Immediately after bringing your new bare root rose home, soak it in water for a minimum of 1 to 6 hours. It is safe to leave them in water for up to 6 days. This is to rehydrate your rose and to help it come back to life in your garden. A five-gallon bucket works well for just a few roses, while a garbage can is a handy container if planting several roses.
Choose the right site in your garden. Most roses like 5 to 6 hours of direct light a day. Morning sun is always preferable especially in warmer climates and even in Marin. Also take into account the type of rose you are planting. Read about the growing pattern for that variety. Some roses do well in the front of the bed while others grow very large and would be suitable in the back of the bed or as a climber. Go to http://www.helpmefind.com/rose/roses.php for help in rose identification and/or how they grow. It is a great resource on-line, but you will need to know the name of the rose. They also have information on peonies and clematis.
Prepare a planting hole at least two feet deep and two feet wide. This is the time you can help your rose by digging a “big” hole. Add compost; super phosphate, bone or blood meal are all great at the bottom of the hole and be sure to mix in well. Water after you have added the amendments and mix around with a trowel before you add the rose plant. You should add new soil if you are planting a new rose in an old rose hole. Roses are picky and don’t like to be in old rose soil. Just remove existing soil and dump it somewhere else in your garden.
Backfill the hole slightly to form a mound down in the hole. It should look like a cone. Spread the rose roots over the cone as evenly as possible. You may have to prune back some of the roots as sometimes the roots can be very long. Try to leave the roots as long as your hole is deep. Also, prune off any damaged roots. I am always careful to not touch any roots with bare hands. Roots can be sensitive to the oils in our skin. This applies to all plants with roots. So, keep your garden gloves on when handling roots.
You may have to prune the canes as well. If the canes are damaged or crossing, try to prune back to an outside facing bud or remove entire canes. 3 or 4 good canes are sufficient. Most roses sold today are pre-pruned and do not need any pruning.
Locate the graft union, the knobby part of the rose where the roots meet the stem. If you have a rose that is not grafted, it probably is an own root rose and you should position the rose in the soil at the same level that it came from the earlier pot. This is usually discernable if you look closely. This also holds true when you transplant any rose from one pot to the ground or to another pot.
In the bay area, position the graft union just above soil level. This is easy if you take a broom or rake and lay it across the hole to position your rose in the hole.
Continue to add soil and slowly water in well. I also tamp down the soil to prevent any air holes and continue to add soil as needed. To prevent any drying out, you can add soil over the rose to cover the bud union and your new rose. You can also cover the entire rose with a brown paper grocery bag. The covering should stay in place until the rose starts to leaf out. If the weather continues to be dry, be sure to continue to water your new rose until the new growth is firmly established. Remove the bag and /or wash the mounded soil away and wait with patience to enjoy your new rose(s)!
Position the graft union just above soil level. This is easy if you take a broom or rake and lay it across the hole to position your rose in the hole.
Tamp down the soil to prevent any air holes.
Continue to add soil and slowly water in well.
To prevent canes from drying out, you can add soil over the rose to cover the bud union and your new rose.
The most important rule for planting new roses is to keep them hydrated with water until they are established. This may be 4 weeks or longer depending on the weather.
By Joan Goff, Master Rosarian
Edited for the website by N Londeree, January 2020
Photos by Joan Goff with some taken with permission from Ortho Guide to Roses, published by Meredith Gardening Books