Many people have told me that their not going to buy any more roses because they always die or they never make it through the winter. I think with a few changes in how you buy a rose and how we plant them and take care of them you will have great success in the future.
The rose is one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden. They can be one of your greatest assets in the garden or you biggest disappointments. When we go to buy a rose it might be a good idea to know what you are buying. They come in boxes or in pots planted in some kind of mixture. The roses in the pots might be soiless mix or some kind of mixture of soiless mix and dirt or compost. They have been dug up and replanted in the pots for shipment to the stores or nurseries. The plants in the boxes are what they call bare roots. They have their roots and tops cut back for packaging and are packed in moist saw dust or some other mixture so they will not completely dry out.
Which one should you buy? Both plants will live when planted properly and care is taken in choosing the right plant. I see in stores the bare root plants in boxes or bags in the middle of March. This is very early to buy because what are you going to with it until you are ready to plant it outside after the last frost. If you did buy one keep it in its box and keep it cool place and moist and hope it doesn’t want to grow. I overheard some people deciding which of these boxed roses to buy in a store one day and they decided that the one with the most growth on them would be the best one. This would not be a good choice because the plant is not in soil and the growth is drawing from the stored energy in the roots, which are already weak from being trimmed, and it may not recover after it is planted. If you are going to purchase a boxed plant buy it when you are going to plant it and buy one that has not started to grow too much and has 3 or 4 canes that are at lest 3/8 inch in diameter and are about 18 inches long. Take it home soak the roots in water for a few hours and plant it properly.
When you buy a potted rose buy from a reputable nursery that is established in your area and guarantees their products and can give you good advice. Now take a long look at the plant you are buying. Does the plant look vigorous and healthy, is there any die back or twiggy growth, is it hardy to your area, has something been eating it, do the leaves look healthy, are there black spots on the leaves? Pick your plant carefully. Take your plant home plant it carefully, inspect often for bugs and anything unusual, fertilize every month until about August 1, hill them up in the fall, uncover them in late spring and you will enjoy them for another year.
One little bit of advice; in the last few years I have been doing two things that have helped me have good roses. In the early spring I spray the roses and ground around the plants with dormant spray before the leaf buds show and it does not go below freezing at night. I have almost eliminated black spot from my plants. A little trick I picked up at the garden show this year is remove some of the lower leaves from the rose because these are the first ones to get the black spot from the ground and it may stop it or at least slow it down.
One other thing, when you plant your new rose the package will instruct you to plant the bud union about an inch below the soil surface. I have in the past few years buried the bud union at least 4 to 5 inches below the soil surface. This will help to protect your rose in our cold winter.