Inspect the roses closely: look for broken canes or blackened roots. Prune or tip these back to healthy tissue, then plunge these "sticks" in water...TOTALLY! for 24 hours. One of the most common cause for bare root roses to fail is by drying out. Putting your new roses in the "tub" will help rehydrate them.
Do not let your new bare root roses dry out before planting. Plant your roses as soon as possible, or store them in moist soil. Just lay the roses partially on their side and heap loose soil over the roots, then keep moist. (This is also called "heeling in".)
When to plant a bare root rose
When to plant a bare root rose is the first question, and perhaps the easiest. Bare root roses are only available from late fall through the winter months... this time frame can be extended by placing your roses in cold storage, but the general rule of thumb is to plant after the last hard frost in your area.
If you need help determining your last frost date, check with your local garden center or ag extension office. If you wait until too late in the spring, your new roses may dry out. However, if you live in the cold, frozen tundra (just kidding!), USDA Zone 5 or lower...(Brrr...) then bury the bud union 2"-6" below the soil surface for frost protection. (Not sure of your zone? See USDA Hardiness Zone Map.)
Get 'em in the ground
Place a garden tool handle or stick across the hole to determine the height of the bud union. To protect the newly planted bare root rose from any late frosts, cover it entirely with loose compost for the first 2-3 weeks.