How To Plant Roses
your roses off to the best possible start by choosing their growing site
carefully and then planting them using the techniques most suitable for
your climate. Bare-root rose plants--those sold without soil--offer the
best value and grow quickly after planting.
Tools and Materials
- Bare-root rose plant
- Measuring tape
- Shovel or spade
- Wheelbarrow or tarp
- Soil amendments, see text
- Water source, hose or bucket
- Organic mulch, such as shredded bark
Choose the planting site.
Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sun each day, although some
afternoon shade is best in hot climates. Plant them in a spot where
air can circulate and dry their leaves soon after a rain, and give
them fertile soil that drains quickly.
Determine the depth to plant.
Most rose plants consist of two parts: the rootstock and the
flowering canes. The bulge where the parts join, called the graft
union, gets planted just at or below ground level, depending on your
climate. Where winter temperatures drop to -10F or colder, plant the
graft union 4 to 6 inches deep. In warmer climates, place it just at
or slightly above the soil surface.
Dig the hole.
Keep the rose roots cool and moist while you dig the planting hole. The
hole should be deep enough to set the graft union at the proper
depth and at least wide enough to allow the roots to extend without
bending. Put the removed soil in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.
Amend the soil.
Very sandy or heavy clay soils benefit from the addition of organic
material. Mix the soil from the planting hole with 25 percent
compost and 25 percent composted bark plus a few handfuls of
composted manure. Mix well. Get your roses off to the best possible
start by choosing their growing site carefully and then planting
them using the techniques most suitable for your climate. Bare-root
rose plants--those sold without soil--offer the best value and grow
quickly after planting. Partially fill the hole with the soil mix,
making a cone or mound in the center over which to drape the roots.
Set the rose in the hole.
the height of the cone so that the graft union is at the right
level, as determined using the guidelines above. Spread the roots
evenly around the cone.
Backfill and water.
Holding the rose at the right planting depth, fill the hole with
soil, working it carefully around the roots. When the hole is nearly
full, water thoroughly to settle the soil. Finish filling the hole
and create a low ring of soil around the perimeter of the hole.
Water again. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch in a circle
around the plant, taking care to keep the mulch 3 to 4 inches away
from the canes. Water as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist
until the rose resumes vigorous growth.
After your roses become dormant in the fall, protect them from
severe freezing weather by piling a mound of soil over the canes.
Lay down climbing rose canes and cover them, too. Buy non-grafted or
"own-root" roses if you live where temperatures drop to
-20oF or colder. These roses can often grow back from their roots if
their tops die from winter cold.
When and how to prune roses:
Prune Roses In The Spring: Some Basic Rules
Cut stems at an angle. Cut about 1/4 inch above an
outward-facing bud at a 45-degree angle. Dab pruning seal (white glue
will work) on the pruning cuts to seal them, especially if you live
where rose borers are a problem.
Cutting above an outward-facing bud forces growth up and away from the
center of the plant, improving air circulation, which reduces pest
problems. Wait until early spring when buds swell and are easy to spot.
Cut back to live tissue. After you cut, examine the pithy tissue in the
center. Is it white and healthy clear through? If not, cut back farther.
Remove dead branches completely. Brown and shriveled canes stand out
like sore thumbs. Cut them to the base, using a saw if necessary.
Never give a sucker an even break. Suckers are vigorous canes growing
from the rootstock below the graft union on grafted roses. Cut these off
to the main stem, even if you have to dig away some soil to get to them.
Kinds of roses
The preceding guidelines would allow you to do a pretty good job of
pruning any rose. But knowing the idiosyncrasies of the different kinds
of roses also helps.
Hybrid teas and grandifloras
Keep the thickest green canes evenly spaced around the bush. Prune out
all canes with diameters less than a pencil width and old, brown canes
that tend to be less productive. A new hybrid tea should have three to
five canes left. Grandifloras such as 'Queen Elizabeth' and older hybrid
teas can support six to eight canes.
Later in the season you'll be pruning again when you're make bouquets
for indoors. Cut so that you've a long enough stem for a vase but don't
remove too many leaves. Try to leave at least two 5-leaflet leaves on
the remaining stem. Therefore the ideal place to cut is just above an
outward growing bud and/or the uppermost 5-leaflet leaf.
Floribundas and polyanthas
Leave six to eight main canes, and remove most of the twiggy growth in
the center of the bush. Compared to hybrid teas and grandifloras, leave
more minor branches, especially toward the top of the plant. Prune the
remaining canes to give the plant a rounded shape.
Don't prune any climber, except to remove dead or broken branches, for
two or three years. That's enough time for the plant to develop strong
branches that can produce flowers for many years. On established plants,
prune dead or damaged branches to the base.
Train main branches to grow as horizontally as possible. How you do this
varies with your situation. Imagine the arching canes of a climbing rose
along a split-rail fence; canes arching in this fashion produce many
more flowers than canes growing straight up.
The two most common types of climbing roses are the naturally vigorous
mutations (sports) of hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas, and
those simply called "large-flowered climbers." Both types
produce flowers on long-lived side branches (laterals) off the main
canes. Flowers develop on the side branches. In late winter or early
spring, shorten those laterals to about 6 inches.
Modern shrub roses require minimal maintenance. Vigorous plants can be
pruned more, while slow-growing plants should be pruned less. Some, like
'Carefree Beauty' and some of the Meidiland series, require only light
Some need no regular pruning at all. If you have a few plants indoors,
use narrow-bladed pruning shears (or scissors) to prune and shape. For
miniatures used as landscape plants, use hedge shears to maintain size.
How and when to prune depends somewhat on the type. Alba: Prune after
spring flowering. Bourbon and Portland: Just before spring growth,
shorten main canes by a third and side shoots to three buds. Centifolia
and moss: After blooms fade in spring, shorten main canes and side
shoots. China: In winter, remove twiggy growth and shorten main canes by
a third. Damask: After spring flowering, remove twiggy growth and cut
back laterals to three buds. Gallica: Just before spring growth and
after spring flowering, remove twiggy growth. Hybrid perpetual: After
spring blooms fade, cut back main shoots by a third and shorten side
shoots. Tea: Just before spring growth, remove twiggy growth and shorten
main canes by a third.