Roses: planting

Roses can be expensive plants, but they last for many, many years and are easy to establish if you follow a few simple steps on planting and aftercare.

Planting a rose.

Quick facts

Suitable for All roses
Timing All year round for containerised roses, autumn to spring for bare-root roses and containerised roses
Difficulty Moderate

When to plant roses

Bare-root roses: Plant in late autumn at leaf fall and from late winter to early spring, before growth resumes. Avoid planting in the middle of winter when the ground is frozen.

Containerised and container-grown roses: Plant all year round.

How to plant roses

Depending on the time of year you purchase your roses, you will have a choice of types of roses:

  • Bare-root roses: These are only available from about November to March usually mail order. These are plants dug from open ground and packed to prevent the roots drying out before sale. Bare-root plants are usually good quality, having a wider root spread than containerised plants, and they are often good value. They should be planted as soon as received
  • Containerised roses: These are at their best in garden centres from about November to March. They may be sold for longer into the spring and summer, but quality starts to suffer the longer they are kept on display. They are bare-root roses placed in pots of potting media to prevent them drying out. They should be planted as soon as received
  • Container-grown roses: These are available all year round. These are roses that have been grown in containers for a whole growing season or more. They can be planted at any time, but are usually not such good plants as bare root ones and are comparatively costly

Planting roses

  1. Mix in at least one bucket of rotted organic matter per square metre, ideally farmyard manure, in the area where roses are to be planted
  2. For a single rose plant, dig a hole roughly twice the width of the plant's roots and the depth of a spade's blade
  3. Apply general fertiliser, at 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) over the surface and fork it in
  4. Carefully tease out the roots of container plants as, if this is not done, the roots may be very slow to extend outwards, leaving the young plant more susceptible to drought in summer
  5. Place the rose in the centre of the hole and, using a small cane to identify the top of the planting hole, ensure the graft union (i.e. where the cultivar joins the rootstock and the point from which the branches originate) is at soil level (not below as this is reported to increase the risk of rose dieback)
  6. Back-fill gently with the excavated soil
  7. Spacing depends on type and habit. Check catalogue or label details

If you are replacing roses with new roses, ensure that you dig out the soil to a depth and width of 45cm (18in) and exchange it with soil from a different part of the garden, as roses are at risk from replant disease, also known as soil sickness.

Aftercare

Pruning

Prune back in the first winter after planting. Do this in late winter or early spring. With all roses, first remove dead, damaged and weak growths, then:

  • Hybrid tea (large-flowered): Prune the remaining strong stems hard back to 10-15cm (4-6in) from ground level
  • Floribunda (cluster-flowered): Prune the remaining strong stems moderately hard back to about 15cm (6in) from ground level
  • Ramblers and climbers: Prune remaining strong stems back to 30-40cm (1ft-15in) from ground level if not already pruned at the nursery (climbing sports of bush varieties may revert to bush type if pruned back hard)
  • Shrub and species roses: Leave remaining strong stems unpruned

General care

  • Feeding: Apply a dressing of a general or rose fertiliser at 100g per sq m (1½oz per sq yd), every spring.  If growth slows, repeat the fertiliser application in mid-summer
  • Mulching: Follow feeding immediately with mulching, ideally with well-rotted stable manure, in a layer of up to 8cm (3in) deep. Alternatively, use well-rotted compost or chipped bark. Keep the mulch clear of the rose stems, leaving a 10cm (4in) gap between the mulch and stems
  • Watering: Water well in dry spells for at least two summers after planting

In subsequent years this programme of feeding and mulching can be repeated annually. Apply the fertiliser over the existing mulch, from where it will quickly find its way down to the roots, and then top up the mulch to maintain it at the original level.

Problems

Roses may struggle to establish, especially if planted poorly, provided with little aftercare, or planted where roses have grown before.

They can also suffer from a range of common rose diseases, such as rose blackspot, rose dieback, rose powdery mildew and rose rust. Pests to watch out for include large rose sawfly, rose leaf-rolling sawfly and  rose aphids.

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