Let Us Bare Roots

January 9, 2019
Let Us Bare Roots

Gorgeous roses start with bareroot bushes that should be planted this time of year.

Star Roses

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From Georgia to Quebec to my currently frigid Wisconsin, it’s time to plant bare root roses. 

If the ground is thawed and you can dig a hole, plant! April and the first two weeks of May are the perfect time, no matter where you live.

I prefer bare root roses, because there are infinitely more varieties available versus those growing in a nursery can.  And, most roses grown on their own roots are only offered as bare root.  Grafted roses (varieties or cultivars that are grafted on to a quick-growing, disease-resistant rootstock) die back to that rootstock during my harsh winters.  The rootstock sprouts, but it’s not the rose I bought.  Some winters even the rootstock will perish when it stays below zero for days.  With own-root roses, the rootstock is the rose you buy when there is die-back.

Photo courtesy of David Astin Roses.

Tips & Tactics

• When you get your bare root rose, take it out of the package and soak it in a bucket of warm water for at least six hours, preferably overnight.  Dig a generous hole about a foot wide and deep and create a soil mound about six inches high in the bottom of the hole.  Spread the rose roots around the mound and fill in the hole.  If you are planting a grafted rose, make sure the graft (knobby spot on the main stem) is at least an inch above the soil line.  Otherwise, the rootstock will take over.

The only way I could have antique rose Therse Bugnet is a bareroot plant, grown on its on roots.  A grafted one would have froze out during my frigid winters.

• Scatter rabbit food in around the bush and scratch it in.  Rabbit food or pellets is popular among rosarians because it’s a cheap source of alfalfa meal, which supplies a hefty dose of slow-release nitrogen and trace elements to plants.  Alfalfa also contains a growth stimulant.

• Scratch two tablespoons of Epsom salts into the soil around plants when they are in full leaf; the salts make flower colors more intense.  The magnesium in them also helps to promote the formation of basal canes at ground level.

Epsom salts help roses like this Lady Elsie May in my garden to develop rich, deep colors.

• Dump coffee grounds and used tea bags around roses.  They both slightly acidify the soil, which roses love.  Banana skins can be buried at the base of plants, too, for a dose of magnesium. You can even bury entire, black mushy bananas when they are past the eating stage.

• If deer and gophers are a problem in your garden, confuse them with lavender.  Grow plants among the roses to muddy the flowers’ aroma, which attracts deer.  When planting rose bushes, throw a handful of dried, crushed lavender into the planting hole to thwart gophers.

About This Blog

A lifelong gardener shares the endless lessons she’s learned from her garden over the years, in hopes of making your own gardening just that much easier! Read along for advice, photos, and more.

2019 Garden Guide

Reader Comments

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Rose bush won't flower

I got this rose bush about 7-8 years ago. It was a white one on the pkg. and it flowered the same summer I planted it. It flowered white had a great looking lone rose on it. The next year it had two great looking red roses on it. Yeah I know weird hey!! And it has not flowered since, all I get is healthy canes that are really long. I cut it back every spring to about 2 feet and it grows like crazy and no flowers, no buds, no sign of anything for it to give a flower. The root system of this plant has expanded to about 1 1/2 feet, putting out nice canes from the roots. And every fall I have 12 to 20 foot canes and no flowers. I must be doing something wrong, what is it?

I think your original plant

I think your original plant may have been grafted. As Doreen mentioned above, sometimes the desirable top plant in a grafted rose dies off and the sprouts that come up from the rootstock are different and sometimes they will not blossom at all. It is nothing that you did wrong. If you want to replace it try a rose that is grown on its own roots. It might be hardier and perform better for you!

I have a rose bush. The

I have a rose bush.
The branches are brown, no leaves, no growth..has a good size root ball.
How can I stimulate the root ball and revive this bush?

Thank you

Hello, I'm just learning how

Hello, I'm just learning how to garden and I brought a white rose bush that I think has been miss labeled(cj. Sally Holmes Rose) they have 5 petals. This is creating a problem for me because I don't know how to research how to care for it. for instance, how what do I do hen the petals get old and I want new growth?

I love nature especially tree

I love nature especially tree and some flowers except allergic to soy wheat lavendar and violets. I like fresh air and photography. I take lots of photo and find it very spiritual. I habe posted some of my photos on oldfarmers almanac and they liked them. I like your educational blog and hope you will view some of my photography of nature as well. Thanks for sharing your rose tips.


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