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How to Store Bareroot Roses before Planting

You’ll probably have to store bareroot roses for some time before you can plant them, particularly if you purchase them through the mail. The key is to keep the plants cool so that they don’t start growing and the roots moist so that they don’t dry out. Inspect bareroot roses, as soon as they arrive or you get them home. As long as plenty of moist packing surrounds the roots, you can store the plants in a cool (not freezing) place, such as a garage or basement, for a week to ten days (even longer if you have some empty refrigerator space). Keep the top of the plastic wraps open, the roots moist, and don’t store the roses in direct sunlight.

If you have to store the plants for more than ten days, your best bet is to completely unpack them and heel them in. Heeling in is a way to store bareroot roses by packing their roots in moist (not soggy) soil until planting time. Where and how you heel in your roses depends on how many roses you have and on the soil conditions outdoors.

  • If you have just a few roses, place them in a bucket or box and pack the roots and top third of the plant with moist sawdust, compost, peat moss, or soil. Store the whole thing in a cool (35° to 40°F or 1° to 4°C) place and check the packing often to make sure that it’s moist. Unpack the roses at planting time, being very careful not to do too much harm to the tiny root hairs that may have grown along the main roots.

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  • If you have to store multiple roses and can work the ground outdoors, dig a shallow trench (about a foot deep), slightly slanted on one side, in a shady area of the garden (such as the north side of the house). Lay the roses on a 45-degree angle and pack the roots and the bottom third of the plant with moist soil or compost. Check the packing often to make sure that it’s moist. Add water if necessary. Gently remove the roses from the trench at planting time.

Don’t keep roses heeled in much past the earliest planting time in your area because the plants start to develop fragile new roots and fragile new top growth, both of which you can damage when you start handling the plants.

Potted roses are easier to store until planting time. Just keep the soil moist, so that the plants don’t dry out. If you store growing roses for more than a week or two, you may want to fertilize them with a diluted liquid fertilizer, following the label instructions. Of course, you may want to grow your roses in pots or other containers. In this case, you can rest assured that you’ll need a bigger pot than the one in which you bought your rose.

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