Rose bushes (Rosa spp.) can be finicky, and their roots may need to be removed because the plant is beyond saving or needs to be moved to a new location. If you are certain about the need to remove a rose bush and its roots, it pays to gather your supplies before beginning and have a thorough plan of what needs to be taken out. This project can require a great deal of time and manual labor.
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Preparing for Removal
You will need pruning shears, gardening gloves, compost and a sturdy shovel to remove a rose bush and its roots. Rose bushes can be sensitive to shock, so it's best to transplant mature rose bushes when dormant, usually in the later winter or early spring.
It will also be easier to transplant them if the ground is warmer, so hold off until the threat of frost has passed. If you plan to transplant, it's critical to water the bush thoroughly every day for one week prior to the move. You should also soak the roots in water for three hours before transplanting.
If the bush is no longer there and you just need to remove the roots, the process will be a bit simpler. You can move straight to the removal of the root ball.
Removing the Bush
If, however, you're planning to take out and transplant the rose bush, you should find a new location in well-drained soil that gets six to eight hours of daily sunlight. Before digging out the rose bush, you must dig out and prepare the new hole. Prepare a hole that measures about 2 x 2 feet and be prepared to dig more to accommodate a larger root ball. Add compost to the hole and work it into the bed, creating a small mound in the center on which the roots will sit.
The rose bush will need to be trimmed back in order for the transplant to be successful. Wearing gardening gloves, use shears to cut back the rose canes to 10 to 12 inches. Be careful not to cut off too much, as this could damage the bush. If you are not going to replant the bush, you can instead cut it down to a few inches above the ground.
Removing the Root Ball
You are now ready to dig out the rose bush roots. Start about 9 to 10 inches from the center of the bush and use the shovel to carefully dig down toward the middle. You will soon be able to feel the root ball. Keep going until the shovel easily slips under that root ball. Slowly lift it up and out, keeping the soil that is attached to the roots; do not attempt to shake off this soil when you remove the root ball.
Rose bush roots can extend deep into the soil, and it is important to remove as much of them as possible. Once the root ball is out, dig farther down and wider to look for any feeder roots. These can be pulled out with a gloved hand or pruned back further. You may need to dig as wide as 12 feet to access all of the roots.
If the rose bush was diseased, look for new growth in the fall and spray with a glyphosate herbicide; this will kill any remaining roots. Wear safety goggles and rubber gloves if you apply the glyphosate this way. To transplant, gently spread out the roots and place the bush in the prepared planting hole with the root crown at ground level. Fill the new hole halfway with the soil mixture, push this through the root ball and water thoroughly. Now, you can fill the hole with the rest of the soil, water one more time, and add mulch and rose fertilizer.
You can also use glyphosate by applying it directly to recently pruned ends of new growth. This will allow the phloem of the plant to carry the chemical to the roots. You'll want to wear rubber gloves, once again, and be sure to avoid contact with grass or other plants. You can use a paintbrush to ensure direct application.