Winter pruning stimulates root activity and sprouting of dormant eyes. The speed of development is partially dependent on temperature, but also on the water and nutrients available. It is obvious that watering and feeding should commence fairly soon after pruning has been completed.

Be careful not to raise the soil level in a rose bed year after year by introducing compost and mulch. This can cause the root system eventually to be settled too deeply, where the soil remains too cold and wet for the development of micro-organisms.

The roots of roses should be encouraged to grow downwards and to find the best level for developing a fine hair root system. This is the best time of year to help establish such growth habits. Digging out a plant that has performed poorly can show whether it has been too deeply covered. If so, there are two ways of addressing the problem. Either simply remove most of the composted top layer in the rose bed down to the correct level – where the bud union or knob is just covered with soil – and then loosen the topsoil, so that remaining compost can penetrate down to the deeper level where the main roots are embedded. If insufficient composted soil remains at this level, remove a further layer of about 10 cm, restore some of the compost, and proceed to dig it in. Alternatively, dig up the rose bush, cut away roots that have formed higher up and above the bud union and replant the rose after having dug over the bed and mixed the good topsoil with some of the subsoil.

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