Expert Tips for Planting Bare Root Roses

Updated: Jan. 25, 2023

Get your questions answered about planting bare root roses. Find out how to prepare the soil, dig a hole and help your roses grow and thrive.

Do you love roses? I certainly do. At one point, I had over 40 different rose bushes growing in my garden.  The large, beautiful and fragrant blooms are the reason why roses are so popular.

Noelle Johnson
‘Medallion’ Hybrid Tea Rose

How about you? Have you considered planting roses? If you live in zones 8 to 10, now is the time to plant them. In cooler zones, spring is when bare root roses can be planted.

I previously wrote about how to select bare root roses. Now we’ll cover how to plant bare root roses—don’t worry, it isn’t hard, but there are a few rules to follow.

Have you ever heard the saying “It’s better to plant a $10 tree in a $100 dollar hole?” Well, the saying is also true in regards to roses. You can plant an expensive rose, but if the hole is not prepared correctly, the plant will not do as well as a cheaper rose planted in a proper hole.

By following these tips, you will not only have healthier roses, but your rose bush will be covered with abundant blooms.

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

Planting Bare Root Roses

planting bare root rosesNoelle Johnson
Dig a wide planting hole.

Planting roses isn’t difficult as long as you follow a few basic rules.

  1. Place your hole in an area where your rose will receive at least 6 hours of sun.  Don’t plant right next to large shrubs or trees since their roots will steal nutrients and water from your rose. In southern gardens, avoid planting in an area with reflected heat from afternoon sun.
  2. Soak your bare root rose at least 12 hours before planting, covering the roots with water.  After soaking, prune any broken and damaged roots and prune back the canes (branches) to 12 inches (make the pruning cut 1/4″ above an outward facing bud.)
  3. Now for the hole – dig a hole at least 18″ wide and 18″ deep (I dig my holes about 24″ wide).  By digging a wide hole, you loosen up the soil, making it easier for the rose roots to grow outwards.
  4. Roses love fertile soil, so it is important to amend the soil in the hole.  Add compost and mix with the existing soil.  Add bone meal to the hole as well, which will help to stimulate root development.
  5. Create a small mound (with your soil/compost/bone meal mixture) in the hole, so that the roots of the bare roots, rest on top and flare out.  Then add the rest of your soil mixture and gently tamp it down to remove any air pockets.  How deep to plant you rose depends on your climate.  Many types of roses have a bud union, which is a swollen area just above the roots that is sensitive to cold temperatures.  In warm climates, the bud union should be 1″ above the soil while in cold climates, it should be buried 1 to 2″ deep.
  6. Water your rose well after planting.  To help prevent the canes from drying out, it helps to add compost on top of the newly planted rose so that the canes are covered.  You can remove the compost once you see new growth appearing and leave it around your rose as a mulch. DO NOT add any fertilizer as this will stimulate top growth before the roots can support it.
Noelle Johnson
Newly planted bare root rose

For more in depth information on how to plant roses, check out this link.

Next, learn how to prepare and prune roses for winter.