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Planting Roses in a Mild Winter Climate: The Benefit of Planting Roses Bare-Root - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Roses, if they are grown in containers, can be planted at any time in a mild winter climate. Planting in the winter however, allows the gardener to choose and plant bare-root specimens. The principle benefit being that one can see and examine the roots, something that cannot be done with pot plants. All that glitters is not gold, and a splendid looking plant may have a poor root system, which is liable to cause disappointment in the future.

Choosing the Right Plant

What should you be looking for then in a bare-root rose? A good specimen has at least three main roots that are more or less evenly spaced. They appear whole and healthy, without wounds or other blemishes. Beware of knotted or twisted roots, and especially of soft swellings. These could be tumors known as cankers that will result in a short-lived plant.

However, before choosing the actual specimens in the garden center, you should be clear as to the variety of rose you want. As a bare root plant will also be bare of leaves and flowers, there is no way of knowing what you are buying, unless you have done some prior homework. It is best to choose the desired variety by visiting gardens during the previous growing season. Make a note of the names of the plant, where possible, and then order the suitable varieties from a reliable garden center.


Planting can be carried out at any time in the winter, providing the plant is dormant. Do not wait until it has started to sprout its first leaves in the spring. Success depends primarily on adequate drainage, and on maximum contact between the soil’s particles and the roots. With this in mind, build a small mound of soil and place the rose’s roots carefully on it.

The planting hole has to be large enough to include comfortably the whole root system, while the soil should be well mixed with compost. It is crucial to plant the rose at the correct height, so that the bud union (the swelling that separates the roots from the branches) sits just above the ground. If it is too high, the plant will be unstable in windy conditions, but if sunken in the ground, susceptible to rot.

Replace the soil carefully, while gently firming it around the plant. In heavy soils, be careful not to cause compaction by excessive trampling. After all, the roots need a ready supply of oxygen as well as moisture and nutrients. After planting it is best to make a basin to hold the water that now has to be supplied. The pressure should be as low as possible so that it causes the soil to sink nicely, while avoiding undue soil disturbance. Remember that the purpose of the exercise is to maximize the contact between the soil and the roots.

After Care

Spread a layer of mulch around the new roses to a depth of about 10cm (4in) keeping it clear of the plants’ stems, as this can also cause rot to develop. The mulch retains moisture, while reducing weeds and regulating the topsoil temperature.

In the long spells between the winter rains that are common in Mediterranean and other dry climates, feel the soil an inch or two below the surface. If the soil is still moist, then the mulch has done its job, and there is no need to water. It is worth remembering that the plants at this stage are far more vulnerable to a lack of air in the root zone, than to a shortage of water.

My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi.
I've been gardening in a professional capacity for 25 years.
I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building beautiful gardens for private homeowners.
My job is to help you get the very best from your garden,
so visit me at http://www.dryclimategardening.com
Take the opportunity and download FOR FREE, the first chapter of my book
How to Garden in a Dry Climate
Go to http://www.dryclimategardening.com/Products/tabid/55/Default.aspx

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