Soil pH = 7.7! Should I plant or cancel my order?

appletree729March 31, 2014

I've ordered 20 rugosa bareroot roses (fru dagmar) to plant a hedge on our property.

Just got our soil test back indicating that our pH is 7.7, and as I understand it, roses need something closer to 6.0.

I know it will take a while to lower that pH and I'm hesitant to plant 20 roses (a large investment!) here. The supplier seemed to think that it might be okay to go ahead and plant but I thought I'd ask here first. Of course I'll be adding sulfur at the appropriate amount to reduce the pH but it will be months before it actually reaches that pH.

Any tips - would you cancel the order and wait until next year to plant? Or give it a shot this year and hope that they will do okay for a few months at a high pH?

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Roses can do very well in a wide pH range. They ain't cranberries. Plant away, plant away.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 4:19PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

I have actually ran into a couple of people whom actually prefer a higher PH level of 7.7 for growing there roses.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 5:37PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I agree with hoovb. Rugosas are not shrinking maidens that keel over at the drop of a hat; tough is their middle name. Your hedge should look lovely.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 5:39PM
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Oh wow - I can't tell you how relieved I am to hear you all say to go ahead with the planting!!! Thank you:) I've spent so much time planning this hedge (even though I didn't wait for the soil test results before ordering;))

Now the blueberries that are arriving later this week are another story, lol. But there's another thread for that...

I'll let you all know how the roses do!! Thanks again...

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 6:01PM
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I've been growing roses ONLY in very alkaline soil. Long-term solution is to regularly incorporate organic matter & mulch in the soil.

Most valuable short-term help for me is to amend the hole with at least 1/2 pine fines or the finest shredded pine bark mulch you can find. Around here, Lowe's carries a "HapiGro Landscape Mix" that looks about 90% pine fines with a bit of perlite. It sure improves the tilth & helps level out the pH.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 6:32PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Rugosas prefer an acidic pH of around 6. Other roses have other preferences.

Since we are talking specifically about rugosas, which sulk here with a pH of 7.2, I think I'd plant them with a suitable amount of sulfur. Then it will take regular maintenance to keep the pH at a suitable level.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:21PM
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Rugosa roses are one of the least tolerant roses of alkaline soil so at 7.7 you will have an iron chlorosis problem unless you can get your pH well below 7.0. I used to live in an area with high pH (7.6-8.0) due to dolomite limestone being the parent rock layer under my garden. It was impossible to get the pH below 7.2 in that garden because of the limestone so the only way that I was able to grow rugosas without iron chlorsis was to use liquid chelated iron on them. Do NOT use it as a foliar feed on rugosas, use it as a soil drench only. Also liq. chelated iron stains everything, skin, clothes, plastic, concrete, etc. so handle carefully.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev

I grow multiple rugosas, either grafted on mulitflora or own root and none of them are chlorotic. Both the soil and water here are alkaline. I've never added any sulfur to the garden, nor any iron. Too lazy! And yet my roses aren't chlorotic.

How alkaline is my water, well here are the latest figures from the local water company:

City water, per the water company's annual report in 2010 had an average ph of 8.2 (range 6.8 to 9.2) and the 2011 report indicated an average ph of 7.9 (range 7.0 to 8.8).

Per 2012 Golden State annual report, ph 8.0 (range 7.0-8.5)

Link to Claremont page information:

My soil I tested with one of the little plastic kits, using distilled water to mix with the capsules. Tried all over the yard. Most spots were well into the alkaline range with a few areas slightly acidic.

Here's a recent photo of my rugosa Polareis which is from Pickering in Canada and grafted on mulitflora. The only thing other than water I give it is some fish emulsion once in a while. It's been planted here since the spring of 2012. I did mulch it at planting time with a little shredded redwood bark, but no mulch since.

So, at least for my garden I ignore the issue of ph for roses entirely.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:36PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Sorry, I missed the "rugosa" in the original post. I get an "F" in reading comprehension today. My apologies.

Are they grafted? That might affect the situation.

This post was edited by hoovb on Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 1:56

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:50AM
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I actually don't know if they are on their own roots or if they're grafted - ordered them from here -

How does it affect the situation? I'll call them later and find out - I don't see anything on the description about grafting.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Spring Valley roses are "own root unless noted" , see below, 6th paragraph.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spring Valley Roses

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:19AM
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Oh - thank you wirosarian! I wonder what sort of difference this might make in my situation with the high pH...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Rugosas on their own roots or grafted on R. multiflora, will prefer acid soil, low 6's or high 5's. On Dr. Huey root stock they will prefer mid 6's pH.

This post was edited by wirosarian on Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 11:46

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:42AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Dr. Huey is fine with a pH in the 7's. I honestly think a lot of the books recommend a pH in the low 6's because that is the sweet spot where Dr. Huey and multiflora overlap.

Thinking this over a bit, these roses are going to be a lot like the blueberries. They are going to need continual soil adjustment to thrive, though they are not nearly as picky. Depending on how comfortable you are with that (and how easy it is going to be to cancel the order) you might want to rethink which roses to put there. Knowing nothing about your criteria, it is hard to make specific recommendations, but as long as it isn't a rugosa or a multiflora hybrid, almost anything will handle the pH better.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:38PM
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hmmm - it will be easy to cancel the order - I spoke to them the other day about it. I just have to call this weekâ¦

Now I'm contemplating going back to another idea I had for this spot - to grow a lavender hedge. I thought that would be more difficult than the rugosas though.

Either way I'll need to amend the solid I supposeâ¦.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:09PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Lavender is easy. Every now and then a bad winter kills some off, and it does tend to have a somewhat limited lifespan before it gets too woody. However, it isn't hard to grow it from seed. It isn't nearly as picky about soil as reported. IME, what it really wants is alkaline soil, and if given that, can handle pretty much anything.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:21PM
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well.. looks like I've got alkaline soilâ¦

decisions, decisionsâ¦.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Just to add what mad-galic said about Lavender. For me, drainage seems to be key. I have plants that do much better in very shallow soil between elevated rocks than those in lower ground.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:56PM
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Iron sulfate takes 2-3 weeks to acidify the soil but you need six times as much (in weight) of it as sulfur to effect the same change in pH.

What you could do is figure out how much iron sulfate you need to reduce the pH to 7.0, a reasonable number, and how much sulfur to reduce from 7.0 to 6.0. Add both and plant after 2-3 weeks. Water well after application to dissolve the iron sulfate.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:59PM
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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev

Appletree, take a look at the garden listings on HelpMeFindRoses for people who grow Frau Dagmar Hastrup. See if any are near you. If so, you might want to contact them and ask how this rose does for them. Sometimes plants do better or worse than expected, but I find checking what does well for others in my area is very helpful. Especially if they practice gardening the way I do (low maintenance/low water/little if any fertilizer)--basically I go with plants that are happy in my garden as it is, not how much I could change it with lots of effort and money.


Here is a link that might be useful: Frau Dagmar Hastrup on HMF, US gardens

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 5:18PM
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Oh plant away! I've grown Rugosa roses on alkaline Kansas soil for 20 years and only rarely see problems. If you do, it'll likely be some yellowing of leaves due to iron deficiency tied to the alkaline pH....a little chelated iron will fix them right.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Musings.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Thanks to everyone for all of the wise advice! I'm happy to see that last post by professorroush especially (thank you!) because I have decided to go ahead with the planting of the rugosas. At the very worst, I'll end up with a good post for the "worst gardening mistakes ever" forum ;)

I do have a little bit of time to try and amend the area a little bit in the hope that I can add enough material to get the pH down a little bit at least. Do you all think I should mix in some peat? Or something else? Is there an acidic bagged soil widely available that is marketed for things like azaleas or anything like that? I love digging in the dirt so I'm not opposed to making it a bit of a raised/mounded bed either...

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 6:46PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I have seen bagged soil for azaleas so you could try adding that to your soil instead of regular planting mix. I don't see how it could hurt anything and it just might help.

I grow a rose called Wild Edric which is either a rugosa or a rugosa hybrid in my alkaline soil and the leaves are as green as can be.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:03PM
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