Planting Climbing Roses

Many of the climbing roses are very hardy and withstand considerable winter cold. If they are vigorous and healthy at the end of the growing season, they can withstand winter temperatures of 15<198>F or less with some protection (see below). This means climbers can be grown at least as far north as the Ohio Valley and into southern Pennsylvania, and New England (zone 7). Homeowners willing to take the trouble to heavily protect them over the winter, can grow them even farther north.

Locating and Planting
All roses thrive in locations enjoying good sun and air circulation, which help dry dew or rain on the leaves quickly, discouraging disease problems. Roses need bright sun at least 5 to 6 hours a day. Try to locate climbers so that they enjoy morning sunlight. Ideally, roses should have some shade in the afternoon which will protect them from the scorching summer afternoon sun. Although most roses will tolerate filtered shade, too much shade reduces the number of blossoms, encourages legginess and invites rust and mildew problems. Avoid locating rose bushes on sites that are exposed to prevailing winds. Too much wind will damage the foliage in the summer and hurt the canes in the winter. While the support on which they climb will protect climbers somewhat in windy areas, some kind of shielding, e.g. a wall, fence, windbreak, or hedge, will benefit them. Take care not to shelter climbers so that they are denied good air circulation, especially those climbing solid walls.

Roses prefer a soil that is fertile and well-drained, containing sufficient (25%) organic material such as peat moss that it retains moisture. Roses like a slightly acid soil (pH 6.0 to 6.5) which peat moss enhances. Most climbers are sold "bare root" by mail or through nurseries in the spring. They have been dug from the field at 2 years old or so, and are more desirable than container grown roses because their roots are less likely to have been cramped and crowded.

Plant climbing roses in most parts of the country in the early spring before the plant begins to show green buds. If you can not plant bare root types as soon as you acquire them, keep them dormant by dampening the roots and storing them in a cool dark place for up to two weeks. Plant either bare root or container roses any time during their dormant season when the soil is not frozen. In the South, Southwest, and on the West Coast that may be in January or February. Roses raised in containers can be planted almost any time during the growing season.

Plant climbing roses as you would any shrub. Because their roots will eventually grow to 16 or 18 inches deep, try to loosen the soil as deeply as possible. Experiments have proven that roses planted in more shallowly prepared soil will give results equal to those of roses in deep beds during the first year, but after the second year the roses in beds cultivated to 24 inches are superior.

Planting depth varies with climate, the depth of the bud union, (the bulbous or swollen shape just above the roots where the flowering stock was grafted to the root stock), being most important. In the South, plant climbing roses with the bud union even with the soil surface. In the North place the plant so the bud union is 2 to 4 inches below the surface of the soil, to protect it from winter cold. In the middle lattitudes of the United States, place the bud union about an inch below the surface of the soil.

Prior to planting, soak the bare roots of the rose plants in a pail of water for at least six hours. Dig a hole wide enough to accomodate the spread roots and deep enough so that the bud union is at the correct level. Bare root roses from the nursery usually have had their tops shortened. In most cases additional pruning is still needed. Remove any weak twigs and shorten the main canes. Cut away all broken and dried roots until they fit into the planting hole without bending. Build a mound of loosened soil in the center of the bottom of the hole and set the rose bush on the mound, arranging the bare roots down the sides of the dirt mound. Settle the plant into the hole, filling in and firming the soil gently around and over the roots. Water generously. If the plant is still dormant, and it is early spring, mound at least six inches of soil around and over the plant. This prevents the bare canes from drying out and protects the roots from any spring cold snaps. When buds begin to sprout as the weather warms up, gradually remove the soil mound over a period of a week or two. Loosen the wire holding the name tag so it does not constrict the cane to which it is attached. When vigorous growth is apparent, about a month after the buds begin to pop, apply fertilizer according to directions below. DO NOT fertilize the climber at the time it is planted.

Plant climbers so that they enjoy as much air circulation as possible, especially behind the climbing canes. Locate climbers that are intended to climb up a solid wall 12 to 15 inches away from it. They can be planted closer to fences or trellises. Space climbers 4 to 5 feet apart. Those that are to be espaliered need more space, so plant them 6 to 8 feet apart.

Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.

In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators

For more information see the file on Planting Shrubs. For planting tools see Hand Tools For Digging and Planting in Yardener’s Tool Shed.

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