Planting Bare-Root Roses

Planting Bare-Root Roses

by Mark Whitelaw


Sometimes you just can't find that "perfect rose" at your local nursery; you'll have to mailorder it. And often that mailorder rose will come to you as bare-root. Knowing how to properly plant your new bare-root rose will improve your chances for success.

Step 1: Inspect the rose immediately. Open the shipping container as soon as possible after it is received. Check for broken canes and roots, and trim off all damaged parts with sharp, sterilized pruning shears. Doing this immediately is important to reduce the likelihood of rot and disease - specifically root and crown galls.

Step 2: Soak the roots overnight in a bucket of water. If you want, you can add a weak solution of rooting activator which contains synthetic Vitamin B-1 (like SUPERThrive). However, a mild solution of "willow water" will also work - if you have access to willows, that is. This procedure rehydrates the roots. [Hint: If you have added supplements to your soaking water, save the water for use later in the planting process.]

Step 3: Prepare the hole into which the rose is to be planted. As a rule of thumb, dig the hole about 1½ times as deep and 1½ times as wide as the root system is long. Mound a small pile of soil in the center of the hole as a support for the rose's root crown.

If you have properly prepared your soil, no additional materials need to be added to the hole. However, if your rose bed is new or your soil is low in nutrient value, you may want to add a small amount of ground phosphate rock or bone meal to the bottom of the hole. I also sprinkle a dusting of powdered kelp into the bottom and sides of the hole, although this is not required.

Step 4: Plant the rose according to your hardiness zone. In all cases, spread the roots down and over the top of the mounded soil in the hole's bottom. Ensure equal distribution of the roots around the mound. Remember: Your placement of those roots will determine how they will grow in the future. Never wrap roots around the rose.

The depth to which you plant the rose depends on your hardiness zone.

For Zones 9 - 10, plant grafted roses so their bud unions are the width of three fingers above the soil line, but do not expose the root crown. For own-root roses, plant so the top of the root crown is at the soil line. [Hint: To determine the soil line, lay a stake or broom handle across the top of the open hole.]

[Note: For those of you new to this technique, recent studies have shown planting bud unions above the soil line (where possible) reduces pest bacterial infestation and keeps the bud union dry to reduce graft decay.]

For Zones 7 - 8, plant grafted roses so their bud unions are at the soil line. Do the same for own-root roses.

For Zones 5 - 6, plant grafted roses so their bud unions are the width of three fingers below the soil line. For own-root roses, plant the root crown at the soil line or slightly below.

For Zone 4 and colder, plant grafted roses the width of your hand below the soil line. Own root roses (those that will survive these winter temperatures) can be planted at the soil line.

Step 5: While holding onto the rose, fill the hole with garden soil. Use a bucket or garden hose to water in the soil around the roots. This is important to remove any major air pockets left by the filling process, and ensure good root/soil contact. Don't let the rose settle deeper into the hole than you intend for your hardiness zone. [Hint: As a technique, secure the rose with plastic tape or twine to the stake laid across the hole. This helps prevent it from sinking into the hole as you water-in the soil.]

After watering-in, apply a solution of rooting stimulator to the root zone. (If you added synthetic Vitamin B-1 to your root soaking solution in Step 2, use it here.) Do not apply the rooting stimulator until after you have watered-in the rose. Doing otherwise could burn the roots.

Step 6: Mound garden soil up around the exposed canes, but leave the top two bud eyes exposed. This will protect the rose from any severe late frosts until the roots develop. [It also signals the rose to "get started doin' its thing." :-)] After the bud eyes swell and the first few new leaflets appear, remove the soil from around the canes and form a watering well around the base of the rose.

Step 7: Sit back and enjoy all your hard work. You've earned it! :-)

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