It will not be too long now before bare root roses are seen in stores again temping all to purchase and plant in our gardens. But who knows how to select a good plant making growing so much easier and enjoyable.

In this article I would like to provide the information that new gardeners, or even more competent, can use to give themselves the best chances of purchasing a rose that will give them many years of enjoyment.

For the best roses most would agree that ordering from one of the many retail rose nurseries is the best option.

In these nurseries you are giving total control to the nursery to select the best rose possible and provide to you in the best condition for establishment and continued growth. In most cases the plants are guaranteed and a replacement will be sent at the earliest convenient time if problems do arise plus the back up of many years of experience in any issues the rose has.

The other side to this is the plants will be more expensive but for piece of mind, large range, incredible knowledge and service many choose this option for their roses.

A rose supplied by these places should have been dug at the correct time, trimmed of all leaves and most importantly the roots must be cut back in proportion to the tops and be ready for immediate planting. I have seen some places that will leave long roots on the plants advising the consumer to cut them back but this is a very poor practise that should be avoided.

However there are also many who choose to purchase from retail stores when they arrive from a nursery. These plants are cheaper and it is up to the consumer to select what they consider the best plants and hope they grow.

For those that purchase from these places I would like to help by providing information that can be useful for the purchase of their roses.

For the best roses it is vital to select at the right time of the year. Sadly large retailers have no concern for the plant and only for bottom line by offering roses well prior to mother’s day. Unlike Easter Eggs or Hot Cross buns seen just after Christmas roses need to be harvested when the plant is at its ideal time and not when retailers demand them. For this reason it is virtually impossible to have in stores as plants need the change of weather to allow for the growing sugars to be changed into stored starch ready for winter. In most years this happens around late April but cannot be date driven as each year the ideal time varies.

If a rose lover is tempted to buy an early released rose there are tips on selecting the best plants.

Purchase when plants first reach the stores. These would have only recently been removed from cold stores and although now are breaking dormancy they will start shooting when planted but more importantly would be establishing some new root system prior to the onslaught of true winter.

It would be important to select a plant where not too much top growth has occurred. Although the top growth will show root are likely to be forming there is too much stress on the plant being planted and then going dormant again.

If the rose grower can wait selecting from the fresh plants that arrive further into the winter is always best.

Some tips on selecting plants that will give best chance of survival and few problems are do not pick the largest or smallest plants. When plants are large to get them into the plastic bags there is a very good chance the roots have been severely cut back. This creates an imbalance with the top growth now more advanced than the roots and more problems possible.

The same happens when too small the top. Likely the roots are not as advanced and problems may also occur however I would always lean more towards smaller than larger plants.

The most important factor when selecting new roses is maturing of the canes. Very few, if any, of the gardening public can select a rose and know if it has been naturally ‘hardened’ or are too soft and possible ‘die back’ may occur.

Die back is very common with early roses as the natural process of going dormant has not occurred yet some growers throw all responsibility back to the consumer with ‘not watered enough’ or ‘not planted properly’ given as to why a plant dies back.

But there are ways to identify if a cane is mature. We call it the thorn test. When a cane is mature taking a thorn off will show wood under the thorn. If of a brown or grey colour the cane is mature, if it is green or translucent it is too soft and maybe select another plant or accept the cane is likely to die back.

For me probably the best advice I can give is once a plant has been brought home. If it has been in a bag for some time (plants do not have a ‘best before’ or ‘packed on this date’) always place the rose in water for a period of time. I have done experiments and roses can be in a bucket, or plastic bag, with water for many days prior to planting.

To soak for many days will rehydrate the plant and replace the moisture lost in the packaging. By adding Seasol to the water does help but not a vital component that must be done.

After this it is advised to plant promptly and keep watered for the plant to establish into the new ground and provide the buyer with glorious roses the coming November.

Lastly if any problems occur do contact where you got them from. Roses should grow and as a consumer you do expect the product purchased is fit for purpose and will grow. Major growers can offer tips which can help a slow plant get started or at worst if it dies can replace it for you.

Created 3/8/2023