How to Select Bare Root Roses

In warmer growing zones, you can buy bare root roses in late winter. Learn what to look for before going to the garden center.

Noelle Johnson
Bare root roses for sale

It’s hard to believe that there is anything to do in the garden in January, but in zones 8 to 10, bare root roses have already started to show up at nurseries, including mine. In colder climates, bare root roses can be found in the spring.

Although bare root roses look nothing like the pretty picture on the package, with the proper placement, selection, planting and care, they will soon be covered with brightly-colored blooms.

Container roses can be planted instead of bare root roses throughout the growing season, but you will have the greatest selection available to you when you purchase bare root roses and they are less expensive.

Learn how to prepare and prune roses for winter.

bare root rosesNoelle Johnson
Mr. Lincoln hybrid tea rose

Deciding on which rose(s) you will you add to your garden can be both fun and exciting as you imagine what each type will look like growing and blooming.

There are different types of roses including hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, shrub roses and miniature roses.  Hybrid tea roses are perhaps the most popular type of rose planted and they usually produce a single, large rose per stem.  Floribunda roses are generally smaller shrubs and produce multiple blooms per stem.  Shrub roses have old-fashioned shaped flowers and are generally easier to grow.

This Rugosa rose deserves lots of love.

Roses are available in almost every color, except for blue.  You can plant a garden full of roses of the same color or plant roses with different colors together.  It is all up to you.  To help you with your selection, check with your local rose society, which often have a list of roses that will do best in your area.  You can find links to local rose societies here.

Some of my favorites are Abracadabra, Mr. Lincoln, Touch of Class, Double Delight, Chicago Peace, Pristine, Rio Samba, Abraham Darby, Glamis Castle and Graham Thomas.

Find out why Knock Out Roses are a gardener’s dream come true.

Bare root roses are classified as grade 1, 1 1/2 and 2.  Grade 1 roses have at least 3 large canes (branches) and the lesser grades have fewer and/or smaller canes.  When possible, buy grade 1 roses, but sometimes when you can only find a grade 1 1/2 in the rose you really want – go ahead and buy it.  If you plant and care for it correctly, it should grow into a beautiful and healthy rose. I’ve grown a few grade 1 1/2 roses when I couldn’t find grade 1 and they turned out beautifully.

bare root rosesNoelle Johnson
Graham Thomas English Shrub Rose

Avoid buying bare root roses whose canes look shriveled and dry. Also don’t purchase any that have new growth already growing.

It is best to purchase your bare root roses the day before you are ready to plant.

As soon as you get them home, remove the packing material and stick them in a pail full of water so that it covers the roots.  This helps to rehydrate your rose.  Keep the roots submerged for at least 12 hours before planting, but no more than 24 hours if possibleYou can add vitamin B1 transplant solution to the water if you like, which is said to reduce transplant shock, but this step is optional. I must admit that I have planted roses without adding any B1 to the water.

Still need help choosing which roses to plant? Birds & Blooms has a great article that lists their Top 10 Roses.

So what do you do after you have your bare root roses? Here’s our guide to planting bare root roses.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.