Planting Roses

The Treatment of Newly Bought Trees

The importance of unpacking the bundles and getting the trees into the ground without unnecessary delay cannot be too strongly emphasized, more trees being killed through the roots drying out than is generally realized. When the trees fail to respond in the spring, it is usually for this reason. This explains the professional grower’s great care in packing to prevent the roots from drying out during any reasonable delay in transit. His methods of lifting and dispatching from the nursery are further examples of his awareness. On most nurseries the usual procedure is not to lift more trees than can be handled in one day, and when things do not quite work out as intended, any trees left over are usually plunged into sand-pits specially constructed for the purpose. A moral contained in the foregoing remarks is to buy direct from a bona-fide grower, and not from stalls and such-like places, where the roots have been left unprotected.


Roses can be planted at any time from the end of October until the beginning of April, but if, as so often happens, the weather does not permit immediate permanent planting on arrival, the best plan is to plant them temporarily or ‘heel’ them in. One can prepare for this by digging a trench in an odd corner of the garden so that the unpacking of the bundle and the heeling-in is only a matter of a few minutes’ work. The soil taken from the trench should be covered so that dry soil is-available for filling in, making the job a comparatively clean one even in wet weather. The trees should be heeled-in separately in a single row, the roots well covered and the soil trodden down hard round them. They are put in separately to enable any given number to be taken without disturbing the remainder. If the trees arrive during a dry period a little common sense in regard to the use of dry soil is necessary, the object of all the precautions outlined being to keep the roots moist. If an unfortunate delay does occur and the trees on being unpacked have a shrivelled, dry look, bury them completely for about a fortnight. This treatment will plump them up and take away the shrivelled appearance. Whether or not this is necessary, it is a good plan to puddle the roots in a mixture of soil and water immediately before planting.

The Right Depth to Plant

When the tree is planted at the right depth, the union should be just below the surface. The ‘union’ is where the cultivated rose has been budded and joined to the understock and the point from which the top growth begins. If the union is an inch or two either above or below the soil, it will not matter greatly, but it is a common fault, and usually a fatal one, to put the roots down in the soil to a depth where they cannot breathe. The reason for having the union just below the surface of the soil is so that the soil will afford a little protection from frost. In extremely frosty weather the precaution can also be taken of drawing up the soil round the stems, as one does with potatoes, but this extra soil must be levelled off in early spring. This is a common practice in countries where the temperature drops very low, but it is rarely necessary in this country. Owing to the mildness of many of our winters, the risk can be safely taken of planting with the union out of the ground, but, nevertheless, the risk still remains.

Preparing the Planting Hole

Having settled the depth of planting, the next step is to dig out a hole approximately 12 inches square by 9 inches deep to take the plant. Dust the hole with a small handful of bonemeal and spread out the roots to cover as large an area as possible. Begin to fill in the soil, firming it every now and again until the hole is three parts filled, then tread it down lightly. If the tree sinks a little in so doing, then ease it up and firm again. Replace the remainder of the soil to the bed level, and finish off by treading hard. The main considerations are firm planting and the avoidance of air-pockets round the roots, and if the soil is not sufficiently fine to ensure the latter, it is a good plan to get some friable soil with which peat has been mixed for covering the roots; the soil from the bed can then be used for the remaining filling in. Planting is simple, but if done properly will save a lot of trouble later. By following the procedure given, it should ensure the roots being well covered with none pointing upwards, thus eliminating the risk of their coming up at a distance from the tree and turning into sucker growths.

Climbers, ramblers and climbing Hybrid Teas should all be planted to a similar depth as the bush roses, with the union just below the surface.

Planting Standard Roses

Standard roses are budded at some distance from the roots, so therefore the union is no guide. Plant them as shallowly as possible. Staking should be done before filling in the soil around the roots. The stake will then be firmer and the risk eliminated of the roots being damaged as they would be if it were driven into the soil after planting.

The stake should be of sufficient length to support the head of the standard, ie. it should reach to about 1 inch below the point of budding. Short stakes are worse than no stakes, as unequal pressure is created at the point where they terminate, resulting very often in the breaking of the stem.

Filling Gaps

When filling in gaps in established beds, it must be borne in mind that a considerable amount of nutriment has already been taken out of the soil, and also that the cause of the failure of the original plant might still persist. It is therefore most desirable that the old soil should be replaced with fresh. Dig out about a cubic foot of the old soil, and if a little decayed manure is available, mix it with the new soil when filling in. The precaution can always be taken, if the manure is not sufficiently decayed, of covering the roots with unmanured soil to prevent any possible harm.


The best time to transplant roses is at the end of October, although it can be done with normal precautions at any time from October until April during open weather. The necessity sometimes arises, however, for transplanting to be done out of season, for example, when one moves to another house, say at mid-summer. It can be done quite successfully even at this unfavourable time, provided every precaution is taken to keep the roots moist until they are replanted, and the trees afterwards cared for until they have had time to re-establish themselves. Wet sacks to wrap round the roots are perhaps best for keeping the roots moist, and there is no need to lift the trees with a ball of soil, the roots in any case having to produce fresh rootlets. Avoidance of unnecessary delay is essential, and before planting strip the trees of all leaves; also trim away any damaged roots. Next puddle the roots in a mixture of soil and water and proceed with the planting. Do not prune back the top growths immediately, but wait until the trees begin to break afresh and then prune away any dead parts. See that plenty of water is given to the roots during the first critical weeks after replanting, and it is a good plan to combine with this the syringeing of the stems with clean water two or three times a week until the new growth is forced. The moisture absorbed by the stems will be most helpful in retaining life while the new rootlets are being formed.

02. May 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Propagating Roses, Pruning Roses, Rose Care, Roses | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Planting Roses


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