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Roses are plants, too!

Four Ways To Buy Roses

Roses in full leaf, known as “bud and bloom” are a great way to go for those new to roses.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy Conard Pyle
Roses in full leaf, known as “bud and bloom” are a great way to go for those new to roses.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy Conard Pyle

A scant fifteen years ago most roses we sold as bareroot roses.  You ordered them through a catalog or purchased them from your local garden center.  I will admit I did enjoy that because it made late winter rose buying season because that is when bareroot roses were available.

This has changed and roses can be purchased almost all season long in various forms.  So, I thought we’d take a look at the main ways roses are sold so you can start planning your purchases now!

Larger container
Generally roses sold in your local garden center will come in a three to five gallon pot.  Occasionally two gallon.  They arrive at the garden center in what is called “bud and bloom” simply meaning they have flowers to entice you into buying them.  Before you drink in that intoxicating scent remember our rule to check the plant’s ultimate size and make sure it’s what you want for that spot in the garden you are thinking about before you buy it.  Remember Garden Use first and flowers second!

If you are new to roses or just an unsure gardener this is a great way to buy roses.  The garden center has already done the hard work for you by planting and nurturing the rose through childhood.  They are easy to plant and establish quickly in your garden.

Dormant pot
Generally they come in a roughly two gallon bio-degradable pot wrapped in plastic with a picture of the rose on it.  The rose will not be leafed out or even actively growing.  To plant it you simply take off the plastic and plant the whole thing container and all right in the ground.  Over time the pot disintegrates and the roots get out into the soil.

These are becoming more prevalent and they are an easy and good product to plant.  If you can’t plant right away just leave it in the pot for up to a month.  Make sure to either take off the plastic or poke holes in it so the rose drains well if you have to water it.

Keep in mind you are essentially buying a bareroot rose that is just emerging from dormancy.  It doesn’t have a well-developed root system yet and for that reason it will need a little more attention during the first two to three weeks in terms of watering and care then a leafed out large container plant.

Bareroot roses are simply roses sold not in a pot or with soil around them.  The rose arrives naked, or as they say in my part of the world “nekkid”.  When they arrive they are dormant meaning they are not actively growing, you plant them and then they begin to grow.  They may seem a little scary at first but once you’ve had success with bare root roses, and you will. they are a cinch.

They have advantages, the first one being they are much cheaper to ship when it comes to mail order because there is no soil to add weight.  After all, you only need the rose.  You already have soil!

Second advantage is they begin to immediately grow in your native soil as opposed to container roses that must first emerge from the soil in the container before they get to the good stuff you’ve worked so hard to prepare.

A down side to bare roots is you have to plant them immediately.  If you have to wait you can keep them in a bucket of water with their roots submerged but for no more than a few days or they will literally drown.  Container roses can stay in their pots for weeks or in some cases a few months before you plant them.

Overall, bareroot is a great way to go and after you plant and succeed with the first few your confidence level with them will go way up.

Smaller container, mail order 
These roses range from a band pot (approximately 3” square by 5” deep) to a one-gallon.  With today’s higher shipping costs more and more are band pots.  Don’t be afraid of these.  Every year thousands and thousands of rose buyers purchase band pots and have great success with them.  But they take a little extra work on your part.

A band pot is a partnership between the grower and you.  The grower’s part is to propagate the rose and get it started to the point it is healthy and growing.  Your part is to take that young plant, transplant it from the band pot to a one or two gallon pot, spend a a few months growing it to a more mature plant and then plant it in the ground.

So, why buy roses in band pots at all?  One word, selection.  There are generally two to three hundred varieties of roses widely available but that being said there are close to seven thousand roses in commerce.  Guess what.  Those other six thousand seven hundred roses are generally available only from mail order nurseries in, you guessed it, band pots!

Before we leave we need to talk about roses sold in slender plastic sleeves on those displays at the discount outlet.  The sleeve is about 4” across and 10” long, wrapped around the roots and stuffed with sawdust.  A few rose canes stick out the top.  Don’t ever buy roses this way.  Generally these are the bareroot roses rejected from harvest because they were too small or weak so they are sold cheaply.  They rarely thrive and quite often simply die.  They are called “body bags” for a reason! Save your money.

The purchasing plan I like is this.  In late fall to winter start looking at mail order websites and catalogues and get your orders in for those roses.  Shop your local garden centers in spring when their roses start arriving.  Lastly in late summer check the mail order sites and your local nursery for those great bargains.  Your garden will be chock-o-block full of roses in no time!

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