Dormant-Packed Bare Root Roses – How To Choose Your Perfect Rose?

Written by David S.

The wide selection of dormant-packed bare root roses is in stock in all five of our Green Thumb Nursery locations. January is a perfect time to add bare root roses to your landscape. The same is true of bare root fruit trees too, and we have a large selection of both. This blog dives deeply into how to choose the perfect bare root rose, and we add in touch about caring for roses once you make a selection. 

Our bare root rose are dormant-packed, which means they have some soil around their roots so that the roots do not dry out and die. Traditionally, when you shop for roses in winter and early spring, they are a bag with roots in it and a stem or two without leaves or flowers. Roses are one of the many plants that go dormant during the year’s colder times. For them, it’s a good thing as they “turn inwards” and work on growing strong roots, which is a prolonged process. That slowness is why we sell roses that are dormant-packed, which gives every root inside the best chance to help absorb the energy the rose will need to produce beautiful blooms. Dormant-packed roses often have stellar flowers from the first year you plant them. They might look like withered twigs, but they are full of life and produce blooms for their entire long life.

Choose the Best Roses 

Bare root roses come in a few different grades. Because they are mass-produced and planted in rows in the ground, they are dug up, sorted, and then packaged. The best roses are dormant-packed, and most have a rating on their bag. The highest grade is #1. #1.5 and #2 are generally smaller and will spend a year or two catching up to a #1-grade bare root rose. So, the first thing you can do to pick the best rose is to check the rating on the package and make your choice from the best of the #1-grade dormant-packed bare root roses. 

What to Physically Look for When Choosing a Dormant-packed Bare Root Rose?

Roses have three essential parts – the roots, the canes (branches), and the greenery (leaves, buds, and flowers.) Bare root roses give you an option to check the roots and canes. Here’s what to look for when checking roots and canes. 

  • Canes: Look for 1-3 hardy canes that are about the size of your index finger. Roses with smaller canes often have #1.5 or #2 ratings. Roses come in different styles – climbing, bush, etc., so choose a rose with canes that fits the style you want. A climbing rose usually has many canes. A rose for a formal rose garden may only have one cane. If that is the case, the cane should be straight, as thick as your index finger, and a darker green. 
  • Roots: Because our roses are dormant-packed, you don’t see the roots. Lift the roses you want and feel the package. It should be firm. You might feel the more significant tap roots and if you do, then choose one with two or three taproots. These will anchor the plant and help draw water to the top of the bush. 
  • Look for Leaf Buds – A healthy rose will have nodes or leaf buds that you can see. The closer they become to waking up, the more prominent those buds become. These are the buds from which leaves and stems will grow. These are not the buds that produce flowers. Those will appear later. Look for a tree with plenty of leaf buds. 
  • Check the Color – Healthy canes are green, not brown. Some are a vivid green, and others may be a reddish-green mix. Green is the color of life, and it is a beautiful thing for dormant roses. Avoid roses with brown stems as those are likely not healthy and maybe dying. 

The Beautiful Thing about Roses 

Roses are available in nearly every color imaginable. Those with variegated flowers only rival the hybrids with their vivid solid blooms. They range from pure white to almost black and offer a choice of color, bloom-size, and bloom style. Some are small, single-petal roses, while others have double petals and are huge. Some may produce a limited number of blooms, and others may be wild, crazy bushes covered in tightly packed flowers. 

The Style of Roses 

Picking the best bare root rose for you also has a little something to do with the rose style. There are many styles, from miniature roses to climbing roses, tea roses, and even roses that act as groundcovers. Think about roses as a tool and ask yourself what you want the rose to do for you. It will bloom, but maybe you want a rose that provides a little shade in the afternoon. A climbing rose planted near a window will do just that. Perhaps you want a rose that brightens up the entryway to your home. Tea roses in a small formal garden will delight you. Maybe you want a few small roses that line the entry from the curb to the front door? Miniature roses and hybrids easily outline pathways. Be sure to ask our garden experts how to use dormant-packed bare root roses to solve landscaping issues. 

Success for Growing Roses 

Roses are relatively tolerant plants, but they do have some requirements. Here are a few things to consider when planting roses. 

  • Sunlight: Roses need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • Soil – moist, well-drained soil as the roots don’t love being wet. We recommend a water-retaining soil such as FoxFarms Salamander soil, which will hold water but not make the ground overly soggy. Salamander gives the rose water when it needs, especially during the hot Southern California afternoons. 
  • PH – Aim for slightly below neutral. Most roses will thrive in soil with a pH from 5.5-7.0 
  • New Plantings: We suggest a good rose fertilizer such as EB Stone’s Organic Rose and Flower Food. 

These tips help make it easier to choose the best bare root roses for your yard and help you also to give each rose the best chance of thriving. 

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