If your hybrid tea roses didn't make it through the winter, then you may want to try hardy shrub roses. Many shrub roses and old-fashioned roses are winter hardy in Iowa without protection. Shrub roses are easy to grow in all parts of Iowa and are beautiful landscape plants when planted in groups of three or more. They are available in a wide range of colors but their flowers are not as refined looking as the hybrid teas.
The flowers of hybrid tea roses look a lot like the roses that you buy from a florist. They are among the most popular of all garden flowers. Unfortunately, most hybrid tea varieties will not survive Iowa winters without adequate protection. Plant hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, and miniature roses in beds where you can give them special care and winter protection. Climbing roses are effective when grown on a trellis, arbor, or fence but most of them also need winter protection.
Roses grow and flower best in a location where they receive a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. They prefer a well- drained, fertile, loamy soil that is at least 2 feet deep. Good air movement at the planting site is also desirable. Good air movement helps dry wet plant foliage and reduce disease problems.
Before you buy roses, decide where you want to plant them and acquaint yourself with the many different classes of roses. There are hundreds of named rose varieties from which to choose. You can learn much by studying rose catalogs. A visit to local rose gardens also provides an excellent opportunity to study roses and learn which ones perform best in your area.
You may buy roses as either bare root dormant plants or container grown plants. When ordering bare root plants from a mail order company, be sure the plants are "number one" grade. These plants have 3 or more large, healthy canes (each about 3/8 inch thick) that will grow faster and produce more blooms the first season than #1 1/2 or #2 grade plants. Request delivery between April 1 and May 15. When selecting bare root plants from a local nursery, choose strong, healthy, dormant plants. Avoid plants with long new shoots. Bare root plants that are actively growing are more difficult to establish.
Plant dormant roses in early spring. Plant them with the bud union (knob) 1 or 2 inches below the surface of the ground. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots, set the plant in the hole, and add soil. Firm the soil around the roots. Add soil until the hole is three-fourths full. Then, thoroughly water the plant and allow it to soak into the soil. Later, finish filling the hole and water again. Finally, mound soil over the dormant canes to prevent the canes from drying out. Leave the soil in place for 10 days or until growth has started. Periodically check for signs of growth during this period. When removing the soil, do so carefully to prevent damage to the new growth.
Container grown or potted roses have a longer planting season than dormant plants. Container grown roses can be planted from spring to fall. However, wait until the danger of frost is past when planting actively growing plants in the spring.
You plant potted roses in much the same manner as bare root roses but you must remove the pot. Remove the bottom of the pot first. Then place the rose in the hole and carefully remove the sides without disturbing the soil ball. Fill the hole with soil and water the plant thoroughly. It is not necessary to mound actively growing roses.
Once planted, roses will need to watered every 7 to 10 days during dry weather. Apply water at the base of each plant. Don't get the foliage wet. Apply a three inch layer of weed free mulch after the soil has warmed up to control weeds and conserve moisture.
This article originally appeared in the March 30, 1994 issue, p. 35.