Step-by-Step Tutorial: How to Plant Bare Root Roses Like a Pro

Step-by-Step Tutorial: How to Plant Bare Root Roses Like a Pro

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Bare root roses are one way you can buy a rose plant and are usually a little cheaper, too, when compared to buying them already potted. You basiclly get them at the same time as nurseries, but they pot them up to sell in summer, but you can plant them straight into your garden or into pots. As they come without soil around the roots, you need to plant them quite quickly or at least heal them into some soil until you’re ready to plant them into their permanent position.

Planting bare root roses is a matter of preparing the rose bush, digging a suitable hole, adding a little fertiliser and planting the rose into the soil at the correct depth. Thats the key point, planting them at the right depth, but more on this further down in the guide. Then it’s all about looking after the plant correctly. Let’s dive into the complete guide!

What are bare root roses?

Bare root rose ready for planting
Bare root rose ready for planting

First things first, what are bare root roses? Bare root roses are one way in which you can buy your rose. bushes. The other ways are container plants which are roses that were bare root but were planted up to sell in pots from spring and into summer. Bare roots roses are, as their name implies, roses that don’t have any soil around their roots. They’re initially grown in a field and then dug up once they’re dormant and dropped all their leaves. Their roots are sometimes wrapped in hessian, or some other fabric kept wet to ensure enough moisture reaches the roots and hence the plant. If they are lifted at the time of purchase, which some rose growers do (I use to work in a nursery and thats what we did), then they might just be dispatched in a poly bag, so make sure you heal them onto the ground as soon as you get them until you’re ready to plant them.

When to plant bare roots roses

You ideally need to plant bare root roses immediately after you buy them or plant them into a large pot or heal them into the ground, as previously mentioned, until you’re ready to plant them in their final positon. You don’t really have a choice as to when this is. Bare root plants are only for sale after they’ve gone into their dormant phase and have lost all their flowers and leaves. This is usually between November and March. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can plant bare root roses during this period.

How to plant bare root roses

Preparing the rose bush before planting

Between buying and planting the rose, you need to keep the roots damp. They mustn’t dry out. You can either water the roots regularly or temporarily plant them in a container of compost if it will be a while until you plant them.

Just before you plant the rose, soak it in a bucket of water for a couple of hours. This rehydrates the rose fully. You can also put the whole plant to wet out the stems.

After the soaking, prune the rose tree if needed. When I used to sell bare root roses, I used to prune them before they were sent to the customer, so this might not be needed. Trim off any damaged or diseased stems and roots. Clip the stems down so that there are about three buds left above the root stock. You can spot the buds as they’re raised oval areas on the stems. This allows the rose to develop new growth from lower down the plant, leading to a bushier plant. Don’t be afraid to prune back roses hard. They respond well to this.

Prepare the hole

Digging a hole to plant my bare root rose
Digging a hole to plant my bare root rose

Dig a hole that’s the depth of a garden spade. It needs to be twice as wide as the roots of your rose bush.

Add some rose fertiliser to the hole to give the rose the best start
Add some rose fertiliser to the hole to give the rose the best start

Prepare the hole using the garden fork to loosen the soil at the base of the hole. Mix a granular rose fertiliser or well-rotted manure with the removed soil and place it in the bottom of the hole. Make sure it’s well mixed into the soil as it can burn the roots if you don’t!

Planting the rose

Backfilling the rose
Backfilling the rose

Place the rose in the hole with the point at which new canes will emerge just below the soil level. What you are aiming to do is not plant it any deeper than it originally was in the ground. You can usually tell by carefully looking at the rose where it was planted previously before it was lifted. Backfill the hole using the removed soil. Fill in gently around the root, tamping down the layers firmly to remove any air pockets.

Mulch around the base of the rose

Add a layer of mulch on top of the soil when planting is done, but don’t let any touch the grafted rootstock of the rose bush, as this can encourage rot and pests. The mulch keeps the soil cool and retains moisture, as well as providing nutrients for the roots.


Water the rose in well. Ensure that the excess water is draining away in the soil as water-logged soil is just asking for pests and diseases to come and stay.

Care and maintenance

Planted bare root rose
Planted bare root rose with a layer of mulch around the base

I cover how to look after your roses in my ‘How to grow and care for roses‘ guide. As a quick overview, I usually spray with a fungicide as soon as the buds start to open to try and prevent blackspot, rust and mildew early. I have found this helps to prevent diseases in the first place, which is the most common problems roses. I then prune them back in spring just as the buds start to swell.

You may also be interested in the Rose pests and diseases guide just in case anything happens to your rose bush as a lot of varieties are unfortunately prone to diseases, although it’s never really fatal.

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