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What to Expect from Bare Root roses

February 18, 2019

I posted this in another thread. With shrubs, if within my means locally, I like to buy them in person as I get to ~cherry~ pick the ones I want, look at can formation, how many stems, etc.

Was looking at a couple of you tube videos and that's what sorta prompted this post.

What do you expect when you order a bare root rose (just short of it not looking dried out and healty). Qty of canes or the cane framework. Is it normal for the buds to be in a framework of 270 degrees ?

Or is the the latter where a ~higher quality/better budder~ buds them so that the framework is 360 degress of the bare root ?

Comments (3)

  • vaporvac

    that's a great question. I think the grading system determines how many canes are present, but not their framework. My experience thus far is that pruning and age will fill in what was lacking in the beginning. I even have some lower graded plants that have well caught up to others, but they are climbers. I bury my graft and all sorts of basals grow out. Plus, the architecture also depends on the type of rose. David Austin has excellent BR and those I ordered from Springhill did really well, too.

  • nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

    Mostly in my experience you buy a rose from the roots up, and if it has robust root systems (and grafts if relevant) it will grow the canes it needs or is genetically programmed to produce. Some roses (like Mr. Lincoln) are notorious for being "one cane wonders" with a great reluctance for putting out new basal canes, and it's not fair to compare a bare root Mr. Lincoln with 1-2 canes from one company to another rose with multiple canes from another company and expect those canes to be an indication of the relative quality of the roses.

    Buying a rose from the roots up also particularly applies when buying potted roses from garden centers. Too many people look at the pretty blooms and forget to check the base of the rose when buying potted roses. Too much top growth in nursery roses can sometimes indicate they've fertilized the heck out of the puppy to push top growth that exceeds the capacity of the root system to support it. Often if I buy such roses the top growth dies off rapidly after I plant it and I'm left with the one or two canes the roots can actually support within a few weeks. Obviously you can't see the roots of potted roses but one sign of concern can be if the top growth extends considerably wider than the size of the pot it's in (indicating the roots can't support that much top growth), or if the rose is narrow in the pot and the rose can shift easily side to side (indicating they've put a $5 root system into a $50 pot).

    Frankly though, I don't worry too much about the numbers or directions of cane growth on a new rose as long as they're healthy canes. There are grades of bare root roses, where I think grade 1 is best and it goes down to 1 1/2 and 2 from there. That rating system gives you a general idea of the maturity of the plant that is a better indicator of its long term growth than the number of canes that it currently has.


  • cyndita (west coast zone 9)

    Most of the grafted bare root roses I've seen are more like a 270 degree cane pattern, because the rose is grafted to the side of the graft root (so the graft root is in the back, if that makes sense). Own-root bare root roses are more likely to be 360 degrees, if the plant is mature enough to have multiple canes.

    I love looking at the rose selection in nurseries when the bare root roses have just come in & aren't leafed out yet - you can see the differences in the growth pattern of the roses by the pattern of the canes - close together, straight, curved, far apart, tall, short, thorny, etc. (A local nursery near me gets a good selection of Austin roses, and now that I'm more familiar with the varieties, I was struck by how you could see the traits of the plant in the canes, when they are all side-by-side for comparison.)

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