When to plant roses – for beautiful, fragrant blooms

Discover when to plant roses to enjoy their gorgeous flowers and perfume all summer long

When to plant roses David Austin roses
(Image credit: David Austin)

Knowing when to plant roses can bring their beauty, soul, scent, and color to the backyard for longer each year. The best ones flower for months, blooming throughout summer and into fall. 

They can bring so much to the yard: single-flowered varieties provide for pollinators, such as bees; fruiting hybrids produce vivid scarlet hips for birds; and the romantic double cultivars are coated with buxom, chalice-shaped blooms for months. 

Combine knowhow about how to plant roses with this guide to the optimum time to plant roses and they’ll establish quickly, producing healthy, glossy foliage and masses of beautiful flowers that flood the garden with sublime scent. 

Golden Beauty roses

(Image credit: Melanie Griffiths)

When to plant roses

Roses are sold in two forms: bare root (without soil) and containerized (in a pot), and when to plant roses depends on which you opt for. 

Bare root roses should be planted between November and March, while containerized roses can go into the ground at any time of year. If possible, opt to plant roses in bare root form in winter or early spring to give your new roses the best possible start. 

When to plant bare root roses

Bare root roses are on sale between November and March, and that is when to plant roses in this form in order to achieve your rose garden ideas. Specialist rose suppliers offer them for sale direct or via mail order. 

Plant as soon as possible after purchasing your bare root rose, on a day when the ground is not frozen. It’s important to soak the rose’s roots in a bucket of water for at least an hour before planting. 

Light pink rambling roses

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

When to plant potted roses

Containerized roses can be planted at any time of year. Specialist rose suppliers offer them for sale direct or via mail order. Although when to plant roses in containers is flexible, like any plant, it’s better to plant them during their dormant season, rather than when they are beginning their season of growth or flowering. This allows their root system to establish, in turn giving them more flower power, as well as resistance to pests and disease. For roses, this means planting during late fall, winter, or early spring. 

By mid-spring, roses have begun their new season of growth, and, during summer, they will be in glorious full flower. However, if you really want to plant in spring or summer, the rose will be fine in the long run. It may not flower as much in its first year, but, in subsequent summers, it will perform at its best. The key thing is to avoid April and wait until May to plant. 

‘Containerized roses bought in April have often only been potted fairly recently and will have a limited root system,’ says leading rose expert and international rose-garden designer Michael Marriott, who worked at David Austin Roses for 35 years. ‘The roots aren’t developed enough to hold the compost together and so when the pot is taken off the compost drops away breaking the fragile roots and setting the rose back. Best to wait until May to plant when the roots will have grown more.’ 

Is it better to plant bare root or potted roses?

Planting bare root is the optimum way to plant plant climbing roses and other types because – as well as being cheaper – bare root plants establish a robust root system much faster, and planting during winter or early spring allows the rose to settle and grow strong before it begins its surge of growth in April. Bare root roses also require less watering. Whichever you opt for, deadheading roses will be crucial to keep them looking their best for the longest possible period.

Is it better to plant late-flowering roses in spring?

Amongst the main bulk of roses, which flower in summer, there aren’t any that bloom particularly later than others. ‘In practice there's not much difference between most varieties for when they start flowering, so I wouldn't worry about that,’ advises Michael Marriott

If you must plant outside of the optimum rose-planting period (November to March), it doesn’t matter which summer-flowering rose you choose. The only thing to avoid, if possible, is planting one of the few roses that flower in spring (such as R. banksiae ‘Lutea’). In April, these spring bloomers will be coated in buds and in May they are laden with flowers, so opt for a regular summer-flowering variety, if you must plant in late spring. 

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.