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How to Plant Bare Root Roses

January is typically the coldest month in the Southwest, but if you don't mind the chill, there's plenty to do indoors and out in the garden. Southwest gardens are experiencing weather in the low to mid 60’s and the big box stores have bare root roses on the shelves. Stoke your passion for roses with award-winning selections from the 1970s to 2000s. I found some of the roses I had listed on my “to-buy list” Angel Face, Queen Elizabeth, Gold Medallion, Paradise and Mr. Lincoln. 

I also snared a healthy Knockout Rose in a standard. You can’t beat the price, all under $6.  If you are on a budget this is the way to purchase roses and get started on that rose garden you have been procrastinating about. Another idea for Northern gardeners who fear the freezing weather, buy the bare root roses and enjoy them for the season and replant each spring, at that economical price.

Test Garden Tip: Wondering if you're planting something too early outdoors? Watch inventory at local garden centers. When they stock a plant, it's usually the right time for planting. Ask if you're unsure.

 Get Planting
It's the ideal time for planting! Getting bare-root woody plants into the ground now means they'll be established before hot, dry winds arrive. Prepare a new vegetable garden area by loosening soil 8 to 12 inches deep with a digging fork or rototiller. Add compost to existing vegetable beds.

Proper care of bare roots will lead to healthier roses.

You can buy bare roots (dormant plants sold and shipped without soil around their roots), and plant them in late winter in warm climates or early spring in cold climates. If you buy potted plants that have already commenced growing, plant them as you would any garden plant, anytime from spring through early fall.
Tips for Planting Bare-Root Roses

If bare roots arrive before you prepare the planting hole or the ground thaws, it's important to protect them until you can get them in the ground. As long as the roots stay moist, they'll be fine for a day or two. Open any plastic wrapping around bare roots, and refresh roots in a bucket of water if you will plant them within 12 hours. Otherwise, sprinkle roots with water and leave them wrapped in plastic for a day or two.
If you're looking at a longer period before you plant, it's best to heel them in a bare spot or ground. Stand bare roots up in a bucket, or lay them at a 45-degree angle in a shallow, shaded trench. If the ground is still frozen, plant the roots in a large pot. Either way, cover the roots and top third of the plant with soil, compost, or peat moss. Water as often as necessary to keep the roots moist. Then plant as early as possible to avoid damaging new roots and top growth.

How to Plant Bare-Root Roses
Remember to soak roots in water for at least two hours (no longer than 12 hours). Prune roots that are broken, injured, or too long. before planting, and add compost to your rose's new home. Give your roses the right environment for growth. Select a location where they'll receive at least six hours of sun. The site should be permanent, away from competing trees and shrubs. Don't expect a plant to live in the same spot where another rose died.

Dig a deep hole 12-18 inches deep and 2 feet wide, keeping the backfill close. Add two shovelfuls of composted manure or compost to the hole then mix it into the bottom soil. Set the plant in the hole and spread the roots evenly around it. Position the plant so that the bud union (a swelling at the base of a grafted plant where the new plant was grown on the rootstock) is 1 inch above the soil surface in warm climates or 1 inch below the surface in cold climates. Use your shovel handle as a guide. Own-root roses differ from grafted or budded stock. Grown from cuttings, they develop their own root systems and don't have a knobby bud union. Simply plant them about 1 inch deeper than they were planted in their pot.

Add water to the hole to settle the soil.

Backfill the planting hole two-thirds full, add water, then allow it to drain. This helps settle the soil. Fill the hole with more soil; water again.

Promote a healthy rose by pruning dead branches.

Prune new roses back by one-third to concentrate the plant's energy in growing roots; remove any dead or broken wood to foster strong canes. When planting container-grown roses, keep pruning to a minimum at planting time. Wait several weeks until leaves develop and canes resume growing; then feed.

Jackson and Perkins
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