Start the Rose Garden of Your Dreams in the Dead of Winter

Planting bare-root roses is the best and most cost-efficient way to make your spring and summer bloom like mad

Photo by Daphné Be Frenchie on Unsplash

If your garden dreams include a lush and colorful rose garden, the best time to plan and plant it is in the winter months when bare-root roses are available in local and mail-order nurseries.

Bare-root roses are dormant bushes that are packaged and shipped without a container. Shipping the plants in this form saves a great deal of money for growers compared to shipping potted bushes after they break dormancy, and those savings are passed on to you. You can often purchase multiple bare-root bushes for what a single potted rose will cost you later in the year.

Each year growers come out with a few new rose varieties, but there are always old favorites available as well. Whatever roses you choose, it’s best to get them planted as soon as you can. Here are the basic steps:

1. Remove the rose from its packaging and brush away any wood shavings or other material that may have been packed around the roots.

2. Trim the canes back to about 8 inches in length. Make the cuts on a diagonal just above an outward eye. You’ll recognize the eye as a slightly swollen spot on the cane from which leaves will sprout. You can also trim the roots back by as much an inch to stimulate new root growth.

3. Soak the rose in a bucket of lukewarm water for at least a couple but no more than 24 hours. This will ensure the entire plant is hydrated before it goes in the ground.

4. In a location that gets at least six hours of direct sun a day, dig a hole that is 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Amend the soil you removed from the hole with compost, mixing it well, then mound some of that soil in the bottom of the hole.

5. Place the rose in the hole, spreading the roots out over the mound. Adjust the depth of the rose so that the graft union (the gnarly-looking knuckle towards the top of the main stem) is at or just a couple inches above the soil level.

6. Add the soil back into the hole. When the hole is about two-thirds filled, add water to help the soil settle and fill in air gaps. Fill in the remaining soil and water well again.

If you live in an area that is still very cold or very windy, you can mound soil up around the base of the rose to cover the stem and the bottoms of the canes to keep the rose from drying out. Leave the soil mound in place only until the leaf buds break out, which should happen in just a few weeks. Then carefully brush the soil away from plant, leaving the rose exposed from slightly below the graft union up. (In milder climates, it’s not necessary to create this protective soil mound.)

Author/Editor. Writes about gardening, writing, etc. Website: ClaireSplan.com. Newsletters: WritingInPlace.substack.com and GardenToTable.substack.com

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