no. 7.404

Selecting and Planting Roses

by A.W. Nelson and C.E. Swift 1(5/06)

Quick Facts...

  • Select a site in full sun with well-drained soil, free of competing tree and shrub roots.
  • Select recommended plants from a reputable nursery or mail-order catalog and plant properly in good or improved soil.
  • Plant bare-root and packaged roses in early spring and protect them by covering the entire plant with loose, loamy, moist soil until the root system starts to function.
  • Do not allow bare-root and packaged roses to dry out before and after planting.

Roses can grow in most communities in Colorado. Colorado roses exhibit some of the most vivid colors seen anywhere in the country.

The American Rose Society lists 48 classifications for roses, but roses in Colorado can generally be said to fall into one of the following types: hybrid tea, miniature, floribunda, grandiflora, climber, polyantha, shrub and Old Garden Rose (OGR).

The hybrid tea, originally a cross between a tea rose and a hybrid perpetual, is the most popular Garden rose. Generally, they produce large blooms on long stems and are preferred for exhibition and cut flowers. Miniatures are naturally dwarf roses and are rapidly gaining in popularity. With proper care, they are a good choice for potted indoor culture. Because of their hardiness, they are excellent for outdoor use.

The first floribunda was produced from a cross between a hybrid tea and a polyantha. These roses usually have more but smaller blooms than hybrid teas. They are somewhat hardier than grandifloras and hybrid teas.

The original grandiflora was produced from a cross between a hybrid tea and a floribunda. This plant is similar in size to the hybrid tea but usually has more but slightly smaller blossoms.

The climbing hybrid teas and climbing grandifloras are not recommended for most areas of Colorado because most will bloom only on the previous year's growth. During severe winters, the previous year's growth on these climbers is damaged by cold temperatures and drying. This results in little or no bloom or blooms of poor quality the following season. There are, however, a number of repeat-blooming, large flowered climbers (LCL) that do well in Colorado's climate. Most of these climbers will bloom on the current year's growth (new wood) and have the added advantage of repeat flowers.

The term "shrub rose" is used loosely to cover roses not previously mentioned. Some of the hardiest of all roses can be found in this group. With its beauty, perfume and history, the shrub rose can be a satisfactory part of the landscape. Included in this group are the English Roses developed by David Austin. There are over 100 varieties and most are repeat flowering and fragrant with the flower form of the Old Garden Roses.

Old Garden Roses (OGR) are roses whose class or type were introduced prior to 1867. Most but not all are once-blooming varieties and winter hardy. Their culture would be about the same as the shrub rose. These roses do very well in our climate with a minimum of care.

Selecting Plants

Roses are sold through mail-order nurseries, local Garden and nursery outlets, retail departments and grocery stores. Generally mail-order nurseries handle bare-root, dormant roses. Local nurseries usually handle potted roses. Department and grocery stores may offer packaged or potted roses or both.

Most experienced rose growers prefer the bare-root, dormant plant from a reputable nursery. Potted roses are a viable choice only when the nursery has used good culture in the potting and care of the plants. Make sure a packaged rose is purchased before the plant has had a chance to dry out and deteriorate on the shelf.

Site Selection

Site selection is important. A good choice is an area that gets full sun and good air circulation. In areas where there is a problem with winds, protect the roses from the prevailing wind.

A good second choice is a location that gets full sun during the early morning hours. This might be on the east side of buildings or an area that is shaded by trees in the afternoon. Locate the plants so they receive a minimum of five to sixhours of sunshine. The early sunshine will dry off the plants and help prevent diseases.

When choosing a location, avoid places where the roses have to compete with tree or shrub roots for water and nutrients. Good drainage is also a factor in site selection.

Planting

For bare-root roses, spring planting is preferred over fall. A good planting time is six to seven weeks before the last killing spring frost.

Prepare rose beds or planting holes prior to receiving the roses. If bare-root and packaged plants appear dry when they are received, soak them in a bucket of water overnight. Do not leave them in water for more than 24 hours.

If planting in a previously prepared bed, dig the hole so it accommodates the root system, usually about 18 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep. If the roses are planted in soil that has not been prepared in advance, dig the hole at least that large. If the soil is compacted or needs improving, the planting hole may be as large as 36 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep.

If the subsoil in the bottom of the planting hole or rose bed is heavy clay, it may be desirable to replace a portion of this subsoil with a good grade of peat moss or compost. Thoroughly mix the peat moss or compost (equal in volume to one-third to one-half of the kept soil) with the good soil. (See Figure 1.)

Previously prepared bed. Proper watering.
Figure 1: Previously prepared bed. Figure 2: Proper watering.
Proper pruning. Mound soil on plant.
Figure 3: Proper pruning. Figure 4: Mound soil on plant.

Never allow the plants to dry out. They may be kept in a bucket of water while the hole is being prepared. When the hole is ready, prepare the plant by pruning any damaged or broken roots. Excessively long roots may be shortened, but leave 8 to 10 inches of healthy root if possible.

While planting, support the plant so the bud union is at or slightly below ground level. Do not pack the soil around the roots. Firm with your hands or let water from the hose settle the soil. It is important to water deeply at this time, but do not puddle the soil as this tends to separate the soil components. (See Figure 2.)

Because the plant was probably topped by machine, with no consideration for proper pruning, prune the canes. Make the pruning cuts at a 30 to 45 degree angle, 1/4 inch above a bud eye, leaving about 6 to 8 inches of the cane. In order to keep the center of the plant open for better air circulation and light penetration, these cuts should usually be made to an outward facing bud eye. (See Figure 3.)

Break up the root ball.
Figure 5: Break up the root ball.

Next, cover the entire plant with loose, loamy, moist soil. This will keep the canes from drying out while a root system is being established and will protect the plant from possible frost damage. Preventing the canes from drying out is probably the most important step to take when planting a bare-root rose in Colorado because of the dry climate (low humidity). (See Figure 4.) This cover may be left on from two to seven weeks, depending on the weather, the plant's progress and the time of planting. Watch the progress of the plant by exposing the tips of the canes. Be careful when removing the soil from around the canes to avoid damage to the new, tender growth. Water from a Garden hose may be the best way to remove this cover.

Potted Roses

Potted roses can be planted during the growing season, any time after the last killing frost. If planting late in the season, the plant should have time to become well established in its new location before the first killing frost. Prepare the planting hole much the same as for bare-root roses, with the depth determined by the height of the bud union from the bottom of the container. Carefully remove the plant from the container and place it in the hole without disturbing the root ball. Make sure the bud union is at or slightly below ground level. Fill in around the root ball with soil. If the plant roots are pot bound, break up the root ball. This can be done by using water pressure through a hose and soil needle or a piece of pipe attached to a Garden hose. (See Figure 5.)

Some Recommended Varieties

Table 1 lists popular rose varieties known to do well in Colorado.

Table 1: Recommended roses for Colorado.
Varieties Color ARS Ratings
Hybrid Teas
Brides Dream
Captain Harry Stebbings
Chicago Peace
Crystalline
*Double Delight
*Electron
Elina
Elizabeth Taylor
*First Prize
Folklore
Keepsake
Lynette
Lynn Anderson
Marijke Koopman
*Miss All American Beauty
*Mister Lincoln
*Olympiad
*Paradise
*Peace
Polarstern
Pristine
*Sheer Bliss
*Tiffany
*Touch of Class
Lt. pink
Deep pink
Pink blend
White
Red blend
Deep pink
Lt. yellow
Deep pink
Pink blend
Orange blend
Pink blend
White
Pink blend
Med. pink
Deep pink
Dark red
Med. red
Mauve
Yellow blend
White
White
White
Pink blend
Orange pink
8.0
8.1
7.7
7.8
8.9
7.7
8.6
8.8
8.9
8.5
8.4
7.5
+
8.9
8.2
8.8
9.1
8.3
8.6
7.8
9.2
7.8
8.3
9.5
Grandifloras
*Aquarius
Gold Medal
*Pink Parfait
*Prima Donna
*Queen Elizabeth
Sonia
*Tournament of Roses
Pink blend
Med. yellow
Pink blend
Deep pink
Med. pink
Pink blend
Med. pink
8.0
8.8
8.2
7.5
9.0
8.1
8.0
Floribundas
*Angel Face
Dicky
*Europeana
*First Edition
*Gene Boerner
Iceberg
*Impatient
*Ivory Fashion
Lavaglut
Little Darling
Nicole (Koricole)
Playboy
Playgirl
Royal Occasion
Sexy Rexy
*Showbiz
*Sun Flare
*Sunsprite
Mauve
Orange pink
Dark red
Orange pink
Med. pink
White
Orange pink
White
Dark red
Yellow blend
White
Red blend
Med. pink
Orange red
Med. pink
Med. red
Med. yellow
Deep yellow
8.1
8.8
9.0
8.6
8.5
8.7
7.8
8.6
8.4
8.6
9.0
8.1
8.1
8.5
9.0
8.6
8.1
8.7
Miniatures
Acey Deucey
**Cupcake
Dreamglo
Fairhope
Giggles
Irresistible
**Jean Henneally
**Kristen
**Little Jackie
**Magic Carousel
Millie Walters
Minnie Pearl
**Party Girl
Pierrine
**Rainbow's End
Red Beauty
**Rise 'N' Shine
**Snow Bride
**Starina
Med. red
Med. pink
Red blend
Lt. yellow
Med. pink
White
Apricot blend
Red blend
Orange blend
Red blend
Orange pink
Pink blend
Yellow blend
Orange pink
Yellow blend
Dark red
Med. yellow
White
Orange red
8.3
8.5
8.5
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.7
8.6
8.6
9.0
8.6
9.4
9.0
9.4
9.0
8.4
9.1
9.3
9.0
Climbing Miniatures
Candy Cane
Hi Ho
**Jeannie LaJoie
Pink blend
Orange pink
Med. pink
8.1
8.3
9.2
Climbers (LCL) Repeat Blooming, Large Flowered
Altissimo
*America
Blaze
Don Juan
Dortmund
Galwan Bay
Handel
Med. red
Orange pink
Med. red
Dark red
Med. red
Orange pink
Red blend
9.3
8.8
7.4
8.2
9.1
8.0
8.1
Shrub
*Bonica
Frau Dogmar Hartopp
Golden Wings
***Graham Thomas
Hanseat
***Heritage
Will Scarlet
Med. pink
Med. pink
Lt. yellow
Deep yellow
Med. pink
Lt. pink
Med. red
9.1
8.5
7.9
7.9
7.7
8.7
8.2
Old Garden Roses (OLG)
Alba Semi-Plena
Austrian Copper (R. foetida bicolor)
Baronne Prevost
Comte de Chambord
Fanlin-Latour
Harrison's Yellow
Madame (Mme) Hardy
Marchesa Boccella
Reine des Violettes
Rose Mundi
R. rugosa
Rose de Rescht
Sombreuil
White
Red blend
Med. pink
Pink blend
Lt. pink
Deep yellow
White
Lt. pink
Mauve
Pink blend
Mauve
Deep pink
White
8.6
8.1
8.5
8.0
8.2
8.0
9.2
8.9
8.0
8.6
8.4
8.6
8.8
ARS Rating -- National Rose Ratings as of 1996.
10.0 - Perfect
9.0-9.9 - Outstanding
8.0-8.9 - Excellent
7.0-7.9 - Good
6.0-6.9 - Fair
5.9 and lower - Of questionable value
*All America Rose Selection Winner.
**American Rose Society Award of Excellence.
***English Rose.

1 A.W. Nelson, former Rocky Mountain District and Region 8 director, American Rose Society, and Colorado State University Extension master gardner; and C.E. Swift, Extension horticulture agent, Tri River Area, Grand Junction. Drawings by Diane Kenney. 5/96. Reviewed 5/06.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

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Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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