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Florida Gardening 101: Planting Grafted Roses

Growing roses in Florida is a challenge, which is a lesson I learned well after killing a few. After you have chosen your grafted rose bushes, you must learn the proper way to plant and fertilize them. Except for some heirloom old garden roses (OGR), most roses will not thrive on their own roots in our native Florida soils. In order to get optimum growth and bloom from your Florida roses, you will have to plant them properly.

I learned this technique from a rose expert in South Florida, and it gets raves from everyone I've taught it to.

How to Plant Grafted Roses in Florida

Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day, preferably with some morning sun. Roses can't get too much sun, so don't hesitate to plant them in full sun if possible.

Nematodes are the main enemy of roses in Florida. These microscopic worms attack the roots, leaving them gnarled and knotty, unable to absorb nutrients. The best defense against nematode infestation in your roses is organic matter in the soil.

Roses need rich, loamy soil to thrive. To ensure that they have this, you have to totally replace the native Florida soil with organic peat. Organic peat is not the same as composted manure, however, you will also need composted manure when planting your grafted roses.

NOTE: Planting container roses and bareroot roses is different, and both will be explained in this article.

How to Transplant Container Grown Grafted Roses

First, you will dig a hole twice the diameter of and 3" deeper than the pot the rose bush came in (i.e., if the pot is a 10" pot, the hole should be 20" wide). Add 3 inches of composted manure into the bottom of the hole, fill the hole with water twice and let it soak in.

Remove the rose bush from the pot and cut the rootball with a box cutter or other sharp knife on four sides, going from top to bottom. This will loosen the roots so that they can spread. If the bottom roots have grown into a tight in a circle, and you cannot loosen them, you may have to slice off from 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the bottom, but if possible, just tease the bottom roots away from the rootball.

Place the rose bush in the center of the hole, spreading out the bottom roots as much as possible, and fill halfway with organic peat. Fill the hole with water, and let it soak in. This serves two purposes: to wet the soil and rootball, and to settle the soil so that there are no air holes.

Continue to add organic peat to the hole to within three inches of the top, and water again as before, letting it soak in well. Fill the rest of the hole with organic peat, making sure that the top of the rootball is approximately 1" above the top of the hole.

Sprinkle 1 cup of epsom salts around the top of the hole and water in well. This will gets your roots off to a good start, just as the composted manure in the bottom will feed your rose until it is established.

How to Plant Bare Root Grafted Roses

Dig your hole to a diameter of at least 20 inches and 3" deeper than the rootball. Fill with water twice, and let it soak completely in to moisten the soil around the hole.

Put 3 inches of composted manure into the bottom of the hole. Now, you must build a cone shaped mound in the middle of the hole with the organic peat, and spread the rose roots out over the mound as evenly as possible. Do not let the rose roots scrunch up on the bottom. If they do, build the mound higher.

Fill the hole with organic peat to within 3" of the top. Sprinkle 1 cup of epsom salts into the hole, and fill with water twice, letting it soak in between each watering. Fill the rest of the hole, making sure to leave the graft above the level where it will be mulched.

Build your watering well as outlined above and water the rose once to settle the soil down around the roots. Thereafter, water as outlined above.

Watering Newly Planted Grafted Roses

Build a dam of the soil you dug out of the hole in a circle around the bush, about 12 inches out from the trunk, and 2 inches high. This is your watering well. You will water the rose by filling the well three times every other day for 2 weeks, twice a week for two weeks, and give it at least one inch of water, twice a week thereafter. After 4 weeks, you may take down the well, fertilize and mulch the rose.

Mulching Grafted Roses

VERY IMPORTANT: Do not ever let the mulch or anything else cover the top of the graft bud (where the rose is grafted onto the rootstock). This will cause graft rot that will kill the hybrid rose on top and cause the bush to come back from the rootstock. While the rose is growing, quickly cut away any growth from below the graft.

Although it's a bit more work to plant these grafted roses properly, and provide a place where they can grow and thrive, it's well worth the effort and will pay off with lovely blooms for years to come.

The First Rule of Florida Gardening for Northern Transplants

Since a lot of people move down here in the spring and summer, thought I'd clue you in.

FLORIDA GARDENING RULE #1: Forget everything you know about gardening up north.

Honestly, just forget it. You have entered a totally different world. I moved here from SC with a degree in horticulture, and I had to relearn everything.

Soil Woes

First off, our soil SUCKS. It is either sand or marl. You can read on this blog about How to Plant in Sand and How to Plant in Marl. In some areas of the state you may find clay or even soil full of limestone rocks, but by and large, these are the main two soils.

Northern Plants That Won't Grow Here

This may not apply in the panhandle, Z8b, but by and large -- Forget about
  • lilacs
  • most spring flowering bulbs
  • cherry trees
  • hostas (they have come out with a couple for FL, but they aren't nearly as nice)
  • peonies (I miss these)
  • zoysia and centipede grass 

Florida Vegetable Gardening

We grow our "summer" veggies in the fall, winter and early spring. Forget summer vegetable gardens unless you happen to love
  • southern peas
  • okra
  • hot peppers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • eggplant

General Florida Gardening and Critters

Learn to love tropical plants and flowers, tropical fruits, tropical vegetables (for summer planting) and stuff you have never heard of before that is not sold in any supermarket, anywhere, anytime.

Learn to adjust to a multitude of animals, lizards and huge insects you thought only existed in science experiments.

ALMOST EVERYTHING grows out of control and most things can become invasive or at least peskily rampant. Get used to pruning. If you hate pruning, don't plant shrubs. Don't go into a garden center asking for something that only gets 3 feet tall and blooms all year. There is no such plant, and they will laugh at you behind your back when you leave. I know this from experience.

Organic Gardening in Florida

Organic gardening is harder down here, because of the insects that aren't killed off in the winter, the lousy soil, and because it really is the HUMIDITY, not the heat. Humidity causes fungus and mildew and all sorts of horrid diseases that you will fight constantly.

Growing Roses in Florida

Roses are labor-intensive down here. They have to be planted on special rootstocks, and many of your favorites will not grow down here no matter what you do, such as Lady Banks rose (which I also miss). Weekly spraying for insects and fungus is a must. Roses die off after a few years just because they never go dormant and grow themselves to death. There are not a lot, or maybe not any, 100 year old rose bushes in FL, except maybe in extreme N. FL. Here is some info on growing roses:

Growing Roses in Florida:  Choosing a Rose Rootstock  

Florida Gardening 101:  Planting Grafted Roses

Sun and Shade 

Full sun in the garden can be your enemy and shade is your best friend. Lots of the most beautiful and easy-to-grow tropicals require shade, such as most gingers, orchids and bromeliads, so if your first inclination is to chop down all those beautiful shade trees, you may want to think twice.

It's a lot to learn. I've been gardening here for over 20 years, and just moved from the south of FL to the north of FL; now I have to learn it all over again. May take me another 20 years.

Take it slowly and find a good local garden center that can advise you. Get in touch with your local extension service. Read, read, read on sites like Floridata and Florida Gardener.  Scour the University of FL IFAS pages, especially the Solutions for Your Life Lawn and Garden site and the Vegetable Gardening Guide. Go to the Florida Gardening forum on Gardenweb  or any number of forums on social media and ask a lot of questions. People there love to help.

And subscribe to this blog in the sidebar by email or RSS if you like. I try to post as often as possible, and feel free to ask questions. I'm also on Gardenweb.

Florida gardening is not as scary as it seems, but it is very different, so be prepared to study and learn and have failures and successes.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Diary - April 27, 2016 - Edibles

Well, it's been a very long time since I did a diary post. Things have changed quite a bit since then. I'll post pictures later, but for now, just want to catch up. Sorry this is so long.

Things are finally actually growing, and I thought they never would! We've had

The Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) Bed Is In

So last week the yard crew decided to blow all my leaves up against the wall. They don't like my leaf piles. The week before, they mowed over the pile I had by the fence. Anyway, having a nice, clear spot in front of the bed completely devoid

Garden Diary - April 7, 2016

Spring is cranking into full gear, with all sorts of exciting things going on inside and outside the courtyard. The top picture is the outside south-facing garden, as it looks