When you plant rose bushes (Rosa spp.), it's all about the location. While the specific requirements can vary with different rose cultivars, a sunny spot is almost always the best for roses. With proper planting techniques, your roses are off to a strong, healthy start. Soon, they'll display glossy-green leaves and colorful blooms that return each year with proper care.
Bare-Root vs. Container Roses
When you plant rose bushes, you have the choice of buying bare-root or container bushes. Bare-root roses essentially look like twigs. Even though the plant might look dead, it's still alive but in a dormant state. You can store them longer and plant them earlier than container roses.
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Container roses already have leaves and sometimes blooms on them. This makes them look more appealing, and you can get an idea of what the plant will look like. However, when the plant is already producing flowers, it can take energy away from establishing strong roots after planting.
When to Plant Rose Bushes
Timing often depends on the type of rose bush you choose. Bare-root plants need to be planted no later than two weeks after the last average frost date in your area to give them plenty of time to grow. They can be planted as early as six weeks before the last expected frost since they don't have any leaves or flower buds on them that can get damaged from the cold.
Container roses are usually planted later in the season after the risk of cold damage has passed. You usually won't find them in plant nurseries until spring. The ideal planting time is late in the spring or early in the summer, but you can usually plant them at any time with success.
Rose Bush Location
Sunlight is one of the biggest factors in choosing a rose bush location. Find a spot with at least six hours of daily sun. The way the sun hits the area can change with the seasons. If you live in a cold climate, ideally find a spot that receives sun year-round. In warmer climates, some afternoon shade during the hottest parts of the year can protect your roses.
Planting roses along the foundation of your home can also benefit your roses if you live in a colder climate. The foundation provides a bit of shelter from the cold and wind of the winter months. Make sure that you're not planting a rose bush so close to the foundation that a roof overhang will prevent enough rainfall from reaching the plant.
Rose Bush Soil Requirements
Loose, loamy soil is ideal for roses. Clay soils are too compact and hold too much water, potentially causing root rot due to the soil becoming waterlogged. You want soil that drains well to prevent root rot issues. You can amend soil with compost to help improve the fertility of it.
Soil pH is another factor in choosing a location. Relatively neutral soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0 works well for roses. Use a soil pH tester to determine if your garden soil falls within that range.
Preparing to Plant
After you make your soil amendments, dig a hole for your rose bush. Dig a large hole to accommodate the root ball. Make the hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and only as deep. A hole that is about 15 to 18 inches wide works well for most rose bushes.
When you're planting multiple roses, dig the holes at least 24 to 36 inches apart and leave more space if your roses grow wide. Leaving plenty of space between plants allows for air circulation, which cuts down on the risk of powdery mildew and downy mildew.
Planting Bare-Root Roses
Store bare-root roses in a cool, dark spot, ensuring the packing material is moist until you're ready to plant them. Place your bare-root roses in water for eight to 12 hours before you plan to plant them and leave the plants in the water until you're ready to put them in the ground.
Cut back the canes using sanitized pruning shears to leave only three to five buds. Trim damaged roots before planting and cut about 1 inch off all roots to encourage new growth. Place in the hole, cover the roots with soil, press down the soil and water the rose bush thoroughly.
Planting Container Roses
Tip the container to the side to help the rose bush slide out of it. Squeeze or shake the container gently if it doesn't come out easily. Loosen the roots slightly and spread them out in the hole when you plant it. Fill the hole with the soil and press it down. Water the newly planted container rose well.