Right about now the garden centres are stocking up on the new season’s roses. Roses are sold potted or bare rooted, although most roses sold in garden centres today are sold in containers. Bare rooted plants are usually sent from mail order nurseries direct to the customer.
There is no real difference between the two, except bare rooted roses must be planted straight away or the roots will dry out. If you can’t plant them immediately, you must at least give them a temporary home, a process called ‘heeling in’. Dig a V-shaped trench, and place the plants in the trench at a 45deg angle. Backfill with soil, without packing it down and ensuring the roots are covered. Water the plants, and make sure you keep the roots moist. The roses can stay that way for a few weeks.
When planting your roses properly in the garden, dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots when spread out, around 40cm wide by the same deep. Give roses plenty of space – don’t butt them right up against a fence or other roses or shrubs if you can help it. Cramped quarters reduce airflow and raise the humidity levels, thereby encouraging diseases.
Position your roses about a metre apart. Climbers and ramblers can be spaced at a distance of 4m. If growing climbers against a fence, plant them about 45cm away from the fence. Standard roses should be staked at planting time.
Add some slow release fertiliser then form a small mound with soil at the bottom of the hole and place the plant on top of the mound, spreading out the roots. The bud union (the visible knob at the base of the plant) should be level with the surface.
Place soil around the roots, half filling the hole. Add a bucket of water and let it drain away. Finish filling the hole with soil and water again.
If planting bare root roses, which won’t yet have established feeder roots, you need to ensure your plants stay moist – although in New Zealand that’s usually not a problem during winter.
Start feeding your roses with a general fertiliser in spring.
With the exception of climbers and ramblers, roses grow well in containers too. House them in a pot that’s at least 40cm wide, and after a couple of years transplant them into a pot that’s one or two sizes bigger. Water and feed them well; roses in pots dry out much faster than those in the ground, and nutrients can quickly leach out of the pot with frequently water.
Images: top photo with white and pink roses comes from Once Wed; second photo also comes from Once Wed; third photo with ‘Juliet’ roses in gold vase is from The Inspired Bride; bottom photo comes from Rue.