How to Plant Bare Root Roses

Planting bare root roses

annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $30

If you're ready to add roses to your garden, consider bare root plants. Bare root roses are dormant and don't yet have any leaves or flowers. These offer several advantages, including a greater number of varieties and choices than roses already growing in pots. They also aren't vulnerable to late frost like potted roses that have already begun their growth cycle. And, because they are set out at the beginning of the growing season, bare root plants easily adapt to your specific growing conditions.

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to plant bare root roses.

What Are Bare Root Roses?

Bare root roses are dormant roses that are sold without soil around their roots, which makes it possible to ship them greater distances and in a more economical way than roses in containers.

When to Plant Bare Root Roses

  • The planting time for bare root roses can be any time between January and May depending on your growing zone.
  • Roses are planted in late winter in warmer climates and n the early spring in colder regions.
  • Plant after the danger of frost has passed and temperatures range between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives the plant time to settle and form roots before summer heat sets in.
  • Roses should not be planted when the ground is waterlogged or during a drought. 

Planting Tips

  • Purchase bare root roses as close as possible to planting time. If you do need to store the plants for several days, make sure the roots don’t dry out. Open the plastic wrapping, spray the roots with water daily, and cover them up again. As long as the roots stay moist, they'll be fine for a day or two.
  • If it's going to be longer before you plant them, heel them in a bare spot or ground. Stand bare roots up in a bucket, or lay them in a shallow, shaded trench at a 45-degree angle. If the ground is still frozen, plant the roots in a large pot. In both cases, cover the roots and top third of the plant with soil, compost, or peat moss. Water as needed to keep the roots moist. Plant the bare root roses as soon as possible to avoid damage to new roots and top growth.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spade or shovel
  • Work gloves
  • Watering can

Materials

  • Bone meal
  • Bare root rose plant
  • Compost or well-rotted manure (optional)
  • Mulch

Instructions

  1. Choose a Location

    Find a location where the rose does not have to compete with other plants for sunlight, nutrients, or water. Roses need sun, at least 4 to 6 hours every day. In hot climates, some afternoon shade can be beneficial.

    Consider the mature growth and give both the above ground plant and its root system ample space.

    Tip

    Roses are prone to numerous pests and diseases that can remain in the soil so don’t plant a rose in the same location where a previous rose has died.

  2. Inspect the Plant

    Remove your rose plant from the packaging and inspect it closely. Remove any roots or canes that are broken, injured, or soft, which indicates rot.

    Inspect bare root rose upon receiving

    Michael Vi / Getty Images

  3. Soak the Roots

    Place it in a bucket with lukewarm tap water so that the roots (not the canes) are sitting in water. Soak the roots for at least two hours but not longer than 24 hours.

    Soaking bare root rose
    annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images
  4. Dig a Planting Hole

    Remove any weeds from the planting site. Using a spade or a shovel, dig a hole about 12 to 18 inches deep and 18 to 24 inches wide depending on the size of the bare root plant.

    Weed before planting

    okugawa / Getty Images

  5. Add Fertilizer

    Break up the soil and remove any large stones as you dig. Pile it up as backfill on the side. Mix a handful of bone meal or superphosphate into the backfill soil.

    If the soil is poor, it is also a good idea to mix in 1 to 2 shovels of compost or well-rotted manure and put an equal amount in the bottom of the planting hole. Do not add any other fertilizer at this time as this risks burning the newly forming roots.

  6. Position the Graft Union

    Make a mound in the center of the hole. Recommendations vary for the best planting depth of grafted roses. Some growers recommend to plant the graft union above the surface.

    The other recommendation is to position the plant so the graft union is 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Spread the roots evenly down the sides of the mound. If there are any extra long roots you can prune them back.

    What Is a Graft Union?

    Almost all roses sold commercially are grafted. The graft union is the swollen part at the bottom of the canes where the rose variety was grafted onto a stock plant. It is easily identifiable and is sometimes referred to as the crown.

  7. Prune Back Long Canes

    Newly planted rose canes should not be longer than 6 to 8 inches. Cut the canes after planting if necessary so the plant can direct energy into establishing roots instead of maintaining top growth.

    Pruning bare root rose canes

    annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images

  8. Water and Mulch

    Water the newly planted rose deeply and apply 1 to 2 inches of mulcharound the base and over the entire root zone to preserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth.

    Keep the rose well-watered, every other day if it does not rain, until you see new growth.

How to Pot Your Bareroot Rose

  • Follow the same procedure when planting roses in pots (such as patio roses and other suitable varieties for container growing).
  • Fill a large planting container at least 12 inches in diameter about two-thirds full with potting soil.
  • Make a mound in the center and follow the first six steps above.
  • Fan out the roots and fill in around them with potting soil.
  • Water lightly and allow the water to drain, This helps settle the soil, and remove air pockets.
Article Sources
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  1. Planting Bare-Root Roses in March. Oregon State University Extension Service.