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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:
https://bit.ly/3CMfHma .

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 Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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