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Now is the time to plant roses

Posted: February 26, 2012 - 1:14am

February is the month everyone starts thinking about roses. Valentine’s Day recently was celebrated and it is one of the biggest days of the year for roses, a favorite of Georgia gardeners.

To grow roses successfully, extra care has to be given, but the rewards are worth the effort.

When starting a rose garden, pick a site that provides sufficient sunlight, good soil and good air flow. These factors are of utmost importance if the roses are going to do their best.

Roses require a site that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. In sites where shade cannot be avoided, a location with morning sun is best. The morning sun will help dry the dew from the leaves and will reduce diseases.

Well-drained soil that has a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is needed. It is best to take a soil sample to determine the pH of the soil and what nutrients are available. To improve the soil and add air space, organic matter should be added to the soil. In poorly drained sites, use raised beds with 6-8 inches of top soil to get the root system out of the water-logged soil.

To determine if a soil is poorly drained, dig a hole 10 inches round and 10 inches deep and fill with water. If the water drains out of the hole within 24 hours, the soil is well-drained.

Roses like soils with high organic matter. A 4-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost or finely ground pine bark, can be tilled into the soil.

The best practice for soil preparation is to till the whole bed area 12 inches deep instead of digging individual planting holes. Tilling the whole bed gives roots a better growing environment. Also, follow the fertilizer recommendation from the soil sample and incorporate this material into the bed area.

One of the hardest tasks that a rose grower has is in the selection of a rose. There are more than 6,000 cultivars with a wide range of flower colors and growth characteristics.

Roses are classified according to their growth habit and flower form. The major classifications of roses are hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, climber, miniature, old roses and species roses. In the past four or five years, knock-out roses have been on the market. They are great plants and require very little spraying.

When buying a rose plant, purchase the best plant available. Cheap plants are usually lower-grade and produce poor growth and flowers the first year. Roses are graded and the grade No. 1 plants cost more.

No. 1 plants have three to five canes that are 18 inches long and three-eighths inches in diameter. Grade No. 1.5 will have two canes 15 inches long, and grade No. 2 will have two canes 12 inches long.

The plants should be spaced 5-6 feet apart for vigorous growing varieties. Next, dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the root system, but make sure that the plant is not planted too deep.

A cone-shaped mound should be placed in the middle of the hole. The cone should be high enough so when the plant is set on top of the cone, the level of the graft is an inch above the soil surface. Then separate and spread the roots over the cone, and fill the hole with soil. At this point, mulch and water the plants. After planting, prune the canes back to a height of 5-7 inches.

Now also is the time to prune established roses in the garden. The roses need to be pruned back to 12-18 inches from the soil. The amount of pruning will depend on the species of roses.

Roses should be properly fertilized, pest and diseases need to be controlled, and plants must be watered properly. When watering, apply the water at the base of the plant and try to keep as much water off the leaves as possible.

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at cphillipshort@comcast.net, or at (706) 836-2152.

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