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Mailbag: When should I plant a floribunda rose?

For best results, wait until winter and plant bare-root

Daybreaker coral and yellow rose
Daybreaker is among the floribunda roses that do well in Sacramento. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Question: When should I plant floribunda roses?

– Frankie R.

A: Roses can be transplanted year round in California, but Sacramento-area gardeners will have more success if they wait until bare-root season in winter. Then, plant the dormant bush.

When the plant is “asleep,” the bush is much easier to work with – no foliage or gangling stems that may break off and fewer prickles, too. Also, dormant bushes are pruned short; canes on bare-root plants are usually about 24 inches long. That shorter size is easier to manipulate into the planting hole; it’s not as big, bulky or heavy as a bush with all its leaves.

Once transplanted, the dormant bush also has more time to concentrate on its roots and getting “established” before pushing out fresh growth above soil.

Bare-root season traditionally runs December to February in Sacramento, when bare-root roses are most available. Because our soil does not freeze, dormant rose bushes can be transplanted any time during the winter.

Treat the floribunda as you would a hybrid tea or other large hybrid rose. Bare-root roses are “harvested” (dug up from fields) in September or October. By the time they make it to the nursery as bare-root plants, they’ve been out of the ground for quite awhile and need a little TLC.

Before planting, rehydrate the bare-root bush by placing its roots in a bucket of water. Let it stay in the water at least overnight. (It will keep there for several days, if necessary.) Trim off any broken roots or stems before planting.

When planting, make sure the graft – the knot on the main stem where the rootstock is attached to the top growth – is 2 or 3 inches above the soil line. That helps prevent the rootstock from sprouting and overwhelming the bush.

Roses also may be transplanted from pots into the soil (or larger containers) in fall and spring. It's easier to pick out a plant in a nursery when it's in bloom; you can see exactly what the flowers will look like.
Yellow rose
Butter-yellow Julia Child is another popular floribunda rose.

If transplanting a growing bush, keep the rootball and soil intact while transplanting. Lightly prune the bush, so the plant has less chance of die-back.

For more on planting bare-root roses: .

Send us your questions! This new Q&A will be a regular feature on Sacramento Digs Gardening.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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