How to Plant Roses

A small rose bush being planted by hands
Alison Miksch/Getty Images
Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 1 rose bush
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $50

When you buy a rose plant, it often looks nothing like the beautiful plant you imagine blooming in your yard. Instead, the rose you purchase may be bundled in a plastic bag filled with sawdust or peat moss and have short, leafless canes. It may even come bare root, resembling a thorny dead stick. But these roses are not nearly as fragile as they appear, and you could probably just plop it in a hole with a good chance of success. However, a little extra effort will pay off through a healthier plant and more blooms.

Conditions for Good Roses

Choose a site with full sun. Six or more hours of sun is recommended. Some roses will be perfectly happy in partial shade, but most roses bloom their best if they are in a spot that gets sun all day. The exception to this rule is when growing roses in areas with extremely hot growing seasons and limited water. In this case, your roses will appreciate the relief offered by some afternoon shade.

Roses are not fussy about soil, but since they are heavy feeders, a rich loam is ideal. The soil pH can be slightly acidic to neutral (5.5 to 7.0). It is usually advisable to work in several inches of organic matter, especially if you have poor soil or heavy clay, Make sure the soil you plant your roses in has good drainage. Roses need regular deep watering, but their roots will rot if left to sit in wet soil.

Finally, do not crowd your rose bushes. The more airflow around the plants, the less likely they will be to get disfiguring fungal diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew on their leaves.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Shovel or trowel
  • Work gloves

Materials

  • Bone meal or superphosphate
  • New rose plant
  • Compost (if needed)
  • Mulch
  • Granular rose fertilizer

Instructions

illustration of how to plant roses
Kelly Miller / The Spruce
  1. Prepare the Planting Hole

    Dig a hole that is slightly wider but equally in depth to the rose's root ball. This will generally be about 15 to 18 inches deep by 18 to 24 inches wide.

    Mix a handful of bone meal or superphosphate into the soil you removed and save it for refilling the hole once the rose is planted. This will help the rose bush acclimate to its new home. Don’t feed it with anything else at planting time. You want the roots to take hold before the top starts sending out a lot of new growth.

    Mixing in some compost or other organic matter with the removed soil is a good idea if it is poor in quality.

  2. Prepare the Rose

    If your rose came in a container, gently remove it from the pot and loosen the roots a bit so they will start to extend out as soon as they are planted. Gripping the plant by the base (wearing gloves), then inverting the pot usually allows you to easily slip it out of the pot.

    If your rose is bare-root, unpackage the roots and inspect them. Clip away any roots that are broken or soft with rot. Soak the roots for about an hour before planting to ensure they don't dry out.

    Tip

    If you are transplanting a larger rose, prune the canes down to 6 to 8 inches long. This will allow the rose bush to put more of its energy into its roots, rather than trying to keep excessive top growth alive. Roses are best transplanted in early spring, before new growth begins.

  3. Plant the Rose

    Make a mound in the center of the hole, using a mixture of the removed oil and bone mean. Make the mound high enough so that when you place the rose bush on top of it, the knobby graft union is barely below the soil level. When the plant settles, the graft union should be fully buried, about 1 inch underground.

    Warm Weather Tip

    Gardeners planting roses in warm climates may prefer to leave the bud union above ground since there is little chance of frost damage. You can bury the graft no matter where you are gardening, but when it is underground, there is always the chance that sprouts will grow from the rootstock, resulting in a plant that is genetically different (and inferior) to the grafted portion.

    Spread the roots down the sides of the mound. Begin filling in the hole with soil and superphosphate, keeping the roots as spread out as possible. Water the soil when the hole is just about filled to help settle it. Continue filling the hole and gently pat the soil down over the root zone to slightly compact it.

    Tip

    If there is still a chance of freezing temps, you can loosely pile soil or mulch around the base of the rose canes to keep them from drying out. Remove this soil when the temperatures warm.

  4. Apply Water and Mulch

    Water deeply and apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch over the roots of the rose around its base. Water at least once per week, to get your rose plant established. You will know the rose has acclimated when it starts to send out new growth.

  5. Care for Your Rose

    Continue to water your rose every week to encourage a deep root system. Feed it with a granular fertilizer mixed into the soil when it starts to leaf out in spring and after each flush of blooms, or about every six weeks throughout the growing season. Stop feeding about six weeks before your first frost date, but continue watering until the ground is frozen. In frost-free climates, water the rose all winter.