planting new roses and pruning existing bushes. Bare-root roses are most commonly planted now, but container-grown roses can be planted too. If you purchase bare-root roses, be sure the roots haven't dried out. Before planting, soak them in a bucket of water for a few hours so they can absorb as much moisture as possible. If you have a container plant, water it thoroughly the day before to help it weather the transplant shock.

The Planting Hole

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the rootball and the same depth. Add a balanced fertilizer in the bottom of the hole or use fish emulsion (high in nitrogen) and bonemeal (high in phosphorus). Most desert soils have plenty of potassium, so it isn't necessary to add that major nutrient. Amend the soil with plenty of compost and/or forest mulch.

Planting Roses

If you're planting bare-root roses, use some of the backfill to create a soil "cone" in the hole. Drape the roots over the cone to make sure they grow outward rather than tangling around themselves.

If you're planting container roses, set the rootball in the hole so that it's level with or a little higher than the soil line, to allow for it to sink some, then backfill. Lightly press down the soil, but don't pack it. The graft point of both types of rose (a slight bulge in the stem near the soil line) should be above ground. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist but not wet until a root system is established. Spread several inches of organic mulch around the base of the plant.

Pruning Roses

It seems odd to cut back roses when they're still blooming, but pruning is done now to prepare bushes for their major bloom period in April and May.

Different types of roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, and climbers require different pruning methods. If possible, attend a pruning demonstration by a professional. Many rose societies offer classes this time of year. It's a great opportunity to see firsthand how to properly prune your rose and to ask questions.

Pruning Hybrid Teas

Hybrid teas are the most commonly grown rose, so here are their pruning basics: Remove any dead or damaged canes. Suckers that arise from below the graft union should be the next to go. Select three to five thick, healthy canes to save on young shrubs. If your plant is several years old, save a few more. Remove the rest of the canes at their base. Finally, cut back the flowering canes by one third to one half. Make pruning cuts one quarter inch above a bud that is facing in the direction you want it to grow (outward, where it has room to spread).

Rose bushes may look denuded after a proper pruning, but they quickly recover and will put on a major flower show in just 2-3 months.

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