With some prior planning, you can set your rose bush up for a successful blooming season.

The rose bush you buy at the nursery probably looks nothing like the picture on the container's tag, and certainly nothing like the beautiful plant you imagine growing in your garden. Regardless of the variety of rose bush (and there are oh-so-many options) you choose, they often come wrapped in plastic, packed in sawdust, and resemble nothing more than a thorny stick.

However, these plants are just waiting for the right environment to grow, bloom, and show off their natural beauty. Before purchasing a wagonload of rose plants, and then scratching your head over what to do with those scraggly things, read up for tips on how to prepare a proper home for your rose bushes.

rose bush
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1. Create the Right Conditions to Grow Good Roses

Time it Right

As excited as we all are to get out and dig in the garden at the first hint of warmer weather, we need to practice restraint. Rose bushes should be planted when temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees, and when all chances of freezing temperatures have passed. This will give the plant time to settle in and form strong roots before the full heat of the summer hits.

Seek Sunshine

Fortunately, for those of us living in the sunny South, roses love sunshine. Choose a planting site with at least six or more hours of full sun and leave the shade for some of the other plants that thrive in the shadows. One caveat: if you are in an area with extremely hot growing seasons and limited water/rainfall, your roses will appreciate the relief offered by some afternoon shade.

Look for Protection

Choose a site that is protected from strong winds, and avoid planting roses under trees, which may provide too much shade and cause damage from falling branches.

Don't Crowd Your Rose Bushes

There needs to be ample airflow around your plants to help prevent fungal diseases such as black spots and powdery mildew from forming. It is a good rule of thumb to plant roses at least three feet from other plants to avoid competition for soil nutrients. Now, let's get those roses in the ground.

2. Prepare the Hole

Dig a hole that is slightly wider but equally in-depth to the rose's root ball. 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. You can also mix in some compost or other organic matter with the soil if it is poor in quality.

3. Prepare the Rose

First, it's important to protect your hands and arms with a pair of gardening gloves. If your rose came in a container, gently remove it from the pot: grip the plant by the base, invert the pot, and gently pull the plant out of the pot. You may need to wiggle the plant a bit to loosen some of the roots from the bottom 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 12 hours before planting to ensure they don't dry out.

3. Plant the Rose

Graham Thomas
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For container-grown roses, place the root ball in the hole, making sure the graft union is slightly below the soil line. When the plant settles, the graft union should be fully buried, about one inch underground. Gently separate the root ball in the planting hole, and fill it with soil. 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.

For bare-root roses, make a mound in the center of the hole, using a mixture of the removed soil and bone meal. 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. Spread the roots down the sides of the mound. Begin filling in the hole with soil, keeping the roots as spread out as possible.

4. Water, Mulch, and Care

Water deeply and add one to two inches of mulch around the base of the rose bush and over the root zone. To get the plant established, water new roses every other day, especially in dry weather. You will know the rose has acclimated when it starts to send out new growth, a real cause for gardener celebration.

Even after you see new growth, continue to water your rose every week to encourage a deep root system. Apply a granular fertilizer when it starts to leaf out in spring and after each flush of blooms, or about every six weeks throughout the growing season. Stop fertilizing 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.