The best time, and the best techniques, for moving a rose bush
I realize that it's probably cold and snowy where you are, but maybe you could help me with a garden question. When is the best time to transplant roses?
— Perry, Deming, NM
Roger Cook replies: Roses are best transplanted in late winter or early spring, when they are just coming out of winter dormancy. But timing isn't everything. Here are the steps to follow for a successful transplant.
First, water the plant every day for a week. Then dig the receiving hole approximately 18 inches wide and 15 inches deep. Roses love soil rich in organic matter, so mix generous amounts of organic matter into the soil dug out of the hole. Now put on your gloves and prune back the rose as much as possible, following pruning guidelines for the particular type of rose you have.
Dig a circle around the plant about 9 inches beyond its drip line. If you encounter any roots, cut them off cleanly with loppers or hand pruners. Continue to dig down about 15 inches until you can slip your shovel under the plant. Once you've undercut the rose, you'll be able to remove it easily.
When you lift the plant, you'll find that most of the soil will drop off the roots, leaving them exposed. In the receiving hole, make a mound of amended soil, spread out the roots, and set the plant on the mound. Be sure the mound is tall enough to hold the crown at the same level it was originally. Now backfill the hole halfway with amended soil and flood it with water. When that drains, add more soil to fill the hole and make a ring around the rose with additional soil. Flood the area again; the ring will hold the water on the planted area. After that water soaks in, add more soil to establish the finish grade. Finally, dress the soil with a light amount of rose fertilizer and top that with some organic mulch. Give the rose about 1 inch of water a week after that, and enjoy the flowers.