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ROSES : Bare Roots: They Get the Plants Off to the Best Start

January 09, 1988|ROBERT SMAUS

Many believe that planting roses bare-root is the best way. A problem with planting anything grown in a container is that the roots have been restricted and are not growing in a natural fashion--they are circling instead of growing out.

Planting bare-root lets you position the roots so they can continue to grow out into the soil, and you are certain that they are not circling or pot-bound.

It is best to buy bare-root plants from bins filled with damp sawdust, but most nurseries only sell them with their roots wrapped in plastic bags. In these bags, you are gambling that the roots are alive and healthy, not dry or (more likely) rotted. If the roots are the least bit dry, they should be soaked overnight in a pail of water to plump them up. If they are rotted, they will feel squishy, and if the roots are cut, the inside will not be white but off-color. Roses with rotten roots will not succeed.

You are also gambling that there are enough roots. Many roots are lost when the plant is dug from the field, but there should still be many. If there aren't, consider taking the rose back to the nursery for another.

(A few nurseries are now potting their bare-root roses. They see it as a compromise solution. If you plant right away, you can simply shake the soil off the roots and plant it bare-root; if you can't get around to it right away, or wait too late in the bare-root season, the rose will be able to root into the potting mix in the container. This is how they do it at Palos Verdes Begonia Farm, and John Bauman says they still manage to sell them at bare-root prices.)

With bare-root plants, never let the roots dry, but also never let them soak for longer than overnight. Spread the roots out and then dig a hole a little wider than the spread of the roots and a little deeper. In the bottom of this hole, mound up a cone of soil on which to set the rose. This cone supports the plant and lets you arrange the roots so they are all heading in the right direction--down and out. Nurseries usually have bare-root planting guides that illustrate these steps; ask for one.

Not everyone agrees on how deep the rose should sit, but you will be safe if the bud union--that bulge at the base--is at ground level. The extremes are burying it two inches under the soil, or keeping it two inches above.

Sprinkle a little fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, and cover it with an inch of soil. You can add soil amendments to the dirt that goes back in the hole, or you can simply put the soil back in the hole after first pulverizing it. Again, there is some debate on which is the better way.

Do not fill the hole with soil that is wet or full of clods. Some gardeners run it through a quarter-inch screening to make sure. It is very important that the soil be pulverized and fine and that it be firmed down as it is put back in the hole. You want to avoid any large air spaces by the roots.

After filling the hole, mound up soil in a ring so it makes a watering basin and then thoroughly soak the soil. If we get a typically hot few January days, consider covering the rose with a paper bag for a few days after planting, to protect it from the sun and from drying winds.

Expect new growth by mid-February and fertilize again at that time. Expect flowers--the prettiest of the year--by April 1.

ROSE SHOPPING GUIDE Buying roses can be a bit bewildering, there are so many to choose from. This list of roses includes favorites in Southern California that do well here. Varieties marked with a star recieved high marks from the South Coast Rose Society for their performance in cool, moist coastal areas where growing roses can be a problem. Recent roses are not included because the score isn't in. A "blend" has more than one color in its petals.

HYBRID TEAS AND GRANDFLORAS They grow to 4 feet or more, and have large flowers, usually one to a stem. Red and red blends.

Alec's Red*

Double Delight*

Ernest H. Morse

Granada*

Mon Cherie*

Mister Lincoln*

Precious Platinum*

Red Devil*

Red Planet

Viva

Pink and pink blends.

Aquarius

Bewitched

Century Two

Color Magic*

Duet*

Eiffel Tower

Electron

First Prize

Jadis

Miss All-American Beauty

Pink Parfait

Peter Frankenfeld*

Queen Elizabeth*

Showtime

Southern Bell*

Tiffany

Orange and orange blends.

Alexander

Marmalade*

Montezuma

Fragrant Cloud

Futura*

Hocus-Pocus

Ole*

Prominent

Sweepstakes*

Apricot

Antigua

Brandy*

Oldtimer*

Seashell

Whiskey Mac

Yellow and yellow blends.

Gold Medal*

New Day*

Oregold

Peer Gynt

Summer Sunshine

Young Quinn*

White and white blends.

Evening Star

Honor*

Paloma

Pascali*

Pristine*

Sweet Afton*

Lavender and lavender blends

Blue Moon

Blue Nile*

Intrigue

Paradise* FLORIBUNDAS

They grow to 2 or 3 feet, and have small flowers that grow in clusters.

Red and red blends.

Eye Paint

Merci*

Molly McGredy

Interama*

Pink and pink blends

Cherish*

First Edition

Gene Boerner

Rose Parade

Tiki*

Sea Pearl*

Simplicity*

Orange and orange blends.

Marina*

Matador

Orangeade

Orange Silk

Apricot

Cathedral*

Puerto Rico

Yellow and yellow blends.

Golden Fleece

Redgold*

Katherine Loker*

Sun Flare*

Sunsprite*

Yellow Cushion

White and white blends.

French Lace*

Iceberg*

Lavender and lavender blends.

Angel Face*

Deep Purple*

CLIMBERS

Altissimo*

America*

Climbing Double Delight

Climbing First Prize

Climbing Peace

Golden Showers*

Handel*

Joseph's Coat*

Royal Gold

Red Fountain

Tempo

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