Antelope Valley Press

When and how to plant your season’s bareroot plants

- Desert Gardener Neal Weisenberg­er

Some nurseries sell bareroot plants with the roots placed in plastic bags filled with sawdust. Some full-service retail nurseries still sell bareroot plants that are placed in planters filled with sawdust to keep the roots moist.

Bareroot plants have the advantage that they are cost-effective. Without the need for a container of soil, and the weight of the soil, they are very easily shipped. Without the soil, container and high shipping charges, a bare root tree may be as much as half the cost of the same plant in a container.

Shade trees, fruit trees and roses are the most common plants sold bareroot. It is best to plant them as soon as possible; you do not want the plants to dry out in the bags of sawdust.

When selecting the rose of your choice, you usually choose based on color, size and smell of the flowers, as well as the size and type of rose plant. After that, there are several terms that you should understand.

Bareroot roses are sold by grades — No. 1, No. 1½ and No. 2. No. 1 is the best grade and No. 2 the poorest grade of roses. These standard grades are set up by the USDA. For roses, the grades are based on caliper or size of the canes. When reading advertisem­ents or in the nursery, if you are comparing prices make sure you are comparing the same grade of roses.

Other rose terms include AARS, patent and non-patent. AARS is a rose that was approved for recognitio­n by the All-American Rose Selection. This means the rose has been tested all over the United States. These roses grew well in all locations, and should be suited for any garden, regardless of climate and soil.

A patent rose is one that has been registered as a known cultivar by the Plant Patent Office. This plant cannot be propagated without approval by the person or company holding the patent. All new varieties of roses are patented roses.

Patent roses have small metal disks wired to the plant. After a period of time, the patent runs out and the plant can be propagated freely. Most non-patented roses are older varieties of roses that the patent ran out.

After you have selected your rose, and you get it home, remove it from the bag or box. Carefully wash off the savings or peat moss around the roots. Then place the bareroot plant in a bucket of water. Make sure the roots are at least covered with water. It is even better if most of the rose plant is submerged in the water. This allows a plant to soak up water into all the plant tissue.

While your rose is soaking in water, dig the hole for the rose. I mulch roses, so I do not amend the planting hole. Since I do not amend the hole, I dig a hole a little bigger than the root system of the rose. The hole should be deep enough that the bud union is 2 to 3 inches above the soil level.

In colder eastern or northern climates, the bud union is planted just above soil level to protect the bud union. In California it does not get cold enough to kill the bud union.

The easier way to check for depth is to lay a stick across the top of the hole, hold the rose in the hole with the bud union 3 inches over the top of the stick. Check and see if the roots hang in the hole. If the roots touch the bottom, dig the hole slightly deeper.

After the correct depth is reached, build a cone of soil at the bottom. Pack the soil cone lightly with your hands as you build it. The purpose of the cone is to place the rose on top, with the roots spread out down the sides of the cone. If you just dig a hole and place the bareroot in the hole, an air pocket could develop under the roots and kill the plant.

Now back to the rose that has been soaking in the water. Examine the roots; check for damaged, broken, dead or rotted roots. Prune off any that are damaged. Drop the recommende­d number of fertilizer planting tablets in the bottom of the hole and cover them with about one inch of soil.

Fertilizer planting tablets are slow-release fertilizer­s that slowly release nutrients to the plant over a few months. You can skip the fertilizer now if you want and wait until late spring to fertilize.

Place the rose with the roots spread over the cone of soil, making sure the bud union is 2 to 3 inches above the ground level. I find it best to back fill the hole about halfway with soil. I then water the soil. This helps push the soil under and around the roots. Then continue to fill the hole with the rest of the topsoil. Next build a basin around your plant so you can easily water your plant the first few months.

Do not mulch your rose now; mulches cool down the soil. Your new rose will like warm soil this spring. Add the mulch this summer when it becomes hot. Establishe­d roses can be mulched for the winter, but new roses prefer the soil warmth. During the first winter the soil needs to be moist all the time. So check the soil every few days to see if the soil is still moist.

The procedure for planting bareroot fruit or shade tree is just about the same. However, a tree should be planted slightly leaning into the wind, and the cut or knob of the bud union should be facing towards the wind. The bud union was where the top of the tree was grafted or joined to the rootstock. Above the bud union is one type of tree and below is another type of tree.

The bud union should be about 5 inches above the soil level. However, check the trunk below the bud union. There should be a color change showing where the soil line was when the tree was being grown in the wholesale nursery. Plant the tree at the same level it was grown at the wholesale nursery.

Bareroot plants are an economical way to plant roses and fruit trees, for the best selection of plants visit your local nursery as soon as you see bareroot plants show up. It is best to buy and plant as soon as possible, bareroot plants can dry-out in the plastic bags.

If you are interested in a fun rose outing, visit Otto & Sons Nursery in Fillmore. They have hundreds of roses, all colors, sizes and types. They also have Saturday workshops. Or check out their website to see all the different roses.

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