Transplanting roses takes a little planning to avoid shock, which can wilt leaves and, in extreme cases, effect eventual healthy growth. For successful planting, avoid common stresses to roses: heat or cold, planting during high-growth periods, poor soil, and inadequate or excessive water. While healthy roses may survive all of these stresses, you can maximize growth by providing a nonstressful transition to a new location. If shock occurs in spite of your planning, there are a number of measures you can take to support recovery.
Dig a hole twice the depth and circumference of the rose root cluster. Remove any packaging (including plant-it-all cardboard) to determine the exact size of the roots, which may have been balled up or crushed in the container. Gently loosen soil around roots and place the rosebush in a bucket of water while you prepare the hole for transplant. Do not leave the roots to soak for more than an hour or so, to prevent shock. Line the hole with peat moss or other compost, leaving room for roots and watering thoroughly. Move rosebush into the ground and replace soil. Tamp down soil gently with your foot and water again.
Prune back all canes to reduce stress if your rose shows signs of wilting or dieback. Some growers routinely cut all canes back to 1 foot or less, leaving the basic framework of branches that determine the shape of the bush. Others address shock by cutting back to 3 main canes, 3 inches long. Shock can be caused by the weight of branches pulling on roots; reducing that stress can lessen symptoms of shock.
Insulate new transplants against sudden temperature changes, which can also send a bush into shock. Covering the cut-back crown with peat moss or shredded bark mulch insulates branches and roots from sudden hot and cold spikes. Providing an improvised milk jug hot cap or a burlap/green stake surround can protect your bush from sudden weather changes, excessive sun and drying winds.
Maintain regular watering. While roots are establishing, moist soil is essential. Allow your bush three to four weeks between planting and fertilizing. While it is tempting to boost nutrition for a shocked plant, the danger of fertilizer burns to roots is too risky.
Things You Will Need
- Rosebush, potted or bareroot
- Bucket of water
- Peat moss or other compost
- Hand clippers
- Gallon plastic milk jug, with the bottom cut out
- Burlap and green stakes
- Transplant roses during their dormant period. In late fall, winter and early spring, roses stop blooming and also grow at a much slower rate than in warmer weather. Old canes die off and the plant rests, making this the best time for transplanting. Avoid transplanting close to hard frost dates or during summer heat. Rose roots, while visibly sturdy, send out threadlike feeder roots than are highly sensitive to heat and cold.
- Be patient. Plant shock can last for several weeks. Work to maintain even temperatures and moisture for your new bush. Regular monitoring is your best assurance against shock damage.
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