When to Plant Bare Root Roses

It’s officially winter and that means it’s time to think about when to plant bare-root roses for your spring garden.

Bare-root roses are roses that are sold without soil or foliage. Planting these roses during January gives them time to develop a strong root system before they begin putting on foliage in the spring and prepare for the hot summer that surely lies ahead. Look for bare-root roses with firm sound-looking stems and no shriveling.

A Good Rose Growing Environment

Roses blooming

If you don’t already have a rose bed started, it’s important to remember that roses need six full hours of sunlight to bloom well and thrive. A little bit of late afternoon shade also would be OK in our sweltering summers.

To ensure a good growing environment, a raised bed is optimal so you can build up the bed with quality soil. Roses do best in loose, loamy soil with good drainage. If you have hard or compacted clay soil, you can add sand or compost to the bed to loosen the soil.

Roses also don’t like to have wet feet. They are susceptible to fungal diseases like black spot disease or powdery mildew, so it’s best to water them in the morning instead of at night and plant them where they have good air circulation.

Bare-root roses are simple to prepare for planting. As soon as you bring them home, you should trim off any dead roots or stems. Then put them in a bucket of water for several hours to revive the roots. If you are not going to plant them in their permanent place, plant them temporarily in another part of the garden until their plot is ready. The roots should not be allowed to dry out.

The wax coating on the root tips is put on by the growers. Don’t worry about it; it will wear off once you plant the rose.

There are many different types of roses – floribunda, grandiflora, climber, shrub and landscape, hybrid tea and miniature.

Floribunda: Developed in the last century, Floribundas are bushy shrubs with showy blossoms. They set clusters of blooms (from three to as many as 15) on a stem.

Hybrid tea: These are the most popular roses — tall, long-stemmed beauties perfect for cutting. They usually have only one flower to a stem. They are often focal points in landscape design and many varieties are fragrant.

Grandiflora: A cross between a floribunda and a hybrid tea, grandifloras are tall and regal. They bloom over and over throughout the season. The have clusters like hybrid teas.

Shrub and landscape: Shrub roses have natural disease resistance, grow in a wide variety of climates, and require less care and pruning thanks to their compact growth habit. They flower prolifically over a long period of time.

Climbing: Climbing roses produce long, arching canes with flowers all along the cane. They can be trained to grow up a fence, trellis or any other kind of structure.

Antique: Antique roses are generally considered roses that were introduced before 1867 and the development of the first modern hybrid tea roses. Antique rose rustlers and collectors consider most roses more than 75 years old to be antique — with the shared characteristics of beautiful fragrance, ease of cultivation, and disease resistant.

Many of these roses were gleaned from old cemeteries or abandoned estates where they thrived with little or no care for years and years. Hybrid tea roses often lack the fragrance of antique roses, but on the other hand modern hybrid tea roses come in a vast array of stunning colors, while antique colors are more subtle.

Planting Your Bare-Root Roses

Bare-root roses are made up of the rootstock and the flowering canes. Where those two parts join is called the graft union, and should be planted just above ground level. Dig the hole just deep enough so the graft union will be at the correct level and wide enough to let the roots extend without bending.

Partially refill the hole with the soil you removed and make an inverted cone of soil over which to spread the roots. Holding the rose at the right height, fill the hole with soil. When it’s almost full, water all around to allow the soil to settle.

Then finish filling the hole, making a well around the rose and water again. Be sure to apply a nice layer of mulch all around the rose, but keep it a few inches away from the canes so that you don’t cover up the graft union.

Selecting the right rose will require a little research because there are so many from which to choose. Be sure you know your size requirements or limitations, how much time you have for pruning and care, and what characteristics are most important to you in a rose.

Local independent nurseries can help you select roses that are disease resistant, drought tolerant and prolific bloomers. There are many heirloom roses and “Earth Kind” varieties (tested by A&M and proven to be tough enough to thrive in our Central Texas weather and soil conditions).

Big box stores will have large shipments of bare-root roses, too, but you’ll have to do your research and be careful to ensure the varieties they offer are appropriate for our climate.

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