Planting Roses

Based on the Olympia Rose Society web page article on planting and "Everything Roses" by Chris Fenn.

Note: There are as many ways to grow roses as there are rosarians. This information is offered as a general guideline for growing roses. If you have any questions, you can send an email to one of our Consulting Rosarians.


The first thing to determine is where the roses will be planted. Roses grow best in a sunny location; six hours daily is considered a minimum for lots of blooms. Try to select a location where there will be sun for at least half the day, not too near large trees or hedges. Morning sun with afternoon shade is preferable. Roses do best in relatively fine textured, but well drained, soils.

Space Requirements:

For most Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras a single row of roses requires a bed at least 3 feet wide; a double row needs 4 to 5 feet. For easier maintenance and to get to those beautiful blooms, it is preferable to not have more than two rows. Some roses do get larger and you need plan accordingly. Miniatures require about 1/3 this size and mini-floras about a half.

Soil Preparation:

Fall is the ideal time to prepare a garden bed. In most cases our soil is Georgia clay. I recommend double digging either the bed or the hole to be used. This will be about 18" total. For planting a single shrub double digging is still recommended if the ground has not been worked in the past or is mostly clay. Save the top third to half of the soil. Remove the remaining soil and add an equal amount of humus such as compost, ground pine bark, peat (spagham) moss and well-rotted manure. I prefer a mixture of one half ground pine bark and the other half compost or rotted manure. Peat moss seems to get lost in the clay too easily. The last third consists of sand and other nutrients. I prefer a little less sand and more ground pine bark. Use about 2/3 portion of sand and add gypsum and dolomite lime. Gypsum does not change the soil pH and should be added at a rate of 20- 40 pounds per 1000 square feet. A single shrub requires about one pound or a cup. Add dolomite lime at a rate of 50-100 pounds per 1000 square foot or about a cup for a single shrub. For an area the best method to mix the soil is a tiller, but a good spading fork will also work well though it will take considerably greater effort. If the area is larger than one or two people can handle consider renting a tiller. Ideally, this mixture should raise the bed about 6" from the original ground level. This will settle about 2 inches. The raised bed will provide additional drainage, which is highly desirable since although roses need lots of water, they do not like "wet feet".

Gypsum is primarily calcium sulfate, which provides both calcium and sulfur for the palnt. Like dolomite lime gypsum often comes in pelletized form for ease in spreading. It is recommended for both roses and tomatoes. It is a very good soil conditioner especially for our clay soils. Finally, it can also be used to counteract salt damage and spots due to animals; gypsum is pH neutral.

Timing and Planting:

Plant bare root roses from November through March when the soil is not frozen. Potted roses may be planted from November through April. Potted roses may also be planted in May, but care needs to be taken to insure the rose gets a good start.

Select only good quality rose bushes (preferably from a reputable nursery or mail order and only Grade 1 Roses). Store bare root roses in a cool place if they are not to be planted immediately. Keep them moist. Soak roots briefly before planting. Potted roses may be held indefinitely before planting, provided usual watering and feeding continue. Provided the pot is of sufficient size roses can also be planted in a pot. Trim the roots of bare root roses before planting. Delay pruning until end of February to mid March.

For bare root roses dig a hole at least 18 inches deep. Mound up the soil in the middle, and arrange the roots over this mound so that the bud union (where the rose is grafted to the root) is about an inch above the level of the bed. Compact or firm the soil somewhat to avoid having the rose sink into the hole after a year or so. Cover the roots with some soil, firm the soil around the roots and water thoroughly. When the soil has settled, finish filling the hole. Once the hole is filled, water again to both help settle the soil and to provide needed moisture. Add mulch to a depth of at least 2-3 inches. Note that like all your roses you may need to provide protection from winter winds and cold weather.


Watering in the winter is only required for newly planted roses or if there is no rain to avoid drying out the shrub. During the growing season roses require at least one inch of water per week. Slow soaking is best. Avoid overhead watering in the evening as it contributes to mildew and other diseases.