Mail-order rose selections are great, but need extra care


February 09, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

I would like to plant some shrub roses this spring. Would you recommend purchasing bare-root roses through a mail-order nursery? Will they require more care than container-grown roses?

Yes, mail-order can be a great way to buy roses. Although some local garden centers carry a nice selection of roses, you will find a much broader selection through mail-order nurseries that specialize in rose production. If you order now, you can arrange for the roses to be shipped for planting in mid-spring.

Bare-root roses are easy to grow, but they will need a little extra care. Here are several suggestions that will help them survive. First, be sure to unpack the roses as soon as they arrive. If plants are left in a moist box, they will be very prone to disease, and if they are left in a dry box, they will dehydrate. Second, if the roots are dry, I would soak the roots in a bucket of water over night to get fresh water to the roots and stems.

Once the roots are moist, they can be heeled into an open garden area until they are ready to plant. The roses can be planted as a container rose; however, you must be sure to work soil in around all the roots -- otherwise, the roots will dry out. The soil should be tamped firmly, but do not pack the soil.

I am starting flower and vegetable seed indoors this winter for my garden. Is there any one key to getting them to germinate and grow?

In certain respects, seeds can be very different. For example, some seeds like to be buried in soil and will only germinate in the dark, while other seeds will only germinate in the light and should be planted right on top of the soil. There are two things that most seeds need to germinate. These are mildly warm temperatures and even moisture.

Although a few seeds have particular requirements, most seeds will germinate when temperatures are between 65 degrees and 75 degrees F. I would try to maintain that temperature when starting seed.

To keep moisture even, many greenhouses use misting systems that mist plants with water at intervals throughout the day. This is impractical for homes, but you could mist your seedlings by hand. If you are gone most of the day, you might try planting the seeds in a tray and then sliding the tray into a plastic bag. This will help hold moisture.

To help prevent disease, be sure to take your plants out of the bag as soon as they have developed.


1. When preparing your own potting soil with peat moss, be sure to thoroughly moisten your mix by working water in before you plant.

2. Do you want to be ready for spring? Then have your soil tested now. Soil test kits are available through the Home and Garden Information Center. See the phone number or Web site below.

3. Start watching for the strap-like flowers of spring-blooming witch hazel. The witch hazel will bloom with the first break in winter weather.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site

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