South Carolina spans several U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones, from zone 7a through 9a. This means that the minimum average annual winter temperatures range from 0 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally the best times to transplant roses are spring and fall. Choosing an exact month depends somewhat on where in South Carolina the garden is located and when the first fall frost and the last spring frost occur.
Late winter (depending on hardiness zone), early spring and early fall are the best times to transplant roses. In late winter or early spring, the shrubs are ready to or have begun "breaking dormancy," meaning that leaf nodes begin to swell in preparation for new growth. Cool temperatures and spring rain ease transplant stress. In early fall, hot summer temperatures have generally abated, easing stress on the shrubs. In frost-prone areas the plants have plenty of time to establish new roots before colder temperatures set in.
For South Carolina, Clemson Cooperative Extension provides a table of spring and fall frost dates broken out by county. This information can help gardeners determine when to transplant roses. In spring, transplant when the ground is workable any time after the "10 percent frost chance" date given for a specific county. For example, this date would be April 8 for Aiken County. In fall, transplant roses four to six weeks before the "10 percent frost chance" date. In the case of Aiken County, this date is Oct. 25, so transplanting should take place in mid to late September.
If a rose is doing well, transplant it to a new location that matches its former site as closely as possible. Most roses thrive with at least six hours of direct sun per day. Cut the canes back by one-third to two-thirds, depending on the size of the rose. Dig up the rose with a root ball that matches the circumference of the "drip line" -- the imaginary circle that would encompass the width of the plant's top growth. Replant, filling the planting hole part way with water before installing the rose bush. Tamp down soil after planting.
Spring or Fall
In South Carolina and elsewhere, making the choice to transplant in spring or fall depends on individual circumstances, including weather conditions and the time available to the gardener. Fall transplanting gives the rose a head start on the next year's growing season, which might mean more flowers in the spring and summer. Late winter or early spring transplanting means that the plant will have an entire growing season to establish its roots. Either way, practice good transplanting aftercare by watering the new transplant regularly and mulching thoroughly.
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