So called 'body bag roses'

Maude80April 12, 2012

Hi everyone,

I have spent about an hour reading about people opinions on what they call body bag roses which are available at big stores like Lowes and Home Depot. I am freaking out because I just planted five of them in the front of my house in a brand new flower bed.

When I bought them from Lowes they seemed to look fine, with green canes and some leaves. Normaly, I wouldn't be so worried but everyone's bad opinions coupled with the fact that they are looking kind of droopy and wilted is scary. I am thinking about fertilizing them with this stuff called "fish fertilizer" that I just got but haven't used yet. Could this just be shock from being planted or is it the result of crappy roses? Any thought would be appreciated:)


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I bought a body bag rose last spring and it turned out to be a fantastic buy. It did almost nothing for the first 6 wks then it went crazy with new growth. Fish fertilizer at 1/2 strength will probably be the beast thing you can do for them right now, plus watering. Don't forget, it ain't dead unless it is black and nasty. I can't figuire out how to post on the gallery, but I do have great picture of it on my facebook page.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 9:53PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Planting shock. They aren't supposed to have leaves when you buy them, they should be dormant bareroots. If they have leaves, they have broken dormancy, and those early leaves may be weak. And they probably haven't been watered. I don't recommend fertilizing a weak rose, but others do it successfully. Keeping the soil moist (not wet) is what it needs now. You may lose that set of leaves, there are two more sets in reserve. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:12PM
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Body bagged roses are always a gamble, but for under $10. why not give it a try? Some folks in the colder zones deliberately grow cheap body bagged HTs as annuals.

I have found through experience that it helps to keep the graft union, and maybe even the entire plant, well covered by soil or compost until stems start growing.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:51PM
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You guys have made me feel quite a bit better about this. Let me ask, are all body bag roses grown on a different root stock and not own root???


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Most body bag roses are grafted on to a rootstock...generally Dr. Huey rootstock. There are some own root ones, but they are few and far between and usually labeled. You can see the graft if it's been grafted near the crown, you noticed where the graft was attached to the rootstock. If you plant the rose deep enough, it will eventually own root itself.

I bought 8 body bag roses from Menard's last year for $2/each. Only one of them didn't make it through the winter. The rest are doing perfectly fine. About the only risk you run, is that they will be mislabeled or be on a virused rootstock. I think I had one mislabled...the rest are fine.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:34PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

Yes, Most are grown on Dr Huey root stock and are from the Tyler Texas area. The main reason they get such bad press is due to the root system or lack of one and the large amount of harvest damage on the canes. If you must buy them, unwrap and soak before planting for a minimum of 24 hours in a five gallon bucket of water in which you've also placed some root starter or fish emulsion.
This should eliminate a lot of the wilting. Cover any exposed canes with soil until new growth appears. Keep them watered well and give them plenty of time to begin growing. They cannot dry out. Soil should be moist, not wet!
Own root roses are sold growing in pots, never dormant.
E-mail me for your growing zone. You state "none", but everyone has a growing zone. I'll need your city, state, and zip code.r go to the following website to find it yourself. We can often help better if we know your growing zone.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Hardiness Zone Finder

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:38PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

If they came with leaves sprouting, those leaves are doomed.

Break them off, and don't let the plant waste vital energy on them. You really want them to grow ROOTS before they grow a lot of top-growth.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:38PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana),
E-mail me for instructions on how to post pictures.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:41PM
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Should I really just snap these little leaves and stems right off with my fingers?.. It seems kind of drastic even though it makes sense.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 1:10AM
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I was surprised to see healthy green leaves on the ones at Big Lots--then I realized how much time they spend each day under really bright indoor lights...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 6:39AM
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Jeri, I've bought plenty of body bags with leaves sprouting, and never had a problem with them. They didn't lose the leaves, nor seem any worse for the wear keeping them.

Maude, it's a little late in the year for the Lowes/HD body bags. In Feb and early March they are usually pretty darned healthy and I have had awesome luck with them. This time of year, likely they've been around too long, and you may need a little extra luck on your side.

You must ensure the roots have water access. If they are wilty/droopy they may just need more water, especially if you didn't soak them in water for a while prior to planting, or drench the planting hole before planting.

They generally recommend pruing the canes, which I tend to do when I plant them. But I haven't ever removed leaves if they remain on the remaining canes. Jeri - won't those leaves actually help bring in nutrition to the plant? I still have so much to learn...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 10:35AM
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seil zone 6b MI

I buy body bag roses all the time and I've never snapped off healthy leaves. If the leaves are white instead of red or green then, yes, they will probably not survive. But if they are a healthy color they've always done just fine for me. If you want to experiment, leave them on and watch and see what happens to them. If anything does die you can remove it then with no harm done.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 1:11PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

Harmony, You're in zone 9 while Maude is in zone 5b. We're just getting our bagged roses in the stores so for us, it's not late. All bagged roses are harvested beginning in late November until the end of December. They're stored in huge refrigerated warehouses and shipped to stores as the season progresses Northward. If stored properly, what we get in March/April are almost as good as what you get in February/March.
While not removing sprouts may not harm the bush, it mostly depend on the experience of the buyer whether or not one must do it. Very light green or white and long sprouts as a result of lack of sunlight will most often fry when exposed to the sun. Normal colored growth will most often survive.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 1:28PM
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The original message included the statement: "I wouldn't be so worried but everyone's bad opinions coupled with the fact that they are looking kind of droopy and wilted is scary."

Removing young healthy shoots that are not overly developed isn't necessary, but IMO, if the shoots are wilting, then the roots are not capable of supporting this growth and it would be better to remove them. Of course, this is just one more opinion.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 4:19PM
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I have planted "body bag" roses for years. I have pretty good success with them. I prune them back slightly when planting them, maybe cut off an inch or two from the end depending on how long the branches are.

Also check the branches for wax and remove it. Sometimes they coat the ends with wax so they don't dry out. That is why I prune them. Or you can gently scrape it off with your fingernail.

I also give them a dose of B1 at planting time then about 10 days later. That seems to help with transplant shock. Just keep them well watered but not soggy. And don't worry if the first set of leave fall off, more will come.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Get Paraffin Wax off Bare Root Roses

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 5:29PM
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They'll be fine...I don't plant them until mid-May (and they sell them in March/April) so they stay in the old farmhouse (used as storage for now) with a little water added to the bag, every few weeks. Constant temperature of about 45 degrees, big window and they are all leafed out and starting to bud, when I finally plant them. I thought they did much better, than the ones I tried planting in early April.

Point is, everyone's situation and climate is different. Keep trying different things, until you find what works for you...and I NEVER pull leaves off anything. Just my two cents :)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 2:07PM
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I purchased these body bag roses last years from Lowes and they've been doing great. I went and purchased more today.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:22AM
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Here's another

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:23AM
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    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:24AM
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    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:25AM
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My plan is to fill this entire area under the pine trees with body bag roses. I going to take about 200 bushes, but we'll see

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:27AM
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alameda/zone 8

I just bought a body bag Cl. Coral Dawn. Soaked it for an hour then planted in a pot in good soil. I made a collar to put around the canes out of the heavy paper it was wrapped in inside the plastic bag - this will keep the cold winds from drying the canes out - then filled that with soil. Also bought a Granada in a peat pot and planted that the same way. I know they are cheap roses, but I enjoy doing this to see if I can get them to grow - their roots were pretty puny.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:53AM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Yes, you can save roses which have been butchered to fit the packaging for body bags quite successfully, but you are missing out on the bliss that comes with starting out with a healthy plant and seeing it take off.

I've done it both ways and I'd much rather start off with a strong and healthy plant. Both require the same kind of care and the body bag roses can catch up, but it's so much easier and, to me, more rewarding to skip the body bag roses.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:43AM
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lola-lemon(5b East WA)

It might be the fertilizer. I would water them a lot for a while to see if they quit pouting. If they haven't been in the ground too long, you can haul them out and soak them in water and then put them in a pot and start over with them in a shady spot for a while. I don't know how wilted those leaves are you are speaking of, if they are just a little droopy, I might leave them alone and see if they recover. If they are seriously shriveled- they are not going to bounce back, so you might as well remove them instead of watching them dry up and feeling anxious about it.

As for the good/bad in growing bareroots....I don't know what zone you are in... but in my zone (6a/5b) The only difference between a body bag rose and a rose in a 2 gallon pot at the nursery is that the nursery took the bareroot and planted it in a pot in their dirt 10 weeks earlier and charged you $20 for the favor.
When roses are grown for sale to nurseries --they are removed from the ground and chopped into their bareroot size and chucked in a refrigerator to go dormant. Then they are shipped at the appropriate time to the nursery. Or they get bagged up for sale at big box stores. They aren't coming out of the ground and potted up and shipped in dirt with a bigger full root system to the nursery.
And own root roses in pots- are generally sold pretty young-- and young roses have less ability to weather hard times, in my opinion.

... take a look at the root systems of potted roses at nurseries- you'll see they aren't that robust. And that's not a bad thing-- growing roses in pots isn't a necessary middle step-- so roots into a pot is overrated- if you ask me. I should say- this is my experience in a colder zone. It sounds like in some of the hotter and super dry zones in CA, the potted stage is important to get a big root system established before asking the rose to survive in the ground. And maybe a greenhouse is the best place to get that taken care of for you... but up here, it's not all that helpful.

I actually prefer bare root roses because you are less likely to get a bunch of greenhouse bugs in the dirt or on the foliage. Like thrips. Plus I think roses fully wakened up and growing in pots are much higher risk of being hurt by delayed watering at a nursery.

I have never had a bare root rose die on me and I have abused some terribly. I bought maybe 10 last year - and that included bonica and Granada and Mr. Lincoln. I kind of lost interest in those last three and didn't have any interest in digging their holes. so I watered them in their bags but did not plant them out for months. MONTHS. I even was gone for a month and they didn't get watered, but I left them in the shade. None died and all grew fine and bloomed when I finally planted them. The thrip storm I had going here probably was their worst problem. I don't recommend this as a way to treat your roses (I expected them to die) I only offer this story as an example of how not fragile bareroots are.

Roses are ridiculously tough. They will thank you for doting on them by giving you bigger bushes and better blooms- but they can take a little abuse too when things are getting started.

This post was edited by lola-lemon on Mon, Feb 4, 13 at 6:33

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 6:09AM
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Hit or miss for me in Tampa Bay. Didn't stop me from buying about 20 this year. I almost hate to say it. My problem with them is mainly the fact that they have been waxed. If I can get past the canes dying back they'll last long enough for me to graft.

If I could find body bagged roses at 2$ a piece, I'd be in trouble. Usually about 8$ here. Sometimes you have to say yes, other times, I'll pass. Good way to get some out of patent roses for the most part.

Huey doesn't usually live long in my sandy nematode soil. In another part of the country, I'd be a little less weary. I saw some great Buck roses in bags a few years ago in PA!

Best of Luck!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:59AM
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I may have posted this Charleston Low Country Rose Society article on body bags before. If so, perhaps those who've not read it will find it helpful.

I agree with everything Mary Beth says in the article, including her observations on the often remarkable differences between bagged rose bushes and bagged rose tree standards.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shoppers Guide to Bagged Roses

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:27PM
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lola-lemon(5b East WA)

Jaxondel, this is great advice on picking a rose. A person should pick the best they can. I think it is important to note though, that nurseries also sell lower grade plants out of the bag. Knowing what to look for is key and you have offered the guidelines.
... I've bought mislabled potted plants, dried up expensive bareroots shipped from texas costing 5to 6x what one body bag costs, and half dead potted plants which arrived shipped from whereever. Nothing is guaranteed, unless of course, it's guaranteed. And then you get your money back. ;-)
I think being able to pick your plant is really the most fool proof method- not buying a bad rose. Buying local is the way to go- though often the choices are limited.

Here is a link that might be useful: american rose society - Bare roots

This post was edited by lola-lemon on Mon, Feb 4, 13 at 17:07

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 4:59PM
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lookin4you2xist (Andrew), I'm not sure I should tell you this, but the Big Lots in the Tampa Bay area got in a bunch of body bag roses for $3.50 a couple of weeks ago. They were in rough shape even then, but I took a chance and got an "Oklahoma." They also had some at Aldi, but they only lasted one week before they sold out.

It can't hurt to just stop by Big Lots to pick up some snacks and if you happen to browse by the roses......;)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 7:21PM
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Be prepared to get some different from the label roses. My neighbor buys them and plants in groups of three like David Austin suggests to make a big bush quickly. Sometimes, one of the three is something else entirely. I used to use them in the center of pots surrounded by strawberries to sell at my yard sales. Now I sell antiques and oldies that I have rooted because people like something different than what they see in the stores.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:46PM
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I opened this topic because I wanted to read everyone's opinions about these "body bag" roses. Imagine my surprise to find out that I was the one who started the thread last April. So, I figured I should let everyone know that the roses are doing very well. After they got over their initial shock they started putting out healthy new leaves and cains..

There was one bush that I was worried about because it just seemed to look weaker and smaller than the others. As it turns out, it was just a slow beginner and it eventually caught up to it's neighbors:)


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:54PM
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lola-lemon(5b East WA)

Go Roses! That's great news Maude. Hope they give you many blooms this year.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:52AM
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Amberroses - Thank you for the heads up. I know exactly the store you are talking about! I bought a couple bare roots from them 3 or 4 years ago. The time it took me to go thru the big boxes didn't make it worth the $$$. You are 100 % correct, the roses looked pretty bad.

At least if I hit the Home Depot or Lowes they are shipped standing. The key is to get them early! I always plant them in containers first, just to make sure they are labeled correctly.

I look at body bagged roses as annuals for the most part. If they were grafted on Fortuniana it would be a whole different ball game.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:43AM
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All in all, as I reflect back over the past few years, I have had fabulous success with body bags from Lowes, and decent luck with Home Depot. Orchard Supply's have been consistently mismarked, but I've still gotten some really nice roses from them. Walmart's (out here anyways) typically look unhealthy to me, and I don't buy them, and I have yet to talk into a Big Lots. Now the majority of my purchases are from local nurseries and I'm starting to place online orders, as I no longer see varieties I don't have (or that I want) from the big boxes.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Andrew, you never know how long a Dr. Huey rose may last. I have a Queen Mary 2 on Dr. Huey that has survived for 8 years now planted in the ground.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:16AM
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ms. violet grey

This morning, the big chain Texas grocery store, HEB had
Belinda's Dream & climbing New Dawn. I bought both of
these classified as Earth Kind roses.

I also saw Maria Stern, Caldwell Pink, Duchesse de Brabant among a few others.

I plan to train New Dawn to climb up the shed's pillar.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:05PM
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All this talk about body bag roses makes me think about a scene from the movie The Princess Bride. To quote it:

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What's that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The ability to distinguish "all dead" from "mostly dead" is a very useful skill for a gardener. "All dead" for roses is dried out and brown.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:32PM
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Four years ago I bought a $5 body bag rose named Electron from Home Depot. It had 5-6" roots and 3-4 canes. I planted the graft 6" deep. It quickly grew into a very nice bush and continues to do well with no winter protection.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:29PM
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alameda/zone 8

Should body bag roses be planted with the graft buried even in warmer areas? Does this help the plant form better roots? I just bought a few - I live in Texas, our winter is about over - wondering if I should bury the graft or put it above the soilline?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 4:21PM
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I always deep-plant body bags--2-3" below soil. I picked up 2 Souvenir del la Malmaisons, Mrs. Dudley Cross, Sombrueil, cl Peace, Angel Face & Dbl Delight this spring.

The plants I got last year from HEB did well. This year I got them as soon as the store put them out. They had chopped roots. I soaked them 24 hrs in alfalfa tea & planted them at once. They are all breaking buds now & look real good--I'm hoping the quick planting & soaking will give them a leg up in restoring their roots.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 7:12PM
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alameda/zone 8

I hadnt thought of soaking in alfalfa tea! I have some bare roots ordered and bet that would be good for them too. How many cups of alfalfa pellets per gallon of water do you use? I soak my roses in those big round plastic tubs that you can get at Walmart, not sure how many gallons they hold.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:26AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Some of you sure get nice selections of body bags!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:59AM
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Yeah, I was shocked to find roses in peat pots & body bags at our local grocery store. Only bought 2 OGRs last year--didn't expect much, but they did fine after a sulky start. This year I started checking the store out every few days & grabbed the plants as soon as they were put out.

The local Home Depot has a few old HTs & a few OGRs. Very chopped roots but the plants are budding out well.

I started soaking them in alfalfa tea after reading someone here recommending it. Do it with all bareroots & it seems to give them a jump start.

I think those WM tubs are ~20 gallons. I soak in a molasses tub ~30 gallons with 1 cup per gallon of pellets. Just alfalfa-ed all the roses starting last week. Now for some rain....

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 1:13AM
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Campanula UK Z8

For those of you buying these packed roses, may I suggest putting a good tablespoon of mycchorhizal granules in the planting hole. The granules will make a symbiotic connection, through lots of little threads (hyphae) with the roots of your plant, thereby increasing water and nutrient uptake as there is a greater surface area available for uptake of what the rose needs. I believe RootGrow is a reliable brand of granules. I have been using mycchorhizae for some years and, in trials, have found a significant increase in both health and vigour. Of course, planting in the ground alleviates some of the need for extra mycchorhizal amendments since there will be many already present, but for those planting into pots, this is a valuable and extremely efficient way of increasing rootmass and therefore fast nutrient uptake.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:50AM
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