How to Plant Roses
Soil types and Preparation
It is wise to think well in advance about the soil you are going to be planting your rose into.
To begin with it is good to know a little about your soil type. Is it sandy, chalky, clay or loam? On the whole roses love clay, enjoy a well-balanced loam, tolerate sandy conditions but will struggle in chalk so soils of the latter two types will require conditioning. It is also useful to know the pH of your soil. pH testing kits are readily available and are inexpensive, therefore a good investment. Roses prefer a neutral to acid soil, a pH of around 6.5 but are very happy on the margins of this. A PH of 7 or below indicates an acid soil and will require the addition of garden lime or mushroom compost to help redress the balance. Likewise, an alkaline soil will require improvement. Well-rotted farmyard manure is ideal but not always readily available. Peat is also good but as a finite resource should be avoided if possible; there are some very good peat substitutes available instead.
Soil should be well dug in advance and it is at this stage that any additions can be made.
How you can expect to receive your bare root roses
Please be aware that bare-root roses are tied together in bundles and if ordering several roses they may arrive mixed. When your roses arrive please separate your roses carefully before planting by cutting the string.
Be careful not to plant bare-root roses if their roots are dry or during heavy frosts. When your bare root roses arrive there will be sufficient moisture within the packaging to ensure that should they arrive during heavy frosts or snow they will not come to any harm if left unopened for up to a week. If the bad weather persists for any longer than a week then we recommend either ‘heeling them in’ or placing the roses still tied in their bundles into a container of damp compost. If the roots of your roses appear dry they will need to be re-hydrated by submerging them for up to 2 hours in a bucket of water.
Heeling in your roses for bad weather
If your bare root rose order arrives in a period of heavy frost it is going to be very difficult to plant it. Therefore, in preparation for its arrival have an area of soil covered with an old piece of carpet or something the frost is unlikely to penetrate, in which the rose maybe ‘heeled in’ until it is able to be planted. When it arrives dig a trench deep enough to cover all the roots. Lay the rose against the side of the trench on which you have mounded the soil and simply dig more soil over the roots, compressing the soil as you go.
How to plant bare-root roses
How to plant a rose bought in a container
If possible the ground should be prepared well in advance, dug deeply and dressed with well-rotted farmyard manure, compost or other organic material and bone meal. Never use fresh farmyard manure and never allow any sort of manure or fertiliser to come into direct contact with the roots when planting.
Ensure the hole dug is wider and deeper than the container in which the rose is growing, with the bottoms of the branches around an inch below soil level. When removing your rose from its pot we would recommend leaving the root ball intact, instead of teasing the roots out, as this could damage the young rose’s delicate root system which needs time to establish. There is no need to tease the roots out but better to leave the root ball intact. We would also advise that if a rose is purchased before June to leave it in its pot until after this time to give the roots time to establish and bind with the surrounding soil.
With the plant upright carefully replace the soil, remembering to ensure that the first inch or so of the branches are below soil level. Then firm gently with the feet to ensure that there are no air pockets around the roots.
Water well. Don’t forget that container roses planted in the summer will require regular watering. For more advice on feeding and watering click here.
How to plant roses in pots
Choose a large container with good drainage holes. As a rough guide, for smaller shrubs which grow up to 3ft, use pots with a 14 – 16 inch diameter. For larger ramblers and scramblers use pots with a depth of up to 20 – 22 inches.
As with planting roses into the ground the base of the stems should be just below the surface of the soil. If using a ready-made compost use a loam-based one if possible, (such as John Innes No.3). Always add drainage to the bottom of the pot, shingle is fine, roses hate to have their feet in water.
Allow at least two inches between the top of the pot and the compost level, for ease of watering.
Remember that pot grown roses will need regular watering during the summer and should be fed with high potash, liquid, fertiliser, every two weeks throughout the growing season.
Care of established roses in pots
Every year when the rose is dormant during January or February, compost should be scraped away to a depth of a few inches and replaced. Then, after approximately three years the dormant rose should be removed and all the compost replaced. To do this remove the rose from the pot, gripping it near the base. Most of the compost will come out with the roots. Carefully knock away any loose compost and tease out the roots with your fingers before re-potting.
How to plant standard tree roses
The general rules for planting roses must be followed but it is important to stake standard roses. The stake should be in position before the rose, about 18" into the ground. The standard should then be tethered to the stake using at least two ties. One as close to the crown as possible and one about halfway down the steam. Ensure that the ties have spacers positioned between the stem and the stake to avoid rubbing. If planting in an exposed area it is a good idea to position the stake on the side where strong winds are most likely to come from. This will hopefully mean that the main force of high winds will hit the post first, reducing the risk of damage to the standard rose.
Transplanting mature roses
Prepare the area well. Prune the rose as hard as possible, leaving some younger wood. When digging up the rose, try to retain the soil as a ball around the roots. It is likely that some roots will be damaged in this process but as long as most of the fibrous roots remain intact this should not cause too much concern. Plant with care, being careful not to break up the root ball when treading the soil down. Water well and thereafter, regularly to help the roots establish quickly.
Specific rose replant disease / rose replant disorder
Rose sickness or specific rose replant disease occurs when a new rose is planted where a rose has previously been growing. This means that roses should never be planted directly into the ground where an old rose has just been taken out unless the ground has been treated, replaced or given sufficient time to rest. If you are looking to replace an old rose with a new one then it is advisable to allow the ground a period of at least six years before planting any new roses or alternatively replace a significant amount of soil from where the original rose had been growing. However, a simpler and more effective solution is to dig a hole large enough to contain a good-sized bio-degradable cardboard box. Place the cardboard box into the hole and plant your rose within the box to the correct planting depth, filling it with entirely NEW soil or compost. By the time the bio-degradable box begins to break down the surrounding soil will have been given sufficient time to rest and the effects of rose replant sickness will be avoided.
If a new rose was to be planted directly into untreated soil, it’s likely to be stunted, will produce fewer and fewer flowers each year and generally look in very poor health. Please be aware that rose replant disease isn't always instant either, it is possible for a new rose to seem perfectly healthy within its first year, then suddenly start to look sickly thereafter, becoming increasingly worse.