If you order roses from a catalog, the plant most generally arrives as a bare root, ready to be nested in a hole in the ground. Think naked when you read the word “bare” because that is what a bare root plant is–no leaves and the roots are void of any soil. You too can make bare root roses to ship to family and friends or as a means to grab your favorite rose from the garden before you move away.
Prune back the plant in late fall. The best time to prepare an in-ground rose for conversion to bare root is in late fall to late winter while the plant is dormant. Prune hybrid tea roses back to a height of 8-10 inches and prune climbers or shrub roses back to about 12 inches.
Cover the pruned cuts with grafting wax or paraffin (which need to be heated first) or with Parafilm, a tape-like product that sticks to the plant after you pull off a protective covering.
Encircle the branches with string mid-way between the ground and the top of the cut branches. Snug the branches together so they are roughly 6 inches apart. When the branches are pulled together, they take up less space for storage or for shipping.
Prepare a plastic bag with about 1 cup of moist peat moss or sawdust. A grocery bag or food storage bag can be used.
Dig up the rose. One difference seen between ball and burlap plants and bare root plants is that more root is included with the bare root method. Insert the shovel or spade about 1 foot away from the plant and dig deep, all the way around to better ensure that all the roots are included.
Pull the loosened rose from the ground and gently shake off the dirt. Rinse the roots with a garden hose or swirl the roots in a bucket of water to clean them. Immediately insert the roots into the prepared bag and tie the bag off at the crown (where the branches meet the roots).
You may want to use a twist tie or tie the string in a bow so you can periodically check the roots to see if they need more moisture, if you plan to hold on to the plants for an extended time.
Wrap the branches with burlap and then place the bare root roses in a cool location so they will remain dormant until you are ready to plant them or ship them before spring.