Transplanting a Rose
by Carolyn Elgar
When’s the best time to transplant a rosebush? Actually, unless the temperature is over 75 degrees, you can transplant a bush here in Southern California anytime. But it is certainly more convenient to do it after you have pruned and defoliated the bushes in the beginning of the year. It’s a scary prospect because no one wants to kill a rose, but if done correctly there should be little harm to the plant.
The obvious place to start is in preparing the plant’s new home. Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the rootball of the plant you are moving. Check for drainage by filling the hole with water and observing how long it takes for the water to be absorbed in the soil. Ideal drainage occurs at 1 to 2-inches an hour; so in half an hour you should see 1/2 to 1-inch drop in the water level. If the drainage is poor, choose another spot.
Mix the soil you have removed with 50 percent compost. Add a phosphorus amendment such as super phosphate or bone meal to the bottom of the hole. This nutrient doesn’t move much in the soil, and the best place for it is near plant roots.
Be sure the targeted bush is well watered, so its roots are firm and hydrated. Dig a shallow trench around the plant far enough away from the trunk to create the largest rootball you can. Use the trench to guide your digging efforts as you ease the bush from the ground. Have a piece of burlap, or some other material big enough to cover the rootball completely, ready on the ground next to the rose. Once the rose is out of the ground you will want to keep the rootball protected with the burlap. It’s best to have a wheelbarrow handy to transport the plant so that it stays together. The most important considerations, and the key to success, are the integrity and moisture of the root ball.
Put as much amended soil in the new hole that is necessary to keep the bud union slightly above the ground. Gently place the rootball into the hole. Add water and let it drain before filling the rest of the hole with the amended soil. Tamp the soil down gently.
The most important thing for the plant, at this point, is to establish healthy roots in its new home. If you have pruned the rose back, the top of the rose will not put demands on the roots before they are ready. Make a bowl like depression around the plant so that when you water it will be contained by the edges of the bowl. The tricky part now is to make sure the plant has enough water to stay hydrated but not so much that it suffocates. Check the soil for dampness at a depth of 3- to 4-inches before you water.
If all goes well, you should see some new green growth emerging in a few weeks. Do not fertilize or spray the plant until it is well established, about one to two months, and it has at least 2-inches of foliar growth.
Carolyn Elgar (firstname.lastname@example.org),‘Transplanting a Rose,’ February 2014, Rose Gazette, Carolyn Elgar, ed. Orange County Rose Society.
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