Expert Tips

How do you plant bare root roses?

| February 18, 2011

Those unfamiliar with bare root roses might be taken aback when first unpacking them. Far from the lush, delicious rose bush envisioned, bare root roses arrive looking, well … dead. Take heart – though that clump of sticks with roots attached might seem vulnerable and uninspiring – once planted, these humble twigs grow fast and in no time become leafy bushes ready to burst into bloom. To give them the right start, just follow some simple steps.

“When planting roses, care up front pays off over the long run,” says rose expert Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses in Shropshire, England. “Getting it right is so remarkably easy that it’s a shame to unwittingly spoil the day.”

First and foremost, bare root roses are all about root growth, says Marriott. “It’s critical to plant during the right planting window for your region, not too early, not too late, so the plant can establish strong roots before the leaves appear and demand their share of energy.

“This is where bare root roses have an advantage over container roses,” Marriott says. “Container roses must adapt from being in a nursery pot where they are watered regularly to being planted in the ground and probably not getting such a steady water supply. Plus, bare root roses don’t have any leaves to support when first planted. This allows the plant to focus on root development first, then shoots, which is more leisurely for the plant.”

The right time to plant says Marriott is once soil thaws and is still cool, not overly-wet and clammy, and while daytime temperatures are still under 70 degrees F. Typically the right time to plant bare root roses in any area is in the period spanning six weeks prior to the last local frost through two weeks afterwards. Good mail-order firms make it their business to ship bare root roses to recipients at just the right time for planting locally.

Following are additional bare root rose planting tips from Michael Marriott:

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