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Home & Garden

Yard and Garden: Spring care of roses

AMES — Modern roses, such as hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas, are attractive additions to the home landscape.

While roses are beautiful, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists say they do require good care. Proper planting is critical. After planting, important cultural practices include watering, fertilizing, deadheading, weeding, pest control and winter protection.

To have additional questions answered, contact Hortline at 515-294-3108 or

When should I remove the soil around my hybrid tea roses?  

Remove soil, straw and other protective materials from roses in late March in southern Iowa, mid-April in northern portions of the state. A frost or freeze in early spring after the protective materials have been removed won’t harm the roses.  

How do I prune hybrid tea roses in spring?  

The upper portions of hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses typically die due to exposure to low winter temperatures and rapid temperature changes. Gardeners should prune out the dead wood in roses in early spring after the protective materials have been removed.  

Live and dead wood differ in appearance. Live wood is green and has plump, healthy buds. When pruned, the center of the stem (pith) is white. Dead wood is brown and has no live buds. Its pith is brown or gray.  

When pruning roses, make cuts at least 1 inch below the dead, brown-colored areas on the canes. Make slanting cuts about .25 inch above healthy, outward-facing buds, with the slant being made in the same direction as the bud. Remove the entire cane if there is no sign of life.  

Because of our harsh winter weather, hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses often suffer extensive winter damage. Normally, the primary objective of gardeners in the upper Midwest is to remove all dead wood and save as much of the live growth as possible. If roses suffer little winter damage due to a mild winter, prune back the rose canes to within 8 to 12 inches of the ground.  

When is the best time to transplant a rose?  

In Iowa, early spring, before the plant begins to leaf out, is the best time to transplant a rose. The optimal time period is normally late March to mid-April. Dig up the rose using a shovel or spade and replant immediately. After transplanting, water the rose on a regular basis for several weeks.

I just received bare-root roses in the mail, but won’t be able to plant them for several days. What should I do?   Unpack and inspect the plants immediately upon delivery. Dormant, bare-root roses are usually shipped with moist wood shavings or a similar material around their roots. If this material has dried out, lightly moisten it. Repack the roses and store them in a cool location, such as a garage or shed. Dormant roses stored in a cool location should be fine for several days.

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