How to Select & Plant Bare Root Roses


According to the University of Illinois Extension, "Bare-root roses are dormant plants that are sold to the gardener with no soil around the roots; instead, they have moist packing material such as peat or wood shavings around the roots." Gardening catalogs and online nurseries sell roses as bare root plants and ship them at the proper planting time. Wait until after the last freeze date to buy roses from local nurseries. Plant roses in the morning, when winds are lightest and the rose leaves have time to dry before evening.

Selecting a Rose

Step 1

Know what your USDA hardiness zone is before selecting a rose. Select a rose that is bred to thrive in your area.

Step 2

Select a rose that will grow in the light conditions of your garden. All roses need at least six full hours of sunlight, but some will grow in partial shade.

Step 3

Choose a grafted rose that is graded 1 or 1 ½; these are stronger and healthier plants. If the rose is grown on its own root, select one that has three to five heavy canes that are thicker than a pencil width and have smooth, unshriveled bark.

Preparing to Plant

Step 1

Test the soil at least a month before planting the rose. Add hydrated lime to make soil more alkaline and sulfur to make it more acidic. Generally roses prefer a pH of 5.5 to 7.

Step 2

Amend the soil a month before planting. Dig up the soil, remove rocks, weeds and other garden debris and mix in generous amounts of compost, mulch, peat moss or well-rotted manure.

Step 3

Soak the bare root rose in a bucket of water for 8 to 12 hours before planting. If the roots have a gray mold, add the fungicide Daconil to the water.

Step 4

Retain three to five strong canes and remove the rest. Prune remaining canes back so there are three to five buds--oval shaped spots--on each. Prune damaged roots and any white shoots back to 1/8 of an inch.

Step 5

Dig a hole that is 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep. Use the soil from the hole to make a potting mix by adding equal amounts of mulch, peat moss and good potting soil to it.

Planting the Rose

Step 1

Fill the hole half full with the potting mix. Fill the hole with water and stir until the potting mix is the consistency of unset pudding.

Step 2

Put the bare root rose in the hole and have someone hold it so that the bud union--where the roots meet the cane--is right above ground level. Fill the hole with potting mix until the potting mix is level with the ground and feels firm.

Step 3

Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch under the rose and covering the bud union. Create a well around the rose by mounding up a "wall" of mulch about 1 foot from the rose. This will help retain water as the rose settles in.

Step 4

Water the rose every day until new growth emerges. Remove the mulch from the bud union at this time. Reduce the watering to 4 to 5 gallons of water once a week, in the morning, directing the water to the roots to avoid wetting the leaves.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not apply fertilizer, pesticides or fungicide until the bare root rose shows new growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil testing kit
  • Shovel
  • Sulfur or hydrated lime
  • Compost or well-rotted manure
  • Mulch
  • Peat moss
  • Gardening shears
  • Daconil (fungicide)


  • "Ortho's All About Roses"; Dr. Tommy Cairns; 1999
  • "Botanica's Roses"; William A. Grant,; 2000

Who Can Help

  • Our Rose Garden
  • USDA Hardiness Map
  • Soil pH
Keywords: bare root roses, planting roses, rose care

About this Author

Since 1995, H.B. Dean has written more than 2,000 articles for publications including “PB&J,” Disney’s “Family Fun,” “ParentLife,” Living With Teenagers,” and Thomas Nelson’s NYTimes Best-selling “Resolve.” After 17 years of homeschooling her five children, Dean discovered that motherhood doesn’t stop with an empty nest.