By Michele E. Buttelman
Southern California bare root planting season runs from January through March. If you haven’t gotten your bare root plants into the ground yet, you still have time.
The continuous cold weather alerts for the Santa Clarita Valley in the last two months have also helped to extend the bare root planting season.
It is best to plant bare root roses and trees after the last hard frost.
What is a Bare Root Plant?
Bare root plants, trees, roses and berries, are plants that are sold without any soil around the roots. Bare root plants are dug up when they are dormant. Any soil is removed by washing and the plants are kept cool and damp. When you buy these plants, they are usually wrapped in plastic and may have a material like sawdust or sphagnum moss around the roots to help keep them moist.
Why Plant Bare Root Roses, Trees, Berries?
Bare root plants experience less transplant shock than flowering roses or leafy trees. While everything has increased in price after the COVID-19 pandemic bare root plants are still significantly less expensive than flowering roses or fruit trees with leaves.
During bare root season you usually can find a greater variety of roses, berries and fruit trees available then any other time of the year.
Bare Root Planting Tips
Buy quality bare root plants. It is easy to pick up bare root plants and trees almost everywhere during bare root planting season, but often the plants you purchase from a big box store, grocery store or discount store are not successful because of lapses in care and lower quality product. Established nurseries in the Santa Clarita Valley or online nurseries offer better quality plants, often with guarantees.
Soak the roots of your bare root plant in a bucket of water for 24 hours before planting. Do not let the roots of your bare root plant dry out.
Help prevent “transplant shock” and encourage root growth by using one of many commercial products available when you plant your bare roots. There are numerous “root stimulator” products available. Ask your nursery which product they recommend.
To encourage growth of your bare root plants, clip a small amount off the roots and the tips of the canes before planting. Anywhere from a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch.
Make sure you dig a big enough hole. One of the easiest mistakes that gardeners often make is not digging your planting hole deep enough, or wide enough. You want to make the soil soft and easy for your new plant to spread its roots. Dig your hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide then build a cone in the bottom of the hole to spread the roots over.
In the SCV it is important to amend the soil before planting any kind of bare root plant. Use a mixture of 50% composted manure (steer manure or chicken manure) and 50% native soil, or planting mix.
Fill your hole with water before planting. This ensures your ground is draining properly, as well as giving your bare root plant additional moisture so it can start growing.
If your bare-root roses are the type that are grafted onto a root stock, when planting the soil should be level with the bud union, where the rose is grafted onto the stalk. Do not bury your plant below the bud union, otherwise you will “smother” your plant.
Do not crowd your roses. Roses really do need room to “breathe.” Plant most roses at least three to five feet apart. Climbing roses should be planted six feet apart. Miniature roses need to be planted two feet apart.
After planting water your bare root plants and cover with mulch. Mulch helps protect your plant from extreme changes in temperature, as well as to keep in moisture.
When to Fertilize
It’s important to wait for bare root plants to begin producing leaves or other growth before fertilizing.
For bare root fruit trees, it is not recommended to fertilize for at least a year after planting. During this time the trees are establishing their root systems fertilizer, especially nitrogen which stimulates stems and leaves, is not needed. Let the plant develop a strong root system before encouraging growth of the entire plant.
You can feed your new bareroot roses when they begin to leaf out which should be about four to six weeks after planting. Apply a well-balanced granular rose food according to the package directions and spread it evenly around the base of each plant. Make sure the bushes have been watered well the previous day before fertilizing.
Other Garden Tips
If you haven’t pruned your roses or fruit trees now is the time. It is important to prune before the plants “come to life” in the spring.
For more information on gardening classes specific to the Santa Clarita Valley you can take advantage of free gardening and landscaping classes offered by the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency. For more information visit https://yourscvwater.com/gardening-classes.
SCV Water also offers a pdf download of the Top 100 SCV Plant Guide, an indispensable reference for successful gardening in the SCV. Visit https://yourscvwater.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Top-100-SCV-Plant-Guide-web.pdf
The Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society has a wealth of information helpful to those cultivating roses in the SCV. Visit www.santaclaritarose.org.
Green Thumb Nursery in Newhall offers a helpful plant library and gardening blog for SCV gardeners. Visit www.greenthumb.com.