Is my Hickory tree stunting my rose bushes?

jardineratxSeptember 29, 2012

I have been trying for several years to grow a hedge row of tea roses along my property line and the roses simply will not grow there. I am beginning to think it has something to do with a hickory tree that is growing approximately 20 feet from the row of roses. The tree was young when the roses were planted, so there was no problem digging through roots to plant. The tree is located where it does not shade these roses and is growing at the end of the line of the tea row. They get plenty of sun. The soil has been amended and the roses get adequate water.

Through the years (approximtely 6 years), I have dug up and replaced tea roses that have failed to grow and I have decided there must be a reason for this repeated failure of roses to thrive here. I currently have a Mamam Cochet, Thomasville Old Gold, Wm. Allen Richardson, Ms. Abel Chatanay, Duchess de Brabant and every one of these is refusing to grow and bloom. I have in the past planted and dug up from this row: M. Joseph Schwartz, Rosette Delizy, Niles Cochet, M. Tillier, M. Antoine Mari, Mrs. B.R.Cant and Chireno.

Any thoughts on this?


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Hi Molly, has there been anything else which has grown in this spot without issue? I'm trying to see if there might be another potential reason. If other plants have grown there easily, and not been allelopathic (such as Oleander, Walnut, etc.), it shouldn't be soil related. Do you have moles, voles or gophers? What grows on the other side of the property line from the hedge of roses? Is there a fence or other type of wall which might be reflecting or radiating any heat?

Are the plants shrinking or just not taking off and growing to your satisfaction? Do they look stressed or are they just remaining small? What kind of soil are they growing in? Is it sandy or does it otherwise possibly drain too quickly? Have you dug test holes along the line to determine if the hickory is invading the rose line and robbing water and other resources? Have you tried increasing the water to see what, if any, responses you get from the roses? Could it be too hot, too brilliant sun for too long duration inhibiting the roses?

Are these budded plants or own roots? You are aware that own root Tea roses can be devilishly slow to start? Many people plant them expecting them to explode into growth like a traditional budded HT and they simply aren't going to do that. What size plants were they when planted in the ground in your hedge?

Neither you nor your neighbor have dogs which could be "watering" your roses, do you? There are many possibilities to consider, from your tree being the culprit; to too much heat/sun; insufficient water due to soil type or heat/sun levels; animal interference from critters to dog urine; possible soil contamination from allelopathic plants previously growing there to chemicals or paints having been dumped into the soil; drainage issues either into or away from your hedge row; even possible premature impatience with the plants, not giving them sufficient time to develop.

How long were the offenders given to perform before being replace; what size plants were they when put into the ground? Have you fertilized them with anything? Wm Allen Richardson is a Tea-Noisette, a climbing plant. It can be more vigorous than the bush types, growing taller, faster, but it can take a long time to develop into the size of climbing plant you desire. The others are bushes, judging from their names and no mention being made that any of them are their climbing forms. There is more at work here than potential hickory tree root interference. You describe it as "failure to thrive" rather than "died". I'm wondering if your definition of "thrive" might be a bit impatiently unrealistic for these types of roses, particularly if they began life as small, own root plants? Kim

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 4:10PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Also have you thoroughly checked about the water--you or your irrigation system may be sending out adequate water, but is it actually getting down to the roots of the plants, or running off? Dig around and check?

Water = fertilizer.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 4:29PM
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Oh, Kim, thank you so much for your thoughtful questions--several of which I didn't think about. I have several other teas and know that they are quite slow to establish.
The roses planted were all own root (from various sources) and none died, just simply put out no new growth and had some cane dieback before they were removed.
All roses were one to three gallon containers when planted
All were given 1-3 years to perform.
The soil is a sandy loam and the area in front and behind the roses is St. Augustine lawn grass.
We have a sprinkler system and I also hand water and have fertilized with alfalfa tea, bone meal, and a little lawn fertilizer.
Drainage is excellent as this area is on a slope.
The roses receive sun from abt 11 am to sundown.
No loose dogs in the area
However, at the opposite end of the row I have a line of Oleanders...could they be the culprits?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 4:35PM
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Hoov, you may be right regarding the water running down the slope and not providing enough moisture. I think I may lay a soaker hose along the rose row.
One thing that is a problem is that deer munch on these roses. Could the fact that they are being eaten periodically cause them to struggle because of lack of foliage? We are not allowed any kind of fencing in our front yards and using deer repellents has not been entirely successful in this area, although the same treatment on my other roses is effective. I guess deer use the same areas for foraging? If the deer chewing on them is keeping them from growing, I may have to give up the hedge idea and transplant them.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Hi Molly, you're welcome! How wonderful to interact with someone who has all the answers! Thank you! First, I don't think your oleanders are much of an issue, UNLESS your rose planting area is infiltrated by their extensive, highly efficient roots. If the oleander roots aren't throughout the rose area, don't worry about them. The same with the hickory roots.

You're in Texas and it's been hotter than a $2 pistol for much of the past several years worth of summers. The combination of St. Augustine grass, slope, sandy loam, full sun and Texas, my first impression would be the amount of water and the amount the planting area can actually hold and maintain for the rose use. My second thought would be slow to develop types planted out too small for those conditions. I would want to grow them larger, probably up to five gallon size, in a situation sheltered from the extremes in direct sun on the pots, and in a rich, moisture retentive potting soil. I would put them on "total parental nutrition"...weak inorganic liquid fertilizer plus a balanced organic diet with generous water to push them to grow. Pinch off every flower bud, period. Do not let them flower. You want to push them to mature, develop, grow into suitable sizes with sufficient wood, foliage cover and roots to endure an all day sun situation in the ground. Depending upon a variety of factors, it could take from one to two years to accomplish this. But, you'd have the Tea version of a nursery five gallon, bud and bloom plant with some momentum behind them to get them over the hump.

For those already in the ground, I think Hoovb's water idea is a strong possibility. Barring infiltration of oleander and hickory roots, your grass, full sun site, slope and sandy loam are probably permitting the roses to get water stressed between waterings. Your description of their failure to thrive and their situation makes me feel water holding and timing may be more extreme issues with smaller, less vigorous, immature plants. I wouldn't let those already in the ground flower, either, until they approach the size plants you desire there. They can either flower or grow, but usually not both simultaneously. Preventing them from flowering and increasing their water should go a long way to push some growth from them.

You aren't using a weed and feed on your lawn, right? The broad leaf herbicide in lawn foods can easily damage and kill most ornamentals. Good luck! Kim

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 5:59PM
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Your deer posting showed up as my last post submitted. Bingo! DEER! Absolutely! If your community won't permit you to deer fence and you don't want to have to spray constantly, put the roses in the back yard and bring in more oleander. NOTHING eats oleander, except Glassy Winged Sharp Shooters which suck the sap and spread Oleander Leaf Scorch which is killing them all off here in SoCal. Kim

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 6:04PM
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OK, by golly, I think we've got it! I have always dealt with deer munching roses, but this strip is mercilessly attacked and I didn't realize how much damage the persistant chewing of foliage was doing to the rose bushes. I guess the continual loss of leaves has kept them starving for nutrients. I'm sure the fast drainage hasn't helped the situation either. It's too much work to fight this battle and I think you are right,'s time for me to move them out of harm's way. Now to go oleander shopping, eh? Thanks again hoov and Kim!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:20PM
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The classes of roses you're dealing with require all the old, thick wood they can amass and a huge foliage canopy to flourish. Deer munching continually is like exhibition HT pruning them. Of course they languish. Go oleanders. Until you get Leaf Scorch, they'll be perfect! Kim

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:20PM
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