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Cannon: When can I plant and transplant rose bushes, and when is the best time to prune them?

A common question asked of the Hall County Extension office, brought to you by Wanda Cannon

POSTED: January 16, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Rose bushes can be planted in November through March.

Dig a large hole and spread the roots in all directions. Make sure the graft union - the swollen area of the stem - is 1 inch above the soil level.

Water thoroughly to settle the soil, then remove any weak or dead canes from the bush.

Mulch around the plant and water regularly. Fertilize them beginning in March with a good general fertilizer (about 1 tablespoon per each foot in height every month through September). Read the directions on the plant for sun and soil conditions.

Now is also a good time to transplant any roses you may want to move (climbing or bush). Make sure you dig deep to carry as much of the root system with you as you can when you transplant.

The best time to prune rose bushes generally is in February, but you can prune them now up until mid-March.

A few warm days causes the buds to swell, making it easy to see which direction a stem wants to grow. Prune bushes by removing weak canes, leaving between four and six main shoots. Each of these canes should have three healthy shoots attached to them, somewhere between 6 inches to 12 inches long.

A good rule of thumb is to prune one-third of the existing stems. Make a note of how much you need to cut, and make your cuts 1/4 inch above a swollen bud that faces toward the outside of the plant.

With bush roses, pruning's aim is to open up the center of the plant. Pruning out the branches that cross through the center of the plant will increase air flow and decrease the incidence of diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew.

The only exception to winter pruning is climbing roses - prune them after spring flowering, usually around June or July. Remove the older canes, allowing the new canes to develop the following year's blooms.

In the winter, you can secure the canes of climbing roses to their supports with garden twine to protect against wind damage.

Anytime is the right time to cut out diseased or dead wood. This will not affect the plant, but with the leaves off of the bushes it is easy to see any damages.

Prune a couple of inches under the damage, making the cut above a vigorous and healthy bud. If you have a cane that is totally dead, cut it all the way off. Do not leave a stub.

A finished plant will have only five or six canes growing from the main stem - then your rose will be ready to produce a beautiful show.

And, most important - be sure to wear gloves!

Thanks to caes.uga publications and "Gardening in Georgia" on

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.


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