Consulting Rosarian Tip for March

March CR Tip by Collette Morton, Master Consulting Rosarian


Ahhh March. Is anyone else tired of winter? The first day of spring is this month, but as we Coloradoans know, we
probably still have lots of winter weather to go. March is typically the snowiest month in our area. That’s a scary
thought give the amount of snow we have had this year. What is a rose gardener to do?
Have you ordered some bare root roses? Typically, I don’t plant them directly in the ground. I plant my bare root
roses in 5-gallon pots. First, I soak them in water for 24 – 48 hours to make sure the roots are well hydrated. I add a
few drops of chlorine bleach to kill any bacteria that might be lingering. When I plant them, I use a good potting
mix. Just like if I were planting them outside, I make a mound of soil in my pot and spread the roots over the
mound. Then fill the pot with soil. Often, when planting in a pot, I cannot get the bud union below the soil level.
That’s OK, I can correct that when I plant them outside. Then of course, I water. I want to keep the soil moist, but
not soggy. At least once a day, I also like to use a spray bottle or hose to mist the canes and keep them hydrated.
This will help stimulate the buds. If the weather is warm, I will put the pot outside, but bring it into the garage at
night until we are getting nights consistently above freezing. Just like a rose grown in a pot from a nursery, you need
to harden off the rose before leaving it outside in full sun. I typically wait until June or July to plant these bare root
roses in the ground.


Pruning? NO WAY! It’s much too early! The only pruning I might do is to trim off canes which have gotten
broken in the wind. Speaking of wind, does it seem like this winter has been especially windy? Winter winds tend
to dry everything out. So I recommend you check the moisture in your soil and water if needed. I use a watering
stick so I can get the moisture down to the roots where it is needed. Be sure to water on a day when the temps will
be above 45.


Other activities to consider in March – If the soil is not too wet, it is also a good time to prep holes for those new roses you will be planting. (Don’t forget, we will likely have roses available at the SymROSEium on April 8th.) When
deciding on a location be sure the site will receive at least 6 hours of sun daily. Know the mature size of the rose –
will it fit? Look at the location; think about what shrubs, trees or other plantings may compete with the rose roots.
Dig the hole approximately 18 inches wide and deep; the larger the hole the better. Amend the native soil, with 1
part compost to 3 parts soil. I also add some organic fertilizer to the soil according to the package directions.
Transplant roses. When transplanting, try to maintain as much of the root ball as possible to reduce the stress on the
rose. After transplanting, cover with mulch until pruning time. Don’t prune before you transplant or you could stimulate new growth when there are still many freezes to come.
The warm days are also a good time for some garden clean-up of dead leaves and other debris. Both powdery mildew and black spot on dead leaves can overwinter and infect your new growth in the spring. (Remember to throw
rose debris into your trash and not your compost pile.)


Prep for the upcoming season. Get your pruners and loppers sharpened. If you did not clean and oil your shovels
and trowels in the fall, now is a good time to do that. Do you need new gloves? You want to protect your hands
when pruning and planting. Is your tetanus shot up to date? Do you have a good supply of fertilizer? Attend the
March meeting to hear about a new organic fertilizer to replace Mile-Hi Rose Feed.
Continue to dream of sitting on your deck or patio with your favorite beverage in
hand smelling the beautiful roses blooming in your garden. Just a few months away