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7:18 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

There's still time to get rose bushes in the ground

Few things add a touch of charm and beauty to your landscape that compare to a rose bush.

With lush green leaves and blossoms that range from white to deep purple, how can you resist?

While bare root roses are available in Kingman, it's advisable to get bare root roses planted before the middle of March.

Buying a rose

Roses can be purchased in containers or as bare root stock (plants without soil around the roots). Locally, gardeners can plant container roses any time, except during the heat of the summer. Bare root roses should be planted from late December to mid-March.

Select graded No. 1 roses for best results. A No. 1 rose has three or more canes that are 14-18 inches long. On bare root roses, the buds and canes should preferably still be dormant.

Do not buy a plant that has a wax coating for our desert climate. The wax does not protect buds and canes from drying out completely and becoming dehydrated.

Warm weather and intense sunlight can cause heat to build up under the wax and kill the plant.

Ready to plant

Dig a hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet square in an area free of shrub and tree roots.

Check for adequate drainage by filling the hole with water. If the water remains in the hole for more than six hours, there is poor drainage. Dig deeper until the water drains.

Removing all rocks and caliche to allow for proper drainage is critical, as roses do not like soggy soil.

Improve the soil by adding equal amounts of organic matter with the native soil. In addition, add one-half cup of superphosphate (0-20-0) and a cup of sulfur. It is also beneficial to add one-half cup of blood meal or one cup of cottonseed meal.

Bare root roses

Twenty-four hours before planting a bare root rose, soak the entire rose in a solution of water and root stimulator.

Before soaking, prune any damaged roots. Strip off a quarter-inch of each of the remaining roots to stimulate new root growth.

Prune canes to no more than six to eight inches, to a plump, outward-facing bud.

Partially refill the previously dug hole with the prepared moistened soil. Shape the soil into a pyramid.

Set the rose crown (the bump where the roots and canes come together) on the pyramid. The crown must be two inches above the soil surface grade after the soil has settled.

Spread the roots equally around the pyramid, making sure they are completely extended, to prevent girdling (girdling is the circulating of roots which can eventually kill a plant). Work in the prepared soil through the roots and gently firm the soil. Add water to the hole to settle soil.

Build a reservoir around the bush after planting and water again; add the water with root stimulator already in it.

Container roses

Prepare the hole/soil as already stated.

Remove the rose from the container and examine its roots. If the roots are tangled, cut the root ball in half with a sharp knife.

Place prepared soil in a pyramid fashion, and spread the plant evenly over it, making sure the crown sits two inches above the soil surface after the soil settles.

After planting, water with a root stimulator, which will encourage new root growth, and settle the soil.

Build a reservoir around the rose for irrigation later. Make sure all roots are covered with at least two inches of soil.

After planting, prune canes back to approximately 8 to 12 inches. Make the final cut above an outside-facing bud so new growth will develop outward.

Remove all weak canes by cutting them back to the ground.

Remember these important points:

• Do not fertilize new roses with nitrogen until after the first blooms.

• Always, always, always apply a layer of mulch around your rose bushes.

Keep the mulch about three inches from the crown and extend it beyond the drip line. Mulching conserves moisture, lowers the soil temperature and helps control weeds.

• Fertilize your established roses with an all-purpose rose fertilizer. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the major nutrients required to produce quality roses. Trace elements such as chelated iron, magnesium, manganese, boron, zinc and sulfur are also essential.

Organic fertilizers such as blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal and fish emulsion can also be used. Always follow the manufacturer's application amounts.

• Proper irrigation is essential. Irrigate to the bottom of the root zone (about 18 to 24 inches) with each watering.

Check the irrigation depth by pushing a steel bar or long screwdriver into the soil. Where it stops indicates how deeply the water penetrated.

Deep, infrequent watering allows air to return to the soil between irrigations, encourages roots to grow deeply, avoids root rot and flushes away salts. Light, infrequent irrigation causes shallow roots, which leads to water stress during hot summers or windy periods.

Determine when to irrigate again by testing the soil 2 inches below the bush's canopy. If the soil is moist, wait a few days and test again. If it is dry and crumbles to the touch, irrigate.

Keep all irrigation water on the ground, off of the plants leaves.

Then just sit back and watch your plant flourish, and get ready to enjoy those beautiful blossoms.

For gardening questions, call the Master Gardener helpline at (928) 753-3788.