How to Plant, Grow and Care for Roses
Roses are a staple in many home gardens and for good reason. Newer varieties are easy to grow, more drought-tolerant, and bloom profusely. Learn how to select, plant, and care for roses.
What Are Roses?
Roses are classified as shrub flowers and have over three hundred species. These shrubs have over three hundred species and tens of thousands of cultivars. Roses come in various colours and can best be identified for its multi-petal bulb and long thorn-filled stem. These flowers have been a symbol for romance and elegance for centuries and are commonly gifted in bouquet form or as part of larger floral arrangements.
Choosing the Right Type of Roses for Your Garden
The first step in growing roses is selecting the right rose bush or rose plant for your yard or garden. Roses, regardless of the type, grow best in full sun in well-drained soil. Putting the right plant in the right place goes a long way toward growing healthy plants. So which rose is right for you? Here are a few of the types of roses that are most commonly grown:
- Shrub Roses: Shrub roses are great choices for landscape beds and foundation plantings next to the house. They tend to bloom a few times during the season. There are many new options that are pest and disease resistant.
- Groundcover Roses: Groundcover roses add a bit of colour to hot, dry, sunny areas. They’re drought-tolerant and beautiful when allowed to spill over a wall. Climbing roses are a little less cold hardy than shrub roses, so check the plant information carefully when purchasing.
- Hybrid Tea Roses: Hybrid teas are the most popular and also the largest amongst all rose classes. They are the classic "bouquet" rose, and require the most hands-on care. They’ll reward you with gorgeous cut flowers, though.
Roses prefer to be in the sun and can be grown in a pot or directly in-ground. If you are planning to grow in a pot, then it will require a well-draining pot to thrive in. Moisture-controlling soils is ideal for growing these flowers and is important in ensuring the roses do not sit in excess water which commonly leads to plant disease. Roses can be planted bare-root into your garden, or in a container for growth in a pot.
When to Plant Roses
While roses become dormant during the winter months, it is ideal to be planting roses during the spring season or in the fall at least six weeks before the first sign of frost is discovered. Should you decide to plant your roses in the fall season, it is important to do so as early as possible to allow for its roots to grow well in preparation for its winter dormancy.
Where to Plant Roses
Some species of roses can grow well in partial sun although roses generally require full sunlight. Roses do best when they get 6 or more hours of sunlight each day. Whether you decide to plant your roses in your yard or in a pot, roses require ample space and do not grow well in overcrowded gardens or containers.
How to Plant Bare Root Roses in Your Garden
- Remove plants from their packaging and soak their roots in a bucket of tepid water for an hour.
- Use a measuring tape to measure the length of the roots (from the tip of the roots to where the roots meet the stem).
- Dig a hole that is two inches shallower than the length of the roots and twice as wide.
- Mix equal parts of moisture-controlling garden soil and the soil removed from the planting hole. This will ensure that roses receive ample nutrition while establishing new roots in the garden.
- Using the soil mixture (or potting mix for containers), build a mound in the planting hole that almost reaches to top of the hole.
- Spread the roots evenly over the mound.
- Fill in the hole completely with more of the soil mixture, covering the roots. Pack it firmly.
- Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch on the surface of the planting hole, to help conserve moisture in the soil.
- Water thoroughly.
How to Plant Roses In a Container
- Remove rose plant from the pot.
- Use measuring tape to measure the height of the root ball.
- Dig a planting hole that is two inches shallower than the height of the root ball, and twice as wide.
- Place the plant in the planting hole. The top of the root ball should be about an inch above the edge of the hole. (Soil will settle over time, so you don’t want to plant the rose too deep.)
- Use moisture-controlling potting soil and fill in around the shrub. Cover the top of the root ball with an inch of the soil mixture.
- Cover the surface of the planting hole with 2 inches of mulch, to help keep soil moist.
- Water thoroughly.
How to Grow Roses
Soil & pH
Roses prefer a slightly acidic soil mixture, between pH levels of 6 and 7. Growing roses will require well-draining soil that can control moisture. Use the following two products to improve the soil conditions in order to promote better health for your roses:
- Moisture-controlling potting soil will help make sure that your plants do not get over watered or under watered. It uses a special formula that absorbs 33% more moisture that also ends up improving root strength.
- Moisture-controlling garden soil will also help improve the native soil and hold up more water. One of the key features of this product is that it improves aeration and drainage for stronger root development.
Roses need well-drained soil to flourish, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need water. Regular watering is especially important as roses are establishing new roots in the landscape. Roses are fairly drought-tolerant after the first growing season.
For the first 2 months after you first plant a rosebush, thoroughly water your plants 2-3 times per week. If you reach your finger into the soil and the top 2 inches are still moist, however, wait a few days.
For the remainder of the first growing season, water thoroughly a couple of times per week. Once plants are established in the landscape, you will only need to water roses during drought conditions. If the leaves take on a greyish cast or begin to curl, you’ll know the plants need water.
Whenever you water, avoid getting water on the leaves (an invitation to disease) by directly aiming the water stream at the roots of each plant.
With consideration to roses’ preference of full sun exposure, it is easy for them to lose moisture quickly and often. Gardeners are known to add mulch to their rose bushes in order to maintain moisture longer and to assist in preventing weeds in the roses’ area. Mulch is recommended for roses that are being planted in both gardens and containers.
Cedar mulch is the most ideal type of mulch for roses and is good for maintaining soil moisture in extremely hot temperatures.
First, allow the plants to get settled in the garden. Then, after the first month, feed plants with water soluble rose plant fertilizer to help replace the nutrition your growing roses have taken up from the soil, so your plant will produce beautiful blooms. Be sure to follow label directions.
How to Control Pests That Consume Your Roses
Roses can be affected by a variety of fungal, bacterial, and insect issues. Providing the plants with the good care outlined above goes a long way toward preventing these problems, but it isn’t fail-safe.
Aphids and Japanese beetles are insects known to consume roses. Insecticidal concentrates and insecticidal soaps are both effective in getting rid of insects like aphids and other insects. To get rid of Japanese beetles, Japanese beetle killer products are ideal in removing the beetles with a natural active ingredient.
While mulching your soil can help with preventing weeds, weed control spray products also help with the removal of weeds and controls more than 50 varieties of lawn weeds with a formula that won’t hurt your lawn.
Rabbits, gophers and deer are known to eat roses which will greatly affect the potential of your roses’ future growth. Using an animal repellent spray can help in preventing animals from consuming your rose bush.
How to Prune Roses
The most ideal time to prune your roses is in very early spring, while they are still dormant. Read the instructions below to prune your roses in the most effective way:
- Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands, and use loppers or hand pruners. Do not shear roses.
- Cut each branch back to an outward-facing bud. Roses can be cut back hard, but we don’t recommend removing more than one-third to one-half of the overall growth.
- Remove old, diseased, or dead wood by cutting the affected branches down to the bottom of the plant.
- Promote airflow within the shrub by removing crossing or rubbing branches within the centre of the shrub. Always cut back to an outward-facing bud. You can remove up to one-half of the growth from within the centre of the shrub to promote air movement.
Read our article to learn more about how to prune roses effectively and carefully.