How to plant bare-root roses

Bare-root roses are easy to establish and can fill your garden with colour and fragrance year after year

Bare-root roses are dormant plants, sold without any soil around their roots, and are available from November to March. Planting them before the growing season will encourage them to establish quickly, whilst the soil is nice and moist.

Quick facts

Best time to plant: November - March

Flowering season: June - September

Height & spread: 2ft to 30ft

Difficulty: Easy, requires some preparation



Bare-root roses are grown in a nursery ground, then dug up and sold as they are. This makes them less expensive and easier to handle than their pot-grown counterparts. But don’t be fooled by their low price, though – it isn’t a reflection of lower quality.

You will often be getting larger, older plants for your money, and this makes bare-root roses a particularly smart choice.

Once established, roses can last a long time, and you’ll be rewarded with colour and fragrance every summer. Roses are easy to care for with some pruning and feeding knowledge, and this how to guide will give you all the planting tips and information you need to plant, grow and care for your roses.


Safety first

Always wear gloves and avoid breathing in the dust when handling bone meal or fertiliser. For quantities, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packet.

Heeling in

If bad weather forces you to delay planting out bare-root plants, you can temporarily ‘heel’ them into a spare patch of ground. Dig a shallow trench, lay the plants in and cover their roots with soil. This will protect the roots from frost and prevent them drying out. Plant them out into their final position as soon as conditions allow.


Preparing the soil for planting

Follow these simple steps to plant a bare-root shrub rose. If you’re planting a bare-root climbing rose, prepare your soil in the same way against a wall or trellis. Don’t forget to always check the planting instructions on the label for any specific planting guidance and allow enough space for your rose to grow and spread.

Step 1:

Place your bare-root roses in a bucket of water for 30 minutes prior to planting. This will ensure that the roots are well hydrated.

Step 2:

Using a fork, thoroughly turn over the soil where you’ll be planting your roses. Remove weeds, roots and stones, and break up all the lumps. Add a small handful of well-rotted farmyard manure and bone meal to the soil and dig it in. This mixture of digging and feeding will give the roots the best start in their new home.

Replacing roses

If you’re replacing roses, dig the soil to a depth and width of at least 45cm, and replace it with soil from another part of the garden first to avoid soil sickness.


Plant your roses

With the ground prepared, you’re now ready to plant the roses.

Step 1:

For each rose, dig a hole to the depth of your spade head and twice the width of the rose’s roots. Don’t forget to check the label to see how far apart you’ll need to plant them. Break the soil at the base of the hole using a fork, this will allow the roots to go deeper.

Step 2:

Add a small handful of well-rotted farmyard manure to the bottom of each hole, if you can’t source manure from a local farmer, your nearest B&Q will offer something similar. This will add vital nutrients to the soil helping the rose to establish more effectively. Place each bare-root rose in the centre of its hole.

Step 3:

Lay a cane across the top of the hole to check where the soil level will be when you fill it in. Aim for it to be just below the base of the lowest stems.

Step 4:

Hold the rose in position and gently backfill the hole with the prepared soil you dug out, which will contain the manure and bone meal mix. Lightly firm up the soil around the rose with your foot and water the rose well.

Step 5:

Add a mulch of manure or compost to the surface of the soil to help conserve the moisture.

Caring for your roses

For an easy guide to caring for your new or existing roses, take a look at our article.