Planting Roses


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Planting Roses

 In this Series

Selecting Roses

Planting Roses
Caring for Roses
Winterizing Roses
2008 AARS Rose Winners


 Related Articles

Plant  Problems

Pruning  Techniques

Ever-blooming Gardens

Vines and Roses in Containers

Roses establish quickly and are more resistant to pests and diseases when planted in an ideal location. Roses require at least six hours of direct sunlight for optimal flowering and growth, though full sun all day is preferable. An eastern exposure, which receives morning sun, is ideal for roses. Choose a planting location that is not shaded by buildings or trees to maximize the amount of sunshine the plants receive. Avoid planting roses near trees and shrubs which will compete for moisture and nutrients. Make sure the site is open to allow for air movement. Also consider water drainage to or from the planting site. Roses grow best in well-drained soil and dislike standing water around their roots.

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Planting Time

Roses can be planted from early spring into early fall. Earlier planting is preferred to late planting. Spring or early summer planting allows plenty of time for good root establishment before winter, whereas planting after mid-summer may not. Other advantages of spring planting are that selection and availability of quality plants are usually better than later in the season.

Planting time varies based on how plants are packaged. Bare root roses should be planted in early to mid-spring before the new shoots start to develop. Typically, this will be late March into early April unless soils remain wet. Container-grown roses can be planted anytime from spring to early fall. Spring planting should be done after danger of killing frost, usually late April to late-May in zones 5 to 7.

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Preparing the Soil

Roses thrive in a rich, loamy, well-drained garden soil with a  fairly wide pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. Do a soil test if you know your soil is particularly acidic or alkaline, so that corrections can be made, if needed, as the soil is being prepared.

Most soils, whether clay or sandy, benefit from the addition of organic matter which improves drainage, aeration, and nutrient holding capacity. Spread a two to four inch layer of organic matter on the soil surface. Organic matter sources include compost, rotted manure, leaf mold, peat moss, composted sewage sludge, fine grain potting bark or other source. Then, apply three pounds of superphosphate per 100 square feet to encourage root growth. This is the only nutrient added at planting. Finally, turn the organic matter and superphosphate into the soil with a shovel or garden spade to a depth of 12 inches.

If planting a rose in an existing bed, dig out enough soil to form a hole approximately 15 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Mix three ounces of superphosphate and approximately three shovelfuls of orgater with the soil removed from the hole. This becomes nic matthe backfill soil for the new plant.

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Spacing Roses

Do NOT overcrowd your roses.  Plant spacing varies according to the growth habit of the rose plant. Plants growing too close together will be tall and spindly and produce only a few small flowers.

Follow these general spacing guidelines for best results:
  • Hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, polyanthas 18 to 30 inches 
  • Climbers 8 to 12 feet 
  • Miniatures 12 to 15 inches

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Planting Bare Root Roses

If you are planting bare-root roses, you'll want to plant them as quickly as you can after receiving them. They should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.  If you must store them, soak the roots in water for 4 hours, then keep the plant in an open plastic bag in a cool dark place, misting with water soakroses.gif (137x194 -- 12289 bytes)occasionally. If you are storing them for more than 2 weeks, pot temporarily in a container of potting soil or damp sawdust, keeping them moist and protected from weather.

Before planting, soak the roots in water overnight. Some people will add Vitamin B1 or rooting hormones to the water.  If you do, keep the leftover water to pour on the roses once planted.

Cut off any dead or broken roots. Try to handle the roots gently.  The tiny hair-like rootlet tips are where all of the action is when it comes to drawing water and nutrients from the soil.

trimroses.jpg (150x101 -- 4574 bytes)Try to maintain 3-5 canes per plant, and each cane should be pruned back to 3-5 buds per cane. Any cane thinner than a pencil should be removed. Buds are easy to spot as raised oval areas on the cane. Roots may need additional pruning to remove damaged portions or to fit the planting hole.

Planting holes should be dug wide enough and deep enough to comfortably accept the roots of the plant. Make a cone-shaped mound of soil in the center of the hole to support the plant, with the bud union at soil level. Fill the hole about 2/3 full of soil and add water, making a slurry of soil that gets between the roots. Do not tamp the soil, as this compacts it and destroys soil structure. After the water has drained down, add more soil and repeat the water fill process until the original soil level has been reached. Since the soil is loose, the plant will sink a little after planting, the bud union will end up 1-2 inches below soil level. This is where the bud union should be for roses growing in northern climates because this helps to provide some winter protection for the bud union.

protectbarerootroses.gif (200x207 -- 6559 bytes)The canes of dormant, newly planted bare-root roses need to be protected from drying winds and handled to encourage maximum bud break. 

To accomplish this, a temporary soil mound is placed over the canes to a depth of about 8-10 inches. This process is called "sweating" and is done to keep the canes moist to encourage maximum bud break. The soil is left in place for about 2-3 weeks or until new growth starts. When new growth does start, gently wash away the soil with a hose so as not to disturb the new growth. 

Other methods that works well are to wrap the canes in burlap that is kept moist or to mound the canes in sphagnum moss. Some rose growers use brown paper grocery bags to sweat their roses.

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Planting Container-Grown Roses

containerroses.gif (250x161 -- 6259 bytes)Potted roses are the easiest to plant because you have a plant that is already growing. Potted roses offer the flexibility of being ready for planting throughout the growing season. With containers, simply tip the pot on its side and tap the root ball out. If the root ball doesn't come out easily, use a pair of tin snips, shears, or knife to cut the container off. 

Set the root ball into the prepared hole so the bud union is at the recommended depth. Refill the hole with soil and water as with bare-root roses. In the case of potted roses, you will not have to cover the canes with soil or sweat the canes.

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Boxed Roses

Roses are sometimes offered for sale in cardboard boxes labeled "plant them box and all."  Well don't.  Experience shows that this practice discourages quick rooting and establishment of the plant. There are two options for boxed roses. If the rose is planted in early spring and is still dormant, simply take it out of the box and treat it like a bare-root rose. 

If the plant has broken dormancy and is growing, cut the bottom off the box and set the rose in the hole at the proper depth. Then, cut through the sides of the box and carefully peel the box away. Refill the hole with soil and water as for container grown roses.

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Transplanting Roses

Into most gardeners' lives there comes a time when you end up having to transplant a rose.  It could be encroaching shade from a tree, or your nigh-boor's new fence, or maybe the addition of a drive or patio.  If the rose has been there less than a year or two, dig them up taking as much of the existing soil around the rootball as you can, and replanting in the already-prepared new location.

For roses that have been in place for more than a year or two, here is the two-step process for successfully transplanting established roses.

  1. Starting about 12-18" away from the center of the rose, cut through the soil to the depth of a good, large garden spade.  Make a series of cuts half way around the circumference of the rose.

  2. Approximately 3-4 months later, but with at least 2 months left before a hard fall frost, tie up the canes of the rose as tightly as possible without causing any damage.  It is also advisable to prune canes back by about 1/3 of their length.  Then cut through the other half of the circumference of the rose, and dig up the largest rootball you can.  Lug this to the already-prepared planting hole in the new location. 

This 2-step approach is required to allow new roots to grow in closer to the center of the rootball on the side that is cut first.  The undisturbed roots will maintain the rose until the new roots appear.  Then those new roots will support the rose after transplanting, until the shrub is established in it's new location.

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