Gardens

How to plant roses – plus tips and advice on growing roses

Learn how to plant roses as beautiful, fragrant and colorful additions to gardens of all sizes, and enjoy the best blooms with advice on growing roses

yellow, pink and red rose bushes planted together
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Once you know how to plant roses you can enjoy the beautiful blooms of these 'queen of flowers' in many different areas of your garden.

Roses offer such variety of color, shape and fragrance, and are an enduring garden favorite, loved for their elegance and romance. Whether entwining with clematis around an arbour, mixed in an herbaceous border, or sprawling over a fence, there are many different options for rose garden ideas

Roses are versatile for both formal and informal styles, making them a gorgeous addition to any yard. They are also long flowering and can bring delight to your garden from June right through to December.

It’s easy to be beguiled by the vast array on offer when designing a rose garden, but by doing your research and selecting good quality, disease-resistant varieties that will suit the conditions in your garden, you will have the most success in growing roses as part of your flower bed ideas.

How to plant roses

pink rose shrub in a garden

(Image credit: Future)

The method for how to plant roses will vary slightly depending on what type of rose you chose, whether climber, standard or shrub. So you first need to know about the three main categories of roses:

  • Species or wild roses like to sprawl in a natural style, are mostly single-flowered, and many have colorful hips in fall, such as rugosa, glauca, moyesii and canina.
  • Roses from before 1860 are known as old garden roses and are characterised by large graceful shrubs with mostly one flowering, are the best fragrant roses and include alba, gallica, damask, cabbage and moss roses.
  • Modern roses, bred from the early 20th century, have characteristics of repeat-flowering and a striving for disease resistance, vigour and flower quality. These cover hybrid teas, floribundas, landscape, climbers, miniature and David Austin English roses. There are specific methods for how to plant climbing roses, for instance, for the best displays.

'To add a little confusion, the diverse and versatile shrub roses don’t fit any distinct classification. They can be wild rose species and also hybrids, taking the best of the old, combined with modern traits of repeat-flowering and diversity of form, color and fragrance,' explains gardens writer and photographer Leigh Clapp.

Where to plant roses

pink rose flower

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Knowing where to plant roses is a very important aspect of how to plant roses and is largely down to the variety. Roses are very versatile, with hundreds of varieties, from flowering climbers and ramblers, to bush and flowering shrubs, and even ground cover roses – you can try growing roses in almost every situation in the garden. 

Before planting, it’s important to choose a cultivator appropriate for the conditions in the chosen position in your yard. 

Generally, roses are sun-loving plants, preferring from six to eight hours of sun a day. 'They like well-drained soil that still holds moisture long enough for the roots to absorb moisture – incorporate some well-rotted compost or manure at planting.  Ideally they prefer a soil pH of 6.5, with a heavy loam soil. Too much clay can cause waterlogged roots and sandy soil will drain too freely before the nutrients can be absorbed,' explains Leigh Clapp. There are ways to establish the soil type in your garden.

If you have dense clay adding some compost, composted manure or leaf mulch will loosen it. 

There are some really tough roses that cope with a range of conditions, including rugosa and some vigorous cultivars. Some varieties can be potential shrubs for shade, such as floribunda and shrub roses, as they tolerate shade so long as it isn’t caused by trees. Do check the plant's details carefully for shade tolerance. 

Don’t plant roses in exposed locations as wind can both damage blooms and cause evaporation of moisture from foliage. Plant about one metre from other plants to avoid competition and about 23in. (60cm) from another rose. 

If replacing old roses with new then care needs to be taken in how to plant roses. 'It's advised to dig out the soil to a depth and width of 18in. (45cm) and to swap it with soil from a different part of the garden to reduce the risk of replant disease,' says Leigh Clapp. 

Container-grown roses or bare root roses?

rambling rose in cottage garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

There are two ways to buy roses: as container-grown plants, or as bare root plants. 

Bare root plants are usually purchased online or via mail-order and come in a semi dormant or dormant state with no soil on the roots. They are the preferred choice for many gardeners. 'Bare-root roses are generally the best quality and have a wider spread of roots than container plants,' says Leigh Clapp.

If planting multiple roses it is recommended to buy bare root plants as it is more economical and there’s also a great variety. It is easy to get to grips with how to plant bare root trees and shrubs.

‘I believe the best practice for optimal healthy roses is to be as eco-friendly as possible as well as choosing the best and healthiest varieties available,’ explains Harry Baldwin, Head of Horticulture at Borde Hill Garden (opens in new tab).

When to plant roses

dark pink climbing roses

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Knowing when to plant roses is important for success in growing roses. 

'June through to August is a good time to make a note of which roses you like best and want to introduce into your garden,' says National Trust (opens in new tab) garden researcher Rebecca Bevan. 'Try to hold off buying and planting them until the fall or winter, when you can order them bare root.'

Bare root roses can be bought from late fall to early spring and are best planted just before or at the beginning of their dormant period, in late fall, or early winter. This gives them time to establish roots ready to flourish in summer time. Don’t plant roses when the ground is frozen in mid-winter

Container-grown roses can be planted at any time, provided the ground is not extremely dry or frozen. 

How to plant bare root roses

The step-by-step instructions below are for planting bare root shrub roses.

You will need:

  • Garden fork or spade
  • Bucket
  • Watering can
  • Soil improver or well-rotted manure

1. Check the conditions and the roots

Aim to plant the rose as soon as possible after its arrival, but delay planting if the ground is waterlogged or frozen. Examine the rose to make sure it has not dried out in transit. The rose should have two or three strong shoots and a healthy network of roots. Remove any diseased or damaged growth and remove any straggly stems.

2. Hydrate the rose

Soak the bare root rose in a bucket of water for an hour or two before planting.

3. Prepare the soil for planting roses

Prepare the bed by digging over with a garden fork and removing any stones or weeds. Dig a planting hole in your prepared bed large enough to fit the roots – this will depend on their span and length, but a hole around 15in. (40cm) wide and deep should be adequate. 

Roses are hungry plants, so add a shovel of soil improver or well-rotted manure to the hole and fork it into the soil at the bottom.

4. Boost the roots

Before planting the rose consider sprinkling the roots with mycorrhizal fungi. Recommended by British rose breeder David Austin, this will increase the absorption and boost the performance of the root system.

5. Position the rose in the hole

Place the rose in the center of the hole taking care to spread out the roots. At this point it is important to make sure the graft of the rose – where the stems meet the roots – is buried around an inch under the soil. To help check this, you can lay a bamboo cane horizontally over the hole.

6. Back-fill and finish the planting

Back fill the hole with soil, forking in a shovel of soil improver or manure before infilling. Lightly tread around the rose to make sure there are not air pockets, then rake over the soil and water well.

How to plant container grown roses

rose garden design with gertrude jekyll roses planted in mixed border

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

There is no rush when it comes to planting container roses, they can be left outside three weeks or more before planting provided they are kept watered. Before planting place in a bucket of water until moisture comes to the surface of the compost and follow the same steps as above.

How to plant roses in pots

Evelyn rose bloom

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

If you're limited with space, growing roses in pots as part of your container gardening ideas is an option.

'Patio and miniature rose varieties are ideal for containers. English roses also work well with their rounded, bushy shapes; standard roses are elegant options, and ground-covering roses and shorter climbers can also be used,' says Leigh.

You will need a large pot with drainage, around 11-18in. (30-45cm) deep. Place crocks at the bottom to aid drainage and fill with a standard loam potting compost. Place the rose in the pot and infill with compost, followed by a good water. 

'Water roses in pots and feed them with a liquid feed every few weeks. Patio roses such as "Queen Mother" are the best for growing in containers,' advises Rebecca Bevan.

'They need to be planted in a pot that is at least 16in. (40cm )deep. Make sure you use a soil-based compost which holds water and nutrients.'

How to care for roses

deadheading roses in a garden

(Image credit: National Trust Images Arnhel de Serra)

'Much of the work which goes into keeping roses healthy should have been done by spring,' says National Trust garden researcher Rebecca Bevan. 'That would include pruning to stop them getting congested. Also, mulching to feed the soil, trap in moisture and bury fungal spores.'

However there are still some jobs to be done throughout the year. 

Deadheading roses

'While traditional rambling roses tend to flower once, in great profusion, modern, repeat-flowering roses begin more slowly, but send up new blooms throughout the summer,' says Rebecca.

Knowing how to deadhead roses that are repeat-flowerers, such as climbers and hybrid tea roses, encourages more blooms.

Pruning roses

Knowing how to prune roses and when to prune them is a crucial part of maintaining the health of your roses. 

Be sure to prune them before they come into leaf to prevent damaging buds and shoots, ideally in October or November but you can get away with as late as February depending on the weather and the hardiness zone where you live.

If your roses still look dormant and haven't got buds yet you can still get your pruning done.

climbing roses by front door of Georgian country house

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

Watering roses

Watering is important until the rose is established and then these deep-rooted plants can survive on the natural moisture in the soil. If you do need to water your roses, do so in the morning and aim for their roots, not the leaves. 

‘Each winter, after pruning in January, we lay a thick layer of well rotted horse manure, which not only supplies the roses with important nutrients but also ensures moisture is retained in the soil preventing unnecessary watering during the summer. The roses also have seaweed foliage feed monthly during the summer,’ says Harry Baldwin of Borde Hill Garden.

How to get rid of aphids on roses

'Watch out for pests such as aphids and sawfly larvae,' advises Rebecca. 'Most roses can accommodate a few aphids, which provide a food source for other insects and small birds. But if an infestation is affecting the health of your rose, you can try squashing them by hand or using an organic insecticide.'

Roses in containers are more susceptible to aphids, so keep an eye out and remove them before they get to colony state.

'There are no products for treating the caterpillar-like larvae of sawfly and roses will soon recover when they mature and leave the plant,' says Rebecca.

Other pests include caterpillars, sawfly, thrips and red spider mite

'Attracting some ladybirds and natural predators with companion planting before reaching for a spray,' says Leigh Clapp. 

Yellow rose with blackspot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to treat fungal diseases on roses

'Sadly, fungal diseases, such as mildew and blackspot are very common. They're usually worst when roses are stressed by drought, poor soil or overcrowding,' says Rebecca Bevan.

'If your rose has a small amount of mildew or blackspot, you can pick off the affected leaves to try to slow the spread.' liquid feeding it – and even spraying the foliage with a foliar feed, rose tonic or plant invigorator – may also help boost its health.

If the plant is badly affected, you may wish to try a fungicide. Look for products that don’t also contain an insecticide, which can harm pollinating insects.

'Routinely using a combined insecticide and fungicide is not good for the environment,' Rebecca warns.

‘Where possible, buy disease resistant varieties; this will help to limit the threat of the dreaded black spot,’ says Jon Webster of RHS Rosemoor. Prevention is always better than cure, so keep your roses healthy. 

‘Keeping them full of vigour and growth will also help them as they are hungry plants. After pruning, apply a general-purpose or rose fertiliser followed by a mulch of well-rotted manure. Throughout the growing season the use of a product such as SB Plant Invigorator, which is a bio stimulant and contains natural elements, such as seaweed, will help to stimulate plant growth; it can also control powdery mildew and aphids,’ Jon adds

Rambling roses in a country garden

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Where is the best place to plant a rose?

There are many places you can plant roses. With their wide variety of colors, sizes and growth habits there are rose choices for practically any garden setting. They can be grown in dedicated beds, among a jostle of other plants in borders, draped over arches and walls, trained around a door, used as groundcover or varieties selected for containers. You can also learn how to take rose cuttings to increase the number of these beautiful blooms in your garden for free.

Generally, all roses require plenty of sunlight, at least four hours a day, as well as shelter from strong winds. However, there are even varieties that can be grown in north facing positions with poor soil quality. 

Roses will not like a waterlogged position, but like water retentive yet well draining soil, and will not thrive in shade or if crowded by other plants. If planting multiple shrub roses, ensure spacing of around 15-25in. (40-65cm) and about 11in. (30cm) from the edge of the rose bed.

Root decay can occur from diseases such as honey fungus, if the plant is waterlogged. Don’t plant roses where they have recently grown to avoid replant disorder. ‘To overcome this it is best to choose new ground for the roses. If this is not possible to do, adopt a combined strategy of soil exchange and the use of Mycorrhizal fungi to aid their establishment,’ suggests Jon Webster. 

What is the best month to plant roses?

The best month to plant roses will depend on where you live and also what type of rose you have bought – whether a bare root rose or a container grown rose, as explained above.

What is the best way to plant a rose?

The best way for how to plant roses depends on whether you buy bare root roses or container grown plants. This article takes you through step by step how to plant a bare root rose and also a container grown one, so you can find all all the advice and tips you need above.

Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.

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