Selecting Rosebushes for Your Gardens/Rose Beds

Selecting Rosebushes
By Stan V. Griep
Colorado Native Rosarian
Over 40 years of Rose Growing Experience
 
 

             There are many varieties of roses available for purchase today. There are also many places to purchase rosebushes. On-line purchasing of bare root or potted rosebushes has become quite popular.  On-line purchasing of roses is especially popular when looking for a certain rose that is not available locally. No matter where you purchase your rosebushes, it is extremely important to obtain good high quality rosebushes. Nothing is worse for a beginning rose grower than to purchase a rosebush that is not healthy or has some other problems to start with. I have been contacted by beginning rose lovers that are extremely frustrated over the lack of performance of their new rosebush. I go over everything they did from purchasing to planting of the rosebush first. Then I inspect the actual rosebush to see if I can spot any obvious problems. Many times I have dug down along side a problem rosebush to find that its root system is nearly non-existent. The new rose lover had purchased a bare root rosebush at a local store that even though it was still in its plastic wrapping had started to leaf out. The new rose lover reasoned that the rosebush must be very healthy if it was leafing out so nicely while still in the wrapping.  Once the rosebush was unwrapped our new rose lover noticed that there were not many roots there at all, yet went ahead and got it planted and watered well. A warm afternoon followed soon after planting and all the foliage went limp and died. What once had been a happy and excited beginning rose lover, was now a frustrated and upset rose lover. In many cases that new rose lover feels that he or she did something wrong and thus roses are given the label of hard to grow or very finicky. Most of the time what actually happened was that the rosebush had its root system badly chopped off or cut back at some point either during its harvest for sale or perhaps at packaging time. The limited root system was packed in nice wet sawdust and was capable of getting all the moisture it needed to support the growth it started to put forth while in the wrapping. One the new rose lover took away that wet sawdust packing and planted it in the garden, even though well watered, the new planting medium did not have the same moisture providing availability. Through on top of that the warm to hot afternoon sun and a root system that is not developed or established enough to support any foliage and what you get is limp to crispy foliage very quickly. Most of the time the rosebush will die as the root system is just not sufficient to support it. Thus the passion of growing and enjoying roses gets a much undeserved black eye of sorts.

 

When buying bare root rosebushes always take a good look at their root systems and inspect them for any damage or possible signs of disease. If some areas of the roots look slimy feel free to prune them back to good tissue. If the root system does not look right to you take it back to the store where purchased and ask for another rosebush. If the rosebush was purchased on-line call the company and explain the situation to them. The company will then advise you on how they want you to handle the situation. The company it was purchased from will replace the rosebush in many cases.

Some companies will want the rosebush shipped back to them and then will send out a replacement. The canes of the rosebush must be inspected as well for any damage or signs of disease. If significant signs of damage or disease are found, follow the same steps given previously when finding problems with the root systems.

When purchasing rosebushes that are started in pots it is still necessary to take a look at the root system. Have one of the store or nursery employees tip the rosebush upside down while firmly holding the rose at the point where it enters the soils in the pot.

 

If the soils easily spill out of the pot to the point where the roots are exposed, it has not been in the pot long enough to get the root system growing and developing. In such cases the root system may well be in trouble when it comes to supporting its foliage when removed from the pot and planted in your garden or rose bed. There is nothing wrong with going ahead and buying such rosebushes, just be aware that you will need to keep an eye on the soils moisture and also make some provisions to protect the rosebush from the direct intensity of the sun for at least a couple of weeks. My favorite local greenhouse sells wonderful potted rosebushes that always seem to have very well developed root systems in the pots. When I remove them from the pots the root growth is easily seen and when tipped upside down a little of the top of pot soil may come out but the root zone stays intact. Many folks will say to be sure to get #1 grade roses which is a good idea, however there are times when the marketing folks have a different idea of what makes a #1 grade rosebush than what the typical rule is. The #1 grade rosebush is supposed to be the more mature bush with a better root system and will have 3 or more strong canes at least one of which must be a minimum of 1/2 inch in diameter and 18 inches in length. The #1 ½ rosebush will have 2 or more canes that are a minimum of 5/16 inch in diameter and at least 15inches in length. A #2 rosebush has canes but may all be very small diameters and the root systems are not well developed.

 

Part of selecting a good rosebush has to do with knowing where in your garden or rose bed you intend to plant it. Read the available information on the rosebush or rosebushes you intend to buy. The amount of room a given rosebush needs to thrive can differ greatly from rosebush to rosebush. Some hybrid teas like to stretch for the sky and do not spread out much. One would want to be careful about planting such roses where roof eaves or overhangs are close by. Many floribundas love to spread out and load up with their beautiful clusters of blooms. One would not want to plant such a rosebush in a tight or limited space environment.  Many rose lovers make such mistakes with miniature rose bushes as well. A wonderful lady from California that ran a miniature rose business originally started by her mother once gave me a major tip about mini rosebushes. She told me to remember that the “mini” in miniature roses means the bloom and not necessarily the bush. Thus it is just as important to read up on the miniature roses as well to see what their various growth habits are.

 

Keep in mind that the price you pay for a rose may not be a solid indication of how healthy or hardy the rosebush may be. In some cases I may pay $3.00 or less for a bare root plastic wrapped rosebush and get exactly what I paid for in that it will need much tender loving care (TLC) to get it going and even with all the TLC it will never really make much of a bush, thus all of that TLC was to no avail as the rosebush either did not perform well or died in spite of it. Thus that $3.00 purchase added in with all of my TLC time may equal zero in returns and hundreds in frustration. The same can be said for a potted and started rosebush that costs $25.00 or more as it may not perform well in my garden or rose bed environment but this is far less likely. Once removed from the optimum greenhouse growing environment, some rosebushes go into a bit of transplanting shock. The rosebush may appear to be stuck at a certain stage and existing buds are not opening and blooming.

 

As long as the leaves are looking healthy and not going limp and the buds remain erect and do not go limp, things will be fine in time. What we cannot see is the root system attempting to establish itself into its new environment. Adding some vitamin B1 solution, Superthrive or root stimulator to the soils around the rosebush should help with the shock as well as aid the root system in its development.

 

One of my grandmothers used to totally disbud the newly planted potted and growing rosebushes thus not allowing it to have that first cycle of blooms in her garden. Her reasoning was to allow the rosebushes energies to go into building and establishing its root system rather than making the rosebush try to do both produce blooms and build up its root system at the same time. She felt that usually either the blooms or the root system, sometimes both, had too much of a struggle thus not performing as well in the long run. The buds would open but the blooms will be flatter than they normally would be or will not last long at all. The blooms may be without the fragrance they were advertised to have. Giving the root system its best opportunity to get well established was the top concern, as the root system must be doing well for the rosebush to pass its “winter test” here in Colorado. So, while difficult to do, the total disbudding of newly planted potted and growing rosebushes would appear to have some merit.

 

Basically look every rosebush you are considering buying over very well. Then give it your best efforts to give it a good home that it will thrive in. A happy and hardy rose makes for a happy you! Also realize that no matter how much you pay for a rosebush it just may not thrive and that may not have anything to do with your efforts. I have had three rosebushes of the same name and variety perform totally differently. It comes down to the actual “will of the rosebush”. Some have a strong will to thrive and perform, others need more coaxing to perform and some must be part mule as they are stubborn all the way! If you love the rose and want it in your garden don’t give up on the variety, I encourage you to try another rosebush of the same variety. Seek the joy and peace that truly come with growing roses, do your best to keep frustrations to a minimum by studying this object of your affections. Seek out others in your area that grow roses such as any local Consulting Rosarians for their advice on tending to roses as their advice may well be better than any book ever written for growing roses in your location. A list of Consulting Rosarians listed by State may be found at the American Rose Society website at www.ars.org. I further encourage you to seek a local rose society, go to some of their meetings and check them out. Joining up is optional.

 

Now on to the preparations for planting and actual planting of our rosebushes…

 

WinterMagic100908BHPZ
Winter Magic – Miniature Rose – As captured by: Stan V. Griep

 

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