Tips for Planting Bareroot Roses

By Kitty Belendez
Master Rosarian

It's that time of year again. Depending on where you live, bareroot roses might have already arrived at your local garden centers, and are just begging to be planted. For others, you might still be waiting for the snow to thaw. Some of us have ordered our new bareroot roses through mail-order catalogs, and many roses have already arrived, or are on their way. Time is of the essence, because once they arrive on our doorsteps these bareroot roses can't survive very long without being planted in soil.

New rosarians may be perplexed, or perhaps even fearful, about how to properly plant bareroot roses. But, it's not so mysterious, nor are there many secrets to it. So here goes -- we will now explain bareroot planting in a few easy steps.

What and Where To Buy Your Roses

First, you need to decide which roses you want and where to purchase them. Depending upon which region you live in, it might be getting a bit late (except for minis) to place mail orders through catalogs. If that is the case, you will need to purchase bareroot roses at your local garden centers and nurseries as soon as they arrive. Locate a good nursery that has a well-rounded selection of all types of high quality roses.

Would you prefer hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, old garden roses, shrubs, or miniatures? What colors do you like? Is fragrance an important factor? Are you concerned about disease resistance? Do you have space restrictions that would require smaller rose bushes? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before going to the nursery or ordering rose plants from a catalog.

When purchasing bareroot roses, make sure they are fresh. Make your purchases as soon the bareroot plants arrive at the garden centers. Inspect the canes carefully. They should look green and healthy, and not dried up. But the roses should not be already leafing out. The best quality plants are #1 grade. The higher the number, the lower the quality. For example, a #2 bareroot rose is of fair quality and usually only has two canes; it costs less but takes much longer to mature. A #1 rose bush should have at least three nicely developed canes. Avoid roses with waxed canes as they may never grow. Avoid buying the leftover plants at the end of bareroot season, as they might have grown lots of foliage but no roots to support that foliage.

Where to Plant Your Roses

Before you order your new roses or go to the nursery, you should have a good idea in mind as to how much space in your garden will be allotted to the new roses. Will other plants need to be discarded to make room? You don't want to be caught in the predicament of bringing home more roses than you have space for. Roses love lots of sun, although some can survive in partial shade. A rose bed that has morning to midday sun, with afternoon shade will provide protection from intense summer heat. Never plant roses directly underneath trees, because they will compete for nourishment and water, and the trees always win the competition.

Pre-Soak Your Bareroot Roses For Best Results

As soon as you bring the new bareroot rose bushes home, they must be removed from the package and soaked in water and a solution of vitamin B1 and bleach (one tablespoon of each per gallon of water). They should be soaked at least overnight, or for up to a week maximum. The bleach helps to sanitize the plant and may prevent diseases like root gall. The vitamin B1 helps to get the plant off to a quick start and avoid shock.

Start Your Roses In Pots

I start all my large bareroot roses in 5-gallon pots filled with a light potting soil for three to six months before planting them into the ground permanently. This gets the roses off to a fast start because the warmth of the sun radiates around the sides of the pot, which stimulates fast root growth.

Soil Preparation & Planting Roses

When you're ready to plant the rose bushes, dig a nice big hole for each bush, approximately 12 to 18 inches deep and wide. Roses love good soil so if your soil is too sandy or contains too much clay, you will have to amend it with a good planter mix or potting soil. Any brand will do. I buy whatever is on sale. Spread out the roots of the rose bush in the hole, toss in a handful of superphosphate (which is a good source of phosphorus for encouraging root development), and fill with a mixture of existing soil and potting soil. In warmer climates, do not bury the bud union of the rose bush -- keep it above ground. In climates with freezing winters, you will do just the opposite: bury the bud union of the rose for winter protection. Water the rose bush well, and if the soil sinks a bit you may have to add a little more soil or mulch on top.

The Big Mound

If you are planting your bareroot roses directly in the ground while they are dormant, you should mound up the canes of each bareroot rose with a light mulch, such as redwood compost, for several weeks. This will keep the canes from drying out, until the roots have a chance to establish themselves. The roots of the rose must be growing before they are able to support the growth of the foliage. You can practically cover the canes with compost. After several weeks, you can uncover the bushes, and spread the compost around the rose bush.

When To Feed New Rose Plants

You can feed your new bareroot roses when they begin to leaf out-this will be about four to six weeks after planting. Apply a well-balanced granular rose food, according to the package directions, spread around the base of each plant. Make sure the bushes have been watered well the previous day before fertilizing. For many large type roses, it can take two or three years for a bareroot rose bush to reach its fullest potential.


© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Rose Society
Updated December 31, 2015

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