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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Moving 20 Year Old Roses to a New Location

Q. I have some beautiful rose bushes that are about 20 years old which have lovely big blooms and smell lovely. I would like to move them to different place in the garden as some have died and the locations are not very attractive.  What and when and how should I do this? 

A. If the roses have been in the ground for that long, your chances of moving them successfully will be slim. However, if you want to try to do so then actually your best time to move them is in the fall, from the end of September to about the middle of October. Spring is the second best time.
Moving them in the fall gives them two seasons of mild growth, fall and spring, to recover rather than just one, spring. Spring can be a very temperamental month here with it going into some high temperatures early on.
If you were to move them in the spring then I would move roses in early to mid-January since they produce new growth so early. Be sure to predig the new hole to accommodate the new plant and not much deeper.
Amend the soil coming from the hole with good quality compost in about a 50% by volume of soil. In other words, equal volumes of soil and compost.
Add a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus such as triple superphosphate or bone meal. You can also use a good quality fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Peters. Use their formulation that is high in phosphorus, higher than the other numbers. Mix all of the ingredients together and plant in this amended soil.
Triple Super Phosphate, 17 to 23% phosphorus depending on the source.
Prune the roses back no less than about 12 inches above the graft (dogleg). You can prune them back leaving more wood than this but they should be cut back substantially to compensate for excavating through a well-established root system.
Sever the root system of the established roses with a very sharp shovel; hopefully in one cut if possible. Go all the around the plant twice about 12 inches (radius) from the trunk.
When cutting with the shovel the second time around, begin to lift the rose gently while undercutting the rose.
If at all possible move as much of the roots WITH soil as possible. Lift the rose with the shovel on to some old carpet or thick cloth. Move the rose by lifting the plant by the ends of the carpet/cloth.
Place the rose into the new hole and begin filling the hole without delay. Use the amended soil and remove air pockets by adding water to the hole as you add amended soil. Settle the soil in the hole with water, not your feet.
Lift the plant in the hole so that it is planted at the same depth it was in the old hole. Construct a basin around the hole to serve as a source of water retention and water with a hose twice a week for the first two weeks.
Cover the basin with wood mulch two to four inches deep. Stake the rose to keep the roots from moving and leave it in place for one growing season. I use 3/8 rebar that is 24 inches long pounded into the soil immediately next to the plant and tie the plant to it with green nursery tape. If you are in an area prone to rabbit damage, encircle the plant with a cylinder of chicken wire.

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