How to Grow Bareroot Roses

Pink rose in backyard garden.

Bareroot roses. You've seen them.

They look like a couple of twigs in a plastic bag or box.

Why would you buy that when you could wait and buy a lovely potted rose in the spring?

The answer? Three words: cost, selection, adaptability.

Here's how to go bareroot this winter.

Getting Started with Bareroot Roses

Winter is the perfect time to plan your rose garden. A wide selection of barefoot roses is now available in nurseries as well as online. So you will probably be able to find the roses you want.

Bareroot roses may not look like much now, but they offer many advantages over the potted varieties:

  • They are cheaper
  • A wider selection is available
  • They adjust better to your soil conditions
  • You can plant them earlier than you could plant bushes with frost-susceptible leaves

Roses go dormant in the winter, so growers dig up roses for market, cut back the canes and store them soilless.

Bareroot roses are less expensive because they don't require watering, and they're easier to ship. In temperate zones, you can plant barefoot roses now. If you live in a cold climate, wait until late winter or early spring or until frost danger has passed. 

When the Roses Arrive

When your roses arrive, open the package immediately. Then:

  • Check for damage, trim broken canes
  • Soak overnight to rehydrate the roots
  • Trim root ends back a couple of inches

  • Prune canes so that you have three strong ones about six inches long
  • Plant as soon as possible

If you can't plant within a day or two, store the roses in moistened plastic bags in a cool place. Better yet, bury the bushes in moist soil in a protected area at a slant so that only the branch tips show.

Keep them watered until you can put them in a permanent home.

Planting Location

Man planting bareroot roses in backyard.

Choose the best place to plant your barefoot roses. Consider the following:

  • Roses need at least six hours of sun, preferably morning sun. (A full day in cooler climes.)
  • They need well-drained soil
  • Roses need lots of air circulation to prevent mildew, so plant where they will get a good breeze
  • Don't crowd them; they need lots of room to grow. Plant at least three feet apart.

Planting Preparations

  • Dig a hole a couple of inches deeper and wider than the current roots.

  • If desired, amend the soil with bone meal and composted manure.
  • Make a mound about 10 inches high at the bottom of the hole and spread the roots around it evenly.
  • Position the bud union. (Near the base of the plant, you'll see a bump. This is the bud or graft union. Optimally, the bud union should be above ground to protect it from bacteria or disease. Unfortunately, it's also susceptible to frost, so that's not possible in colder climates. Follow the planting instructions on the rose label to determine the proper depth for your climate and your particular rose.)
  • Gradually fill in around the roots with amended soil, packing it down with your hands to eliminate air pockets.
  • When the hole is about two-thirds full, water it well and let the water soak in.
  • Finish filling the hole with soil and water again. Readjust the bud union if necessary.
  • To keep the bush from drying out, mound the top of the plant with soil, only leaving tips sticking out for about two weeks. Then, once it is acclimated, remove the dirt down to ground level and top with mulch.

Caring for your roses: Right now,make sure they get enough water.

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