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Selecting and Planting Roses – 7.404   Arrow divider image - marks separation between nested pages that are listed as breadcrumbs.

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by A.W. Nelson and C.E. Swift *(10/14)
Revised by Roger G. Heins & Alison Stoven O’Connor**

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, shrub (which includes English and Canadian roses), polyantha and hybrid rugosa.

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 remain popular, especially in small garden spaces. 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 rose. These roses usually have smaller blooms than hybrid teas, but bear many flowers each season. 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 slightly smaller flowers and greater blooms.

The climbing hybrid teas and climbing grandifloras are generally 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. Canadian roses were developed under the direction of the Canadian Department of Agriculture for winter hardiness, disease resistance, ease of propagation and repeat blooming.

Hybrid rugosa roses are known for their fragrance , hardiness and sturdiness in the garden. They can be identified by their numerous thorns and dark green leaves with deep veining. The hips, left from spent blooms, are often showy in winter. These roses can perform in poor soils and drought conditions.

Selecting Plants

Roses are sold through mail-order nurseries, local garden and nursery outlets, hardware and box stores and grocery stores. Generally mail-order nurseries handle bare root, dormant roses. Local nurseries usually sell potted roses. Box stores and grocery stores may offer bare root or potted roses.

Most experienced rose growers prefer bare root, dormant plants 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 bare root packaged roses are purchased before the plant has had a chance to dry out and deteriorate on the shelf.

Site Selection

Site selection is important. The best site would be an area that gets full sun with good air circulation. In windy sites, 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 six hours of sunshine. The early sunshine will dry dew off 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.

Previously prepared bed.

Figure 1: Previously prepared bed.
Proper watering.

Figure 2: Proper watering.
Proper pruning.

Figure 3: Proper pruning.
Mound soil on plant.

Figure 4: Mound soil on plant.
Break up the root ball.

Figure 5: Break up the root ball.

Planting Bare Root Roses

For bare root roses, spring planting is preferred over fall. It’s best to finish planting bare root roses by mid-April.

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 18-24 inches in diameter and 14-18 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 peat moss or compost. Thoroughly mix the peat moss or compost (equal in volume to no more than one-third of the kept soil) with the good soil (See Figure 1).

Never allow the plants to dry out. Roses 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, ¼ to 3/8 inch above a bud eye, leaving about 5 to 12 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).

Next, cover the entire plant with loose, loamy, moist soil. This will keep the canes from drying out while the root system is being established and will protect the plant from possible frost damage. Preventing the canes from drying out is 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.

Planting Potted Roses

Potted roses can be planted during the growing season, any time after the last killing frost. If a potted rose is purchased directly from a greenhouse, then harden off the rose outdoors (leaving the rose in its container) for 3-4 days prior to planting, watering it daily. 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 planted 1-3” below ground level. Fill in around the root ball with soil. If the rose roots are pot bound, break up the root ball with your hands or gently slice the roots with a sharp knife. Not correcting circling roots can be detrimental to your rose long-term. Water newly planted roses every day for three days; then twice a week for two weeks. Then begin deep watering once a week.

Some Recommended Varieties

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

Table 1: Recommended roses for Colorado.
Varieties Color
Hybrid Teas
Audrey Hepburn Light Pink
Barbara Streisand Mauve
Black Magic Dark Red
Chicago Peace Pink Blend
Chrysler Imperial Dark Red
Crystalline White
Dixie Land Linda Pink
Fragrant Cloud Orange Red
Francis Meilland White Pink
Garden Party White
Gemini Pink Blend
Grand Dame Rose Pink
Marilyn Monroe Apricot Blend
Mellow Yellow Deep Yellow
Mister Lincoln Dark Red
Moonstone White
Olympiad Medium Red
Peace Yellow Blend
Perfect Moment Red Blend
Pope John Paul II White
Rainbow Sorbet Multi
Rio Samba Yellow Blend
St. Patrick Yellow Blend
Savoy Hotel Light Pink
Secret Pink Blend
Signature Deep Pink
Sunset Celebration Apricot Blend
Timeless Deep Pink
Veteran’s Honor Dark Red
Crimson Bouquet Dark Red
Fame! Deep Pink
Glowing Peace Yellow Blend
Gold Medal Medium Yellow
Lagerfield Mauve
Queen Elizabeth Medium Pink
Amber Queen Apricot Blend
Apricot Nectar Apricot Blend
Betty Boop Red Blend
Black Cherry Deep Red
Class Act White
Drop Dead Red Rev Velvet
Easy Going Yellow Blend
Easy Does It Orange Pink Apricot Blend
Escapade Mauve
Eye Paint Red Blend
Gruss an Aachen Light Pink
Hot Cocoa Russett
Julia Child Yellow Gold
Kirsten Poulsen Medium Pink
Love Potion Pink
Livin’ Easy Orange Blend
Mardi Gras Blended Yellow Orange Pink
Nearly Wild Medium Pink
Sally Holmes White
Scentimental Red Blend
Singin’ in the Rain Apricot Blend
Tenacious Yelllow with Red Stipe
Bee’s Knees Yellow to White; Pink Edges
Baby Grand
Medium Pink
Chattooga Deep Pink to Red
Child’s Play Pink Blend
Cinderellas White
Electric Lady Apricot
Gourmet Popcorn White
Hot Tamale Yellow Blend
Incognito Mauve
Playboy Red Blend
Play Girl Medium Pink
Ruby Baby Red Blend
Ruby Ruby Medium Red
Sexy Rexy Medium Pink
Sunsprite Deep Yellow
Climbing Miniatures
Candy Cane Pink Blend
Hi Ho Orange Pink
Little Girl Orange Pink
Jeannie LaJoie Medium Pink
Pink Cascade Medium Pink
Rainbow’s End Yellow Blend
Ruby Penchant Mauve
Don Juan Red
Dynamite Dark Red
Fourth of July Red Blend
Golden Showers Medium Yellow
Handel Red Blend
New Dawn Light Pink
Polka Apricot Blend
White Dawn White
Shrub (*Denotes polyantha rose)
Alba Meidiland White
Apricot Drift Apricot
Banshee Medium Pink
Bonica Medium Pink
Carefree Delight Pink Blend
Carefree Wonder Pink Blend
Catherine Guelda Deep Pink
China Doll* Medium Pink
Dortmund Medium Red
Double Knock Out Red
Flower Girl Light Pink
Kaleidescope Mauve
Knock Out Red Blend
Lady Shalott Orange Red
Margo Koster* Orange Blend
Pink Meidiland Pink Blend
Princess Alexandra of Kent Deep Pink
Princess Ann Deep Pink to Red
Sally Holmes White
Starry Night White
The Fairy* Light Pink
English (David Austin primarily)
Abraham Darby Orange Pink
Ambridge Rose Apricot Blend
Belle Story Light Pink
Evelyn Apricot Blend
Gertrude Jekyll Medium Pink
Golden Celebration Deep Yellow
Graham Thomas Deep Yellow
Heritage Light Pink
Mary Rose Medium Pink
Othello Medium Red
Sharifa Asma Light Pink
The Pilgrim Medium Yellow
Tradescant Dark Red
Canadian Hardy
Adelaide Hoodless Deep Pink
Champlain Dark Red
Cuthbert Grant Dark Red
Henry Hudson White
John Cabot Medium Red
Morden Blush Medium Pink
Morden Centennial Medium Pink
Morden Sunrise Yellow Blend
William Baffin Deep Pink
Winnipeg Parks Deep Pink
Hybrid Rugosa
Hansa Medium Red
Linda Campbell Medium Red
Therese Bugnet Medium Pink

*A.W. Nelson, former Rocky Mountain District and Region 8 director, American Rose Society, and Colorado State University Extension master gardener (deceased); and C.E. Swift, former Extension horticulture agent, Tri River Area, Grand Junction. Drawings by Diane Kenney. **Roger G. Heins, Colorado State University Extension master gardener, and retired from Jackson and Perkins; Alison Stoven O’Connor, Extension horticulture agent, Larimer County.5/96. Revised 10/14.

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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