By Stan V. Griep
Master Rosarian-Rocky Mountain Region ARS
Colorado Native Rosarian 40 plus years experience
Member of: American Rose Society, The Denver Rose
Society, Northern Colorado Rose Society
This is a great time of year to take a look at bare root rosebush care and planting.
Many of us have either already received some bare root rosebushes or will be within the next several weeks.
When I first get my bare root roses I open up the packing box and check each one out thoroughly. Take a good look at each rosebush from the tip of the canes to the bottom of each root. Broken or perhaps moldy looking root areas are pruned off. Broken canes are pruned back to good healthy looking cane tissue if need be. Many of the bare root rosebushes will be in fine shape and truly fine looking specimens. Some unfortunately will not. If we get bare root roses that have some beat up and badly broken canes or canes with splits or lesions upon them, or the roots are damaged in some way or are covered with molds or funguses, we need to contact the customer service folks at the company we ordered them from and let them know. Many times the company really does not know what condition roses may have been shipped out in. They do have standards yes, but when things get very busy trying to get the orders out the standards can slip. I have received bare root roses that were not packed correctly and thus were dry as an old bone laying out in the desert sun when they arrived! Some of the roots snapped off as they were removed from the packing box. There are, at times, some roots that are damaged and it will not hurt the bush to just prune the damaged portion off.
I like to have at least two five gallon buckets of water ready at the time of inspection of my new bare root rosebushes. One is for a quick dip rinse and the other is for soaking the bare root roses. In the soaking bucket I have lukewarm to cool water up to about two inches of the top of the bucket. I like to add a tablespoon or 2 of a product called Super Thrive to the soaking water as well as have a “tea bag” of the Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea soaking in there. Place the bare root rosebushes into the bucket and allow to soak for 24 to 48 hours. More than one such soaking bucket may be needed so as not to overcrowd the rosebushes in the soaking bucket. The soaking is very important to allow the root system to soak up plenty of water to get them well hydrated and thus ready for optimum performance once planted in their new homes. Submerging the union area of the canes partially or totally will not hurt a thing and can help their moisture level as well.
Once they have been nicely soaked it is time for planting them. No matter what area you live in, cold climate or warm climate, I still recommend planting the rosebushes with the union area of the canes at least two inches below what will be the final grade line around the rosebushes. In cold climates this helps in their protection from temperature fluxuations during the winter season, in the warmer climates this will give the bushes a solid base so that they are not as easily whipped about by the wind. Wind rocking can do some real damage to the root system of rosebushes, not to mention the total uprooting in strong sustained winds. If planted when the weather may still dip down very low, mound the planting soils up onto the canes or place a wall-o-water unit around/over them for protection until the weather evens out. Once planted, I prune two to three inches of the canes off and seal the ends with either Elmer’s white multipurpose glue or the Tacky Glue from a hobby/craft store. The fun part then begins in waiting for the rosebushes to send out their new growth leading to those beautiful bloom smiles!
Tips: Blending some Kelp Meal into the planting soils for the bareroot rosebushes gives them a nice snack to get them growing well. Water the rosebushes in after planting with some water that has a root stimulator product in it too.