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Planting Roses

The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 4147

One of life's sweetest pleasures is inhaling the scent of a beautifully fragrant rose. You'll be able to enjoy an abundance of these fragrant blooms all season long by correctly planting and caring for them.

Roses can be bought as bare-root plants and also as potted plants. Often if they are potted, they are grown on their own roots (as opposed to being grafted onto rootstock). 

Bare-root plants and potted plants have different advantages: Bare-root is a lightweight and easy way to mail-order a plant that you otherwise wouldn't be able to find at your local nursery. However, if you're gardening in a climate that has harsh winters, potted plants can be a safer option.

When you receive your bare-root plant, you should first open the package and inspect the plant's condition. If you observe any damaged canes or roots, prune with sharp pruners immediately to deter any infection from setting in. It is best to plant them straightaway, but always plant according to your zone. If you aren't able to do this, you can store them safely in a moist plastic bag in your refrigerator to keep them in dormancy.

When you're ready to plant, soak the roots in water overnight. If you have a root-stimulating solution (usually found at any quality gardening center), you can add this to the soaking water.

Dig a hole about 1.5 times as deep and wide as the length of the root system. Add a slow release organic granular fertilizer (as opposed to a chemical fertilizer that would burn the roots) and a little compost to the back fill of the hole. Make a mound of soil in the center of the hole to support the roots and keep air from getting trapped underneath.

If your rose is grafted, plant the bud union slightly above the soil line to discourage bacterial and insect infection, never exposing the root crown. Be sure to plant so their root crown is at soil line.

It is very important to properly prune roses, as cutting back rose canes stimulates new growth, helps reduce disease, and improves air circulation, while giving the plant an attractive shape. Regardless of the type of rose you have, always prune out dead, dying, and diseased canes first. These should be very obvious to you. 

A very simple rule is to prune for air circulation, removing any crossing canes and pruning to an outward-facing bud. Your goal is to simplify the structure of your shrub while working with its natural form. More refined nuances of pruning will depend on your type of rose. It's important to know the form of your plant, and whether it is repeat blooming.

Protecting Rose Plants
It is important to make sure that bugs, such as aphids, do not harm your roses. To control insects on indoor or outdoor plants, including vegetable plants, try Scotts EcoSense Insecticidal Soap. It's organic, kills insects quickly, may be used up to the day of harvest, and does not persist in the environment. For more information, visit

Special thanks to Sarah Owens from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for sharing this information. Special thanks to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for giving tickets to see the garden's roses to our studio audience. Special thanks to Jackson and Perkins for giving catalogues and sweetness bare-root tea roses to our studio audience.

For more helpful gardening information, check out our vegetable garden center. Plus, show off your prized vegetable or vegetable garden by entering a photo in our vegetable garden contest.

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