Purchasing a bareroot rose

Bareroot roses (see Figure 9-2) come partially or fully bagged or boxed. When you look inside, you see plain stems and roots, perhaps along with some wood shavings or other slightly moisture-retaining material. Fear not! A bare-root plant is a dormant plant, and this appearance is normal.

Buying roses in this form gives you several advantages. Because bareroot plants are dormant, you get to put them in the ground earlier (in mid-spring, as soon as the soil is workable). And because they've never been cramped into a pot, the roots are likely to be in good condition and ready to go into the ground. Bareroot roses also tend to be cheaper than potted ones; cost is a consideration especially when you're putting in a hedge or boundary planting and need to buy many.

Exposing the truth about bareroot rose grades

A plant is rated on the number and thickness of its canes (stems); the American Association of Nurserymen sets these standards, and all reputable rose suppliers adhere to them. Here's how they compare:

I Grade No. 1: The best bareroot rose; bigger, with more numerous and thicker canes

I Grade No. 172: A midway rating, for a rose that's not as robust as a 1 but still has more and thicker canes than a 2

I Grade No. 2: The bargain rose — this lowest rating indicates a smaller, younger plant; it's still worth growing, but it'll take longer to reach maturity m

The disadvantage to getting bareroot roses is that they may be harder to find (though you can always order them by mail). Also, they aren't going to leaf out and make buds right away; they spend their early days in the ground on root growth.

Here are some things to check when picking out a bareroot rose:

1 Name and instructions: Is it labeled with its name and planting/care instructions?

1 Plant quality rating: Is it labeled with its grade? The grade tells you about the number of canes the plant has and their thickness (see the "Exposing the truth about bareroot rose grades" sidebar).

1 Cane condition: The canes should be thick, succulent, and green but not quite leafing out. Are the stems viable? They should be flexible and crunchy, not brown or black (if only a few are discolored, just snip them off).

Even though bareroot roses are dormant, you still have to protect their roots. Lay bareroot roses in a shallow trench and cover the roots with dirt if you can't plant them immediately upon receiving them. When you're ready to go, see the upcoming section titled "Planting bareroot roses."

If you buy through mail-order, the plant will be bareroot because dormant plants are safer to ship (and because this form is lightweight compared to a potted plant). You have to shop via a colorful printed or online catalog, place an order, and wait for delivery, but the selection is likely to be far broader than what you find at any local nursery. Mail-order is the way to go if you desire a specific rose, something special or rare.

Mail Order Rose Nurseries

Worried about arrival? Don't be. Mail-order nurseries have sophisticated weather watch programs, and the companies don't ship until conditions are safe. After all, suppliers want you to be a happy customer. You can see the Appendix of this book for a list of good mail-order companies.

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