Now is the time to buy bare-root roses

No matter if you are an avid gardener or just enjoy flowers, the month of February always brings thoughts of roses. With Valentine’s Day coming up, stores are stocked with beautiful cut flowers, the majority of them roses. For many gardeners, a gift of cut roses is nice, but a gift of an actual rose bush or gift card to purchase one later is even better.

While cut roses are beautiful, unfortunately they fade away too soon and are added to the compost pile or thrown away. Nurseries will soon be bringing in their bare-root plants, which will include a wide array of roses. Aside from the fact the plants will last for years, they also come in more colors and styles than you can find at the local florist.

Bare-root planting is ideal for northern Nevada with our rather unique unseasonal temperature changes. Bare-root plants can be planted right now and adapt quickly to climate and our Great Basin soils. There is less transplant stress, and they can be ordered by mail or purchased locally. Plus, you have thousands of bare-root varieties to choose from, and the prices are lower than waiting several months for potted plants to come to the area nurseries.

Bare-root plants are dug up when dormant and stored in refrigeration units until it is time for them to be sold. They do not have soil around their roots and are usually less expensive than roses purchased in containers with potting soil. The best time to purchase and plant them is now through April, while the canes and buds are still dormant. If you have never purchased dormant plants, it may be hard to choose the right specimen since they might not look like they’re alive.

Before you purchase any rose, make sure you have adequate space and light for what you like. With so many different styles and varieties, there are tons of options: Miniatures, David Austin’s, Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, Climbing, Shrub and Landscape. Each has a different shape, flower or shrub form.

Plants are sold by grades and marked No. 1, 1½ or 2, which indicate quality and size. They are priced according to their size. A No. 1 rose is considered the best quality and generally has large canes. A No. 2 rose is considered the poorest and will have small canes. The No. 1½ sits in the middle and is generally widely available at retail stores.

Bare-root roses should have healthy, bright plum-colored branches with no signs of tissue wrinkling that could indicate drying and root death. There should be no green growth or white shoots.

bare root roses at nursery
Bare-root roses last for years and come in several colors and styles. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet.

Get your roses in the ground soon after you receive them. If you cannot plant because of snow, hold them on the north side of a building to keep them cold until you can plant. With proper planting and care, in just a few months your roses will begin to bud, and by summer you will have beautiful roses.


Wendy Hanson Mazet is the horticulture program coordinator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or, or visit