How To Plant a Rose Bush for Beginners

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 wait 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 preparing a proper home for your rose bushes.

rose bush
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Create the Right Conditions to Grow Good Roses

Time it Right

As excited as we are to get out and dig in the garden at the first hint of warmer weather, we must practice restraint. Plant rose bushes when temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees and when all chances of freezing temperatures have passed. This timing will allow the plant 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 other plants that thrive in the shadows. One caution: if you are in an area with sweltering growing seasons and limited rainfall, your roses will appreciate the relief offered by some afternoon shade.

Look for Protection

Choose a site 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 must be ample airflow around your plants to help prevent fungal diseases such as black spots and powdery mildew. It is a good rule to plant roses at least three feet from other plants to avoid competition for soil nutrients.

Prepare the Soil

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 planting the rose. This mixture 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 some compost or other organic matter with the soil if it is poor in quality.

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 container, and gently pull it out. You may need to wiggle the plant a bit to loosen some roots from the pot's bottom.

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.

Plant the Rose

Graham Thomas
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Place the root ball in the hole for container-grown roses, ensuring the graft union is slightly below the soil line. When the plant settles, make sure to bury the graft union about one inch underground fully. Gently separate the root ball in the planting hole, and fill it with soil. When filled, water the soil to help it settle. Continue filling the hole and gently pat the soil down over the root zone to compact it slightly.

Make a mound in the center of the hole for bare-root roses, using a mixture of the removed soil and bone meal. Make the mound high enough so that the knobby graft union is barely below the soil level when you place the rose bush on top of it. Spread the roots down the sides of the mound. Begin filling the hole with soil, keeping the roots as spread out as possible.

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—water new roses every other day to get the plant established, 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.

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