The best time to plant bare root roses outside is fast approaching. March on the Pacific West Coast means the start of springtime, and one of the first plants that need attention are your bare-root roses. You should be planning to plant your roses immediately after the last hard frost of the winter season has passed – usually mid to late March.
How to get bare-root roses
Most people buy the bare-root plants before the spring season and keep them in cold storage until they’re ready to plant in the ground. They are usually sold at nurseries in the late fall and winter, or you can order them from online sellers. If you have never dealt with bare-root roses before, brace yourself! They will come wrapped up in plastic. They will not come in dirt or with pretty blooms; that comes later.
Inspect your plants
At the start, your plants will look like chopped sticks with bare roots hanging down. Although this is normal, you should still inspect your roses to ensure they are not damaged or dying.
- Healthy roses should have branches that are about 8” – 12” long, and there should be at least three of them. If they’re a little thin it’s okay; they’ll grow bigger once they’re in the ground.
- If any of the branches are broken, prune them back.
- Any black spots on the roots should be pruned back as well.
Once you’ve trimmed back the unhealthy bits, place your plant in a tub of water for 24 hours. This will rehydrate the roses and prepare them for planting. Try to plant your roses in the ground as soon as possible, but if you absolutely can’t then make sure that you “heel in” – lay the plant on its side and pile loose soil over the roots to protect them from drying out. Keep the soil moist until right before you place them in your garden.
Before planting, make sure to prepare the desired area.
- Prior to digging the new hole, make sure that you have cleared all remaining roots from any previous plants before placing the roses.
- If you are planting more than one bare-root rose, ensure there is at least a meter between each planting hole.
The spot that you choose to plant your roses should get at least six hours of direct sun per day. Once you have selected your desired location:
- dig a hole that is about two feet wide in diameter and two feet deep.
- Sprinkle about one cup of Earth Safe® Bone Meal in the bottom of the transplant hole. The bottom of the hole should also be flat or cone-shaped so that the roots have an even surface to spread out across.
Place the plant in the hole, fill the space around the roots with your Earth Safe® Coco Earth and native soil mixture, then generously water and finish it off by piling about eight inches of mulch around the base of the plant. To ensure your new roses settle in comfortably, make a two-inch tall donut-shaped wall around your plant, to create a water basin.
To protect the newly planted bare root rose from any late frosts, cover it entirely with loose compost for the first 2-3 weeks. In terms of dirt, roses like soils that drain well, that have substance, and that are neutral or slightly acidic. A good rule to follow for new plantings is a mixture of 50% Earth Safe® Coco Earth and 50% native soil. The pH balance of the soil should be between 6.0-6.5 for optimum growing conditions.
Now you’re all set! To maintain your roses, water them every 3 or 4 days. In 3 weeks, remove half of the mulch and continue watering. In another week, remove more of the mulch, so that there’s only about 2“ left covering the soil around the base of the plant. This coverage will protect the plant from weeds, moisture loss and temperature shifts.