Image: Flickr/Maxwell Hamilton
Bare-root roses, which are roses sold without soil around their roots, may look dead because they’re brown and leafless. But they’re only winter-dormant, waiting to explode with green foliage and beautiful flowers, after you plant them and the temperatures start to rise.
Typically sold in fall or very early spring, bare-root roses are a great choice for your garden. They’re often more economical than potted roses, and because they’re in a resting state, they’re less likely to experience transplant shock when you put them into the ground. Planting a bare-root rose is best done in early spring, when the ground can be worked, or about a month or two before the last frost in your area.
Skill level: Easy
Time: About 30 minutes per rose
Container for soaking
After you unwrap your roses, trim off any broken roots or damaged canes. Before you plant them, soak them overnight in a bucket of cool water placed outdoors. A garbage can can hold several roses.
Follow the old saying about digging “a $20 hole for a $10 rose” and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the rose’s roots when they are spread out. If your soil is compacted or poor, make the hole about 36 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep. To improve your soil, work in some peat moss or compost, in a ratio of 1/3 to 1/2 peat moss or compost to soil. Shape the amended soil into a small mound at the bottom of the hole.
Lower the rose into the hole and spread its roots over the mound. If you live in a warm climate, keep the bud union at or above ground level. (The bud union is sometimes called the graft union, and refers to the knobby section between the roots and the stem, where the top of a rose was grafted onto the roots. If you’re planting an old or heirloom garden rose, your plant won’t have this union, because it grows on its own roots.) Gardeners in cold climates can put the bud union 1 to 2 inches below ground level. If you have trouble telling how deeply you’re planting, place a broom or hoe handle across the hole, to compare the height of the bud union to the level of the soil.
Refill the hole about 3/4 of the way full. Firm the soil as you go, to eliminate air pockets. Fill the hole with water to help the plant settle. After the water soaks in, refill the hole with more water.
Trim the rose canes to 8 inches high. Make angled cuts, about 1/4 inch above the outward facing buds. Keep the rose moist by mounding 6 inches of loose mulch or a mixture of soil and compost around the base. Water every three to four days. When the buds sprout, in about two weeks, remove the mound, and add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the rose. Replace the mulch as needed throughout the growing season to help retain moisture and control weeds.
Wondering if your roses will survive during harsh winter weather? Learn how to protect your roses, so you can enjoy them again next spring!