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A woman planting roses
8 MIN 02 Aug
Last update: 02 Aug 2023

Planting Roses: A complete step-by-step plan

The delicate rose comes from a surprisingly hardy plant. But you'll only receive years of joy from your bush if you give it the best start. Find out how to plant a rose bush here!

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A garden in England isn’t an English garden without a rose bush. And while there may be few things in life as delicate as a rose, these perennial plants are surprisingly hardy. But planting roses requires a few steps that ensure a long life of stunning blooms and a garden scented with that inimitable scent. 

Table of contents:
Show all
  • The best position for your roses
  • Planting roses: when?
  • How far apart should I plant my roses?
  • How deep should I plant my rose bushes?
  • How to plant roses: a complete step-by-step guide
  • Combining roses with other plants
  • Planting roses: the tools
  • Planting roses: aftercare
  • FAQs

Indeed, roses bring a timeless quality to your outdoor space, whether you plant them pride of place in the centre of your flower border or sturdy pots on your windowsill. 

This article goes through a step-by-step guide to planting roses, ensuring your roses provide enduring delight to you, your garden, and our most valuable pollinating insects. 

Ready? Let’s go! 

The best position for your roses

Beautiful abundent pink roses in the sun
Roses thrive in full sun with plenty of air circulation – Image by 🌼Christel🌼 via Pixabay

Understand your plant, and it will provide you with years of attractive flowers and foliage. But if you plant it in the wrong position, it will fail to thrive. 

Roses thrive best in a sunny spot. And while some varieties are tolerant of partial space, most roses are sun worshippers. 

In other words, avoid planting roses in the shade. 

Choose a sunny, uncrowded spot. Remember, rose bushes can grow large, so you need to give your bush plenty of space. Roses need air and plenty of room between the branches so they can dry out after a shower — this helps prevent fungal infections. 

What type of soil do roses need?

Roses don’t grow well in wet peaty soil or dry sandy soil. They prefer loose lime soil but can also thrive in rich, moist sandy soil if you fertilise the flowerbed regularly. 

If you have heavy clay soil that’s prone to flooding, mix it with potting soil or well-rotted mulch or compost to improve drainage. 

Not sure what type of soil you have in your garden? Check out our expert’s guide to garden soil (and how to improve it)

Planting roses: when?

A rose plant freshly transferred into a pot
Planting roses in a pot

The answer to “When should I plant my rose bush” depends on your local climate and the type of rose you plan to plant. 

In general, the best time to plant roses in the ground is in autumn — October is prime time! This is because the soil is still warm from the summer, and the water table is high. 

However, it’s also possible to plant your bushes in February and March, all the way to the end of April — just wait until the soil has begun to warm up after winter and the frost risk has passed. This gives the plant time to settle in its new spot before the warmer summer months arrive. 

But:

You can plant roses in pots any time of year if you use good potting soil. However, avoid planting your bush during or before frost. 

Planting roses in March

Many people prefer planting their roses in March. This gives the plant a good headstart, benefitting from the entire growing season. 

But:

Make sure the soil is free from frost and that no further frost is expected. March can still be cold, so watch the weather before planting. 

Planting roses in autumn

Most plants prefer being planted in spring, but roses are generally very happy to be planted in the autumn, while the soil is warm and they have time to settle in before winter. 

Water your roses well once planted, and mulch around the plant’s base to help protect the roots from the cold as winter approaches. 

How far apart should I plant my roses?

It’s essential to give your rose bushes enough room to grow. Remember, a new plant will probably quadruple in size, so you should leave between 60-90cm between each plant.

This gives the plant ample space to grow and spread. Don’t be tempted to plant your roses too close together — it hinders air circulation and could cause fungal diseases. 

How deep should I plant my rose bushes?

A spade digging into soil
Roses need a deep hole, so time to get out the spade!

Dig a hole big enough to bury the highest root branch at least 10cm below the soil surface. So, for safety, go for a hole around 60cm deep and 60cm wide. 

Always plant the grafting site (the point at which the rose is grafted onto the rootstock) just below ground level. This ensures the plant roots firmly and protects the grafting site from frost.

Make sure your planting hole gives your plant the space to spread its roots, especially if you have heavy soil. 

How to plant roses: a complete step-by-step guide

Follow these instructions for excellent results every time:

  1. Choose a good location for your roses. Remember, unless you have a shade-tolerant variety, select an area that enjoys full sun throughout the day. 
  2. Soak the roots of your new plants in lukewarm water overnight. This ensures the plant is well-hydrated and will cope with the shock of repositioning. 
  3. Prepare the planting site by:
    1. Mixing in a bucket of well-rotted organic matter, such as compost or farmyard manure per square metre. Digging it into the top 30cm of soil. 
    2. For optimal results, also apply 3g of general fertiliser per square metre.
  4. For each plant, dig a hole at least twice the width of the plant’s existing rootstock and 50cm deep. 
  5. Loosen the soil around the rootstock and separate individual root strands — this helps them spread once planted. 
  6. Spread the roots and fill the planting hole with good-quality soil. 
  7. Water immediately and gently press the surrounding soil to help stabilise the top-heavy plant. 

Combining roses with other plants

Roses and lavender together
Roses and lavender together! Photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

One of the best ways to make your garden even more beautiful is to combine roses with other plants. You can create a stunning display by combining and contrasting different colours, shapes, and textures.

Plants that combine well with roses are:

  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Sun-loving annuals, like heliotropes, lantana, verbena, and petunia
  • Scented geraniums
  • Parsley and thyme (could help avoid beetles and aphids)
  • Marigolds (could help repel pests)

Planting roses: the tools

Of course, the most obvious tool is a spade because you’ll need to dig the hole. Other than that, there’s not much else you’ll need other than a watering can/hose and gardening gloves — always remember to use gardening gloves when handling thorny roses. 

Some rose varieties (such as the stem rose) will need support, such as staking or trellising. Always read the plant label before planting and follow those instructions to get the most out of your rose bush. 

Planting roses: aftercare

Water your new rose bushes regularly, especially during dry spells. Don’t let the soil dry out. 

And all roses love a good feed, particularly horse manure. 

The optimal time for manure is during planting, but you can also use manure as winter mulch around the base of the plant to help keep the soil warm while nutrients slowly soak into the ground throughout the winter. 

Weed around the base of the plant and remove dead leaves and branches to prevent fungal infections. 

Prune your roses in early spring to promote growth and maintain the plant’s shape. Check our expert’s guide to pruning roses for the full lowdown. 

Fertilise your rose bushes in the spring, then again after the first flowering to promote the formation of new buds. And feed again in winter with a mix of compost of horse manure or manure granules. 

FAQs

How and when to plant roses?

Avoid planting during or before frost. The optimal time to plant roses is autumn, but you can also plant as early as February or March if the soil is warming up after winter. Choose a spot in full sun and leave 60-90cm between each rose bush. Prepare the ground with good manure and compost before transplanting. 

What soil is good for roses?

Roses thrive in loose lime soil but also do well in any nutrient-rich or moist sandy soil. Mix heavy soil with soil improver and manure before planting to improve drainage. 

How deep do you plant a rose?

The general rule is to plant the highest root branch 10cm below the soil surface. Also, plant the frost-sensitive grafting site 5cm below the soil surface. 

Any questions?

I hope I’ve provided all your questions about planting roses, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Or you could check MOOWY’s Help & Advice section — I like to call it our online gardening encyclopaedia. 

Thanks for reading! And happy growing! 

Louis Hooft
Founder & Lawn expert
Introducing Louis Hooft, the founder of MOOWY and your reliable expert. With a profound love for stunning lawns and extensive experience in garden maintenance, Louis is here to assist garden enthusiasts in achieving a greener and livelier outdoors than ever before. Count on Louis for invaluable tips, clever tricks, and top-notch products to make your garden flourish!
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