by Marty Reich, Master Rosarian
You can buy bare root roses, dormant plants sold and shipped without soil around their roots, and plant them in the early spring.
Often the bare root roses become much better bushes than the roses purchased in pots and transplanted. When roses are commercially potted for sale, the roots of bare root roses are trimmed so they will fit in the pot. The rose may not have all the roots it needs to reach its intended potential.
The following materials are needed for initial conditioning of bare root rose plants:
- 2 or 3 gallon planting pots. You can purchase these at most garden centers and some will give them to you. Use one pot per plant.
- Good quality potting soil.
- Brown paper grocery bags (one bag for each plant) with the bottom cut out. If you do not have these, most any grocery store will give them to you.
- Large rubber bands (large enough to fit around the 2 or 3 gallon pot) or strong cord.
- Soil conditioner or light-weight mulch (a sufficient amount to cover each plant, about 2 gallons).
Procedure for potting and planting:
- As soon as possible after you get your bare root rose, place the plant in a bucket of water completely covering the roots and let it sit in water for about 24 hours.
- After you have soaked the plant, place each one in a planting pot and fill with potting soil, so that the bud union is just at soil level.
- Prune each of the canes so that they are 6” to 8” in length. ( Long roots can also be pruned to fit the pot.)
- Put a grocery bag over each plant so that it slips over the pot, and the top of the open bag is above the top of the canes. Secure the bag to the pot with the large rubber band or cord.
- Fill the bag with soil conditioner or mulch so that the canes are completely covered.
- Water the plant thoroughly and place in a location where it will get some sun.
- If it does not rain, you will need to water the plants every 2 or 3 days. Be sure to keep the material around the canes moist.
- If the temperature goes below freezing, you may want to place the plants in a protected area such as a garage for overnight. However, unless it is a hard and extended freeze, the plants will probably be okay because of the mulch protection.
- After 3-4 weeks you will see new growth start breaking through the mulch, and you can then begin carefully removing the paper grocery bags and the mulch.
- Allow the plants to grow in the pots unprotected for another 1-2 weeks. You should now have healthy growing plants ready for planting.
- In your rose garden dig a hole large enough to place the pot in so that the soil surface in the pot will be at the soil surface of your garden. In the bottom of the hole mix in 1 cup of time release fertilizer and 1 cup of fish meal or Mills Mix.
- Remove the plant from the pot, place in the hole and cover with soil from your garden.
- Water the plant thoroughly.