Transplanting Climbing Roses

How to transplant an overgrown climbing rose.

Q: How do I transplant a climbing rose that has not been maintained to a new location?

--Mooresville, NC

A: You can try to transplant the rose, but before you do, I encourage you to take some cuttings from it just in case the bush doesn't survive the move. Late summer or early fall is the best time for taking cuttings. Select long, firm shoots that have grown over the summer and remove the soft tips. Then cut pieces about nine inches long so there are leaf buds very close to the top and bottom of each cutting. Be sure to use a sharp knife or secateur-type pruners. Remove all the leaves except the top pair, and dip the bottom ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone. Choose a site for the nursery bed that gets plenty of light but is shaded during the hottest part of the day. Then place them into a six-inch-deep trench in the ground. Firm the soil around the cuttings and water well. Leave the cuttings in the ground over the winter and water as needed. By the following autumn, the cuttings should be ready to transplant to their new home.

Now, back to transplanting the bush. Choose a site in full sun, and improve the soil with organic matter. The best time to prune and move the bush is in late winter or early spring. This means that if you intend to take cuttings in the fall, you should wait until the following spring to move your bush. Using secateur pruners, remove all dead and unhealthy (brown or black) wood at ground level. Thin out the center of the plant to improve air circulation, and remove canes that cross each other. You can prune every cane back by one-third to a healthy outward-facing bud. Make the cuts at a 45-degree angle about one-quarter-inch above the buds.

Dig up the bush carefully, trying to preserve as much of the root system as possible. In the new location, dig a hole about two-feet deep and a foot-and-a half wide. Make a mound in the center of the hole for the roots to spread over, and set the rose so that the bud union (the swollen part at the base of the stem) is at ground level. Fill in around the roots with a mixture of soil, compost and rotted manure. Add water. After it settles, fill in the rest of the hole. Mound the soil up around the base of the plant and a few inches out from the stem, making a trough that will catch water. Pamper the plant for the first season, keeping it well-watered.

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