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Ready to go in the ground now – here’s how to plant bare-root roses

By Hannah Stephenson
Bare-root roses may not look as pretty as the traditional containerised varieties when they arrive on your doorstep, but they should supply huge amounts of colour when flowering next year.

For me, the beauty of bare-root varieties – roses that have been grown in a field, that are then dug out between autumn and spring – is you can plant them during the dormant season with little fuss, leave them to bed in over the winter and watch them burst into life in spring and summer.

They have a wider root spread than many containerised plants and tend to be cheaper than their container counterparts too. So, how do you go about planting them?

When they arrive…
You can order bare-root roses throughout the year, but they will only arrive between the beginning of November up to spring, which is the dormant season; the time when they don’t use up energy producing new growth.

When you unpackage them – they usually come in waterproof, plastic-free and eco-friendly packaging, and as they are soil-free, are much lighter to handle – you will find soilless roots and some healthy green stems. They don’t look beautiful now, but your patience will be rewarded next year.

You need to plant them as soon as possible, as the bare roots cannot be allowed to dry out. If you can’t plant them straight away because the ground is frozen or waterlogged, lay them on their side, keeping the roots under a mound of slightly moist compost, and plant them as soon as conditions allow.

Give them a drink
Before planting, submerge the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours to rehydrate them and keep them moist, giving them a head start when planting.

Dig a hole
While the roots are submerged, dig your planting hole, which needs to be at least 40cm (16in) wide by 40cm (16in) deep. Use a fork to loosen the earth in the bottom of the hole, and remove weeds and stones.

The roots like to be able to spread out, and loosening the soil will help them spread more easily. Add some some well-rotted manure to the bottom of the hole and a little more to help secure the plant when you are positioning it.

Add mycorrhizal fungi
Boost the roots with mycorrhizal fungi before planting. It is a powder you sprinkle directly on to the roots. Do it over the hole, so the excess powder falls into the planting area. The powder stimulates root growth which will hopefully lead to healthier, more prolific roses.

Position your rose carefully
When ready to plant, position your rose in the centre of the hole, with the bottom of the stems sitting around 5cm (2in) below the top of the hole. Once you have done this, backfill in around the roots using the dug-out soil and heel it in lightly around the plant to remove any airholes underneath and firm in the plant.

If you are growing a climbing rose, make sure the planting hole is as close to the wall or fence the plant will be scaling as it can be, and direct the stems towards the fence.

Water in well
Bare-root roses need to be kept hydrated, so water the rose in well. Hopefully the autumn and winter rains will help things along.

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