Late autumn and early spring are the traditional times of year for planting roses, but to get them off to the best possible start, thorough ground preparation and careful planting are key. Available as containerised plants, container-grown plants and bare root roses, we take a look at the main differences between each type and explain how to plant them correctly.
Keen to add more of these classic beauties to your planting scheme? Browse our full range of roses including floribunda, hybrid tea roses, climbing varieties and hedging roses.
Why should you plant roses during the autumn?
Planting roses during their dormant phase (when they’re not in leaf or flower) is the best way to give the roots a chance to establish. You can also plant roses in the late winter or early spring, providing the ground isn’t frozen, but doing so in the autumn while there’s some residual warmth in the soil helps to give the roots a head start.
How are rose plants supplied?
- Bare root roses: The best way to buy roses is as bare root plants which are dug up during dormancy and available for order during the autumn. Having been grown in open ground, their roots tend to be evenly spread which makes them easier to plant. If you buy bare roots, make sure that you rehydrate them with a soak in a bucket of cold water and plant them as soon as possible.
- Containerised roses: These are similar to bare roots except they’ve been dug up and potted into a container, meaning they’re available for a longer period. You should treat these in the same way as bare roots, planting them as soon as you can to give them the best start.
- Container-grown roses: You can usually buy these roses all year round. Grown in pots for more than one season, these more established plants can be relocated into the ground at any time of year, although it’s best to avoid excessively hot, dry, or cold, wet and windy weather.
How to prepare the ground for roses
From floribunda roses like Rose ‘Queen Elizabeth’, to climbing roses and hybrid tea roses like Rose ‘Nostalgia’, there’s a huge variety from which to choose. Fortunately for gardeners, however, their planting requirements are broadly similar. Roses like a sunny area of the garden where it’s reasonably sheltered, and they like to go into a generous-sized hole, backfilled with soil containing plenty of organic matter.
Pick a spot where there’s little competition from other trees and shrubs, preferably where you haven’t grown roses before. Give the patch a thorough weed and remove rocks and stones before digging a generous amount of organic matter into the soil – well rotted manure or compost is ideal. Make your hole twice the diameter of the spread of the roots and about a spade’s depth. Loosen the soil at the base of the hole to help the roots to penetrate the soil.
How to plant roses
Place the plant into the centre of its hole and spread its roots evenly. If you’re planting containerised roses, you might have to carefully tease the roots apart to encourage the plant to spread out under the ground. With the plant sited, use a stick placed across the hole to check that the graft union – the place where the stem has been joined to the rootstock – is level with the soil surface, not below it. Once you’re happy, backfill the hole and firm the soil gently to remove air pockets. Top dress with a rose fertiliser and water in. Once your roses are established, a feed and mulch after pruning each spring is advisable.
If you’re planting roses to replace old plants that you’ve removed from the same area, there’s a risk your new roses could suffer so-called ‘replant disease’ which limits the new plant’s ability to thrive and can even kill it. To avoid this, dig a bigger hole and replace the soil with soil dug from elsewhere in the garden. It’s thought replant disease may arise from a concentration of rose pathogens and pests in the soil surrounding the roots of the old plant.
Planting your roses in the autumn is the best way to make sure they get off to a great start ready to thrive once spring arrives. For more information on caring for your favourite roses, head over to our roses masterclass where you’ll find a collection of the best advice on growing one of our most traditional and lovely flowers. Head over to our roses hub page for even more advice on how to keep your rose healthy throughout the year.
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You and David English Roses and perhaps others, advise planting the graft below the surface yet other sources recommend planting it above or at surface level (RHS, Monty Don, Style Roses), why is there such contradictory advice?
Hello Suzanne – Horticulturists were always trained to plant roses with the graft below the surface to reduce suckering but recent research suggests that this can encourage rose dieback which is why the advice has changed. So I would plant your rose with the graft at surface level or just above if you have particularly heavy soil.
Will a rose tolerate being covered at the base by a black weed control sheet, and then be surrounded by Flint Stones? I would rather just plant them in the soil. My husband thinks otherwise. He wants to illuminate the problem of weeds. I would be grateful for your feed back.
Provided that the weed control fabric is porous to allow rainwater to reach the plants roots, then this will absolutely fine. Try not mound the stones up around the stem though.
All the best