Last week I read an article in a national garden magazine by a garden writer from Texas who instructed her readers to plant roses with the bud union at least 2 inches above ground. No, no, no, I said to myself. Not in New England. I couldn’t help but send her an email, telling her, first, that I enjoyed her article in so much that she emphasized that roses were not difficult to grow, if you planted the right disease-resistant varieties, and second, that her planting information was not correct for cold areas like New England.
During our lectures, Mike and I are often asked why an otherwise healthy rose died over a cold winter. We ask two questions before answering: One: was the rose zone-appropriate and two: was it planted with its bud union 2 inches below the soil line? The answer to question number 2 is often, “No, I planted it 2 inches above because I read it in a book/magazine.” We explain that many rose books and articles are written by garden writers from California, Florida …or Texas…who write “for the country” and that’s how roses are planted in their climates, but not in New England. In fact, the upper half of the continental United States is zone 6 or colder and the bud union should always be planted below the soil level so the rose bush remains dormant during mid-winter freeze/thaw cycles.
Planting roses that deep strikes gardeners, especially those from the south, as unusual to say the least. But it is the second line of defense against a really cold winter. (The first line is to select winter hardy varieties to begin with.)
Below are some tips to remember when you’re planting roses:
- Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the root mass. If in doubt, dig a little deeper and wider.
- Trim extra long roots so they will fit nicely into the hole.
- Mix the soil you’ve removed from the hole with an equal amount of organic material – compost, aged manure, seaweed or whatever is readily available. This becomes your backfill.
- Add a cup of lime and a cup of superphosphate or bone meal – half into the hole, half into the backfill.
- Place the rose in the hole, spreading out its roots. Make sure the bud union is TWO INCHES below soil level. (Even deeper in areas colder than southern New England.)
- Then backfill the hole halfway and water.
- Finish backfilling and water again. DO NOT tamp the soil down
- Water newly planted roses every day or two until they show signs of growth.
For more detailed information on how to plant roses, visit our web site, http://www.rosesolutions.net/ and go to our “Articles About Roses” Page or order our book Roses for New England: A Guide to Sustainable Rose Gardening.”