How to Plant a Containerized Rose in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

Most roses are purchased in black plastic pots. This article is designed to give some tips on how to plant a rose purchased in a black pot.

In theory, roses purchased in black pots can be planted at any time. Of course, selection is best in January and February. Also, if you plant a containerized rose in the heat of our summer, be sure and water it twice a day for the first 7 to 10 days. And don't fertilize a newly planted rose until after the first set of blooms have appeared.

And now, some tips to help ensure success in planting roses purchased in black pots.

In Houston roses are planted in raised beds. This ensures proper drainage. Although roses need at least one inch of water per week (and two is better), they do not like "wet feet." Raised beds allow one to improve the gumbo soil with which Houston is plagued and provide proper drainage.

Try to plant containerized roses as soon as possible after getting them home. Roses (even hybrid teas) will survive in a black pot, but only if they are watered every day or so. The sooner they are in the ground, the sooner they can survive occasional lapses in watering.

How far apart to plant your roses depends on the variety. Hybrid teas take more space than floribundas. Old garden roses can grow to massive proportions. Rose books will offer a guide to the eventual size of your rose variety. As a general rule plant floribundas at least 24 inches apart and hybrid teas at least 30 inches apart. These are bare minimums. More space is better. Organic rose growers argue that crowding roses encourages black spot.

To plant the rose one needs a Stanley utility knife (of the type used for cutting cardboard boxes), a shovel and a ruler. Place the pots in the desired locations, using the ruler to check spacing. Dig the holes one at a time, not all at once. This allows minor adjustments in spacing as one proceeds.

Use the rose in the pot to determine how deep to make the hole. The bud union of the rose should be about two inches above ground level. The bud union is that knot on the stem where the rose was grafted onto the root stock.

There is no bud union on miniatures and old garden roses because they are grown on their own roots. Plant these roses at the same level they are growing at in their pots. Go by the soil level in the pot, not by the rim of the pot.

Make the hole a little bigger than the black pot for ease of planting. Once you are satisfied with the hole, determine which side of the plant is the "front." Do this by rotating the plant while it is still in the pot. Usually one is looking for a fan effect, with a majority of the cane angling back to the rear of the bed.

Now to the tricky part.

If one simply turns the pot upside down and tries to shake the rose out there is a real risk of dislodging the dirt and damaging the fine feeder roots. The utility knife is the tool to use to avoid this.

Take the knife and slowly and carefully cut the bottom out of the pot, using the drainage holes on the side of the pot as a guide. Cut as close to the bottom as possible. Toss this plate-shaped piece of black plastic aside. Next, starting at the bottom cut half way up the "back" side. Place one hand on the dirt at the bottom of the pot and carefully place the pot in the hole with the "front" facing the front of the bed and complete the "back" cut. Then, again starting at the bottom of the pot, cut up the "front" side of the pot. This allows one to carefully ease the black plastic out of the hole without disturbing the plant. Fill in the gaps with the soil you removed to make the hole. Water lightly. Continue with the rest of the roses. That's it.

If you join the Houston Rose Society you can get their list of recommended roses for Houston. For information on how to join click here.

The American Rose Society publishes a yearly Handbook for Selecting Roses that gives a numerical evaluation of each rose. Many of the nurseries and bookstore offer rose booklets that discuss selecting roses. I like the ones by Sunset and HP Books.

Also, consulting rosarians from the Houston Rose Society can be found at the better nurseries in town each spring. They will be happy to help you with your selections.

Happy rose growing.

Written by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

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