Last October, when I planted some grafted roses, I explained how the graft needed to be four inches below soil level. And I pointed out how, with the roots extending a foot or more beyond the bud union, I wound up digging some pretty deep holes.
Never again! Yesterday I heard Lee Ginenthal, who owns Der Rosenmeister Nursery in Ithaca, talk about rose basics. You may remember from my visit to Der Rosenmeister that Lee specializes in cold hardy roses. He agreed that you should plant the bud union three to four inches below soil level, but he pointed out that you don’t have to plant the roots straight down.
Not Straight Down, But Sideways
Instead, you plant the shrub at an angle, with the graft at the proper depth and the roots angling downwards, but more horizontally than vertically. (Those of you who plant tomato seedlings at an angle so that the stem is buried up to the first set of leaves will immediately know what I am talking about.) This means you will be digging an especially wide hole instead of an especially deep hole, which most folks find easier to do. It may also mean temporarily relocating other plants and replanting them over the buried rose roots, if your beds are as crowded as mine are.
Buy A Lopsided ShrubIf you use this method to plant grafted roses, then when you go shopping for one, you don’t want a shrub that branches evenly on all sides. You want one of the lop-sided ones where all the growth seems to be growing in one direction. When planting the rose sideways, you will be able to take advantage of that lopsidedness by positioning the growth so that it all points upward. Another advantage of planting sideways is that more of the roots will be in the most fertile and aerated layer of the soil. Lee also said that eventually the grafted rose will root at the graft and the rootstock will die off, giving you, in essence, an own-root rose after three to four years.
Learn More From Lee at Der Rosenmeister’s Blog
I learned a lot from his talk and you can learn from him, too. Lee has started blogging and his posts are very informative. He told me that he has a completely revamped website in the works, so stay tuned!