Shopping for Bare-Root RosesBare-root roses will arrive at your favorite garden center soon. While they may look like lifeless sticks, they will provide years of color and beauty when planted correctly.

Bare-root roses are dug from a field during the winter rest period for early planting. Their roots are stripped of soil and packed in peat moss, bark or other mixture to retain moisture during shipping – this is why they are called bare-root roses.

Often more economical than container-grown roses, bare-root roses give you a head start in the rose garden by giving plants time to root in their new home before summer arrives. (The leafy, potted roses called container-grown roses, which are sold later in spring, are raised in pots; they have all their roots intact and ready for transplanting at just about any time except for midsummer.)

Shipped and marketed for planting while dormant, bare-root roses will thrive if set out in late winter or very early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop and prepare to plant.

Before You Go

  • Prepare the ground before purchasing roses so they can be planted immediately.
  • Be sure the planting area receives plenty of sunlight and has good drainage.

At the Store

  • Look for rose grades on tags or packaging. Grades #1, #1.5 and #2 refer to the size and vigor of the plant, with #1 being the highest quality.
  • Select roses with healthy green canes that have at least three strong, heavy stems. Avoid brown or shriveled canes. Also look for a well-developed root system with several long tapering roots and many smaller hair-like roots.
  • Avoid plants with several new growth sprouts – the new growth may not survive transplanting because the plant has so few roots.
  • Some bare-root roses may have a waxy coating on stems to prevent drying – this wax will weather away after planting.

When You Get Home

  • Remove bare-root roses from their packaging as soon as possible.
  • Soak roots in water for at least one to two hours before planting.
  • Sometimes bare-root roses are potted upon arriving at the garden center. In this case, expect the soil to fall away from the roots at planting. This is normal and should not alarm you.
  • Plant roses within one to two days of purchase.
  • Avoid leaving packaged bare-root roses in warm areas, this will cause premature sprouting.