Roses are such a popular plant in the home garden, with their beautiful blooms and fragrance, but do you know what to look for when buying bare root roses to plant in the garden?
Gardeners will happily buy bare-root roses to take pride of place in their garden. They painstakingly prepare the soil, plant and water their newly purchased bareroot roses and are then aghast when nothing happens at the start of the growing season. Not one leaf bud shoots out from the branches. They usually put it down to their lack of skill in the gardening department but more often than not, they have bought a bareroot rose bush whose roots have dried out and created a dead rose bush. So they have basically planted a rose bush that was dead to start with.
Of course bare rooted roses do look a little dead when you purchase them. There are no leaves on the plant, just bark, so it is hard for the untrained eye to determine if it’s alive or dead. Usually the bare-roots are packaged in some kind of moist media like saw dust which is then held in place by some paper, then wrapped in a plastic bag that is sealed below the bud union. This conceals them so it’s impossible to really check out the roots when the rose is packaged this way.
So the only visual detail you can rely on is the bark of the stem itself. What you need to look for is bark that feels soft to the touch and is greenish in color like the one in the photo on the left. If the bark is brown, hard and has fine lines along the stems then it’s more than likely wood that is dead or dying.
The fine lines formed along the stems are caused from the bark shrinking around the stem through lack of moisture. This could be caused by the fibrous roots drying out because there was not enough moisture in the media they were packaged in; not very many fibrous roots were left on the rose bush to begin with, so it couldn’t uptake the moisture in the media it was packed in; or poor storage practice of the store where you purchased your rose bush – for example if the roses were left out in the sun and the packaging dried out.
No matter the cause, if the stems look dried out because the bark has shrunk on the stem; the color of the bark is more a woody brown than green and the stem feels hard and looks wrinkly rather than being soft and yielding, don’t buy the rose plant. If you look at enough of them, you will get your eye in, and be able to differentiate between the healthy looking stems and the dead or dying “sticks” of bare root roses.