Ultimate rose growing guide

growing roses

How to grow roses, including planting, pruning, propagation, care and variety selection

The rose has always been the queen of flowers and by far the most popular flower in the world. This symbol of beauty and elegance is a classic for bouquets and decorations, and it's prized in gardens as well. There are many types and thousands of varieties of roses with unique sizes, shapes and colors. Roses can stand out as small shrubs on their own, as part of a mixed flower bed and in their climbing form they can beautify any fence or trellis. 

Growers divide roses mainly by their growing habit: shrub roses, climbers, ramblers, groundcover roses, miniature roses and tree roses. In addition, roses are also categorized into three main groups: wild roses, old garden roses and modern roses.

Find more about rose types and varieties

Growing roses is easier than many people think. Just follow a few basic principles and you too can grow this queen of flowers in your garden.

How to grow roses

rose careRoses are fairly hardy perennials, so they're not difficult to grow. The most important factors for successful rose cultivation are a sunny location with good air flow and well-drained soil. Most rose species can easily thrive in USDA climates 5-9, but some rose species can tolerate cooler conditions down to USDA 3.


Roses are light-loving plants that require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunshine a day. Plenty of morning sun is ideal, to quickly dry the rose leaves from dew or rain, which helps prevent disease. Good airflow around rose bushes is also important for the same reason. Roses will grow in partial shade, but they won't thrive and flower as they would in a sunny location.

Watering roses

watering rose platnsOlder roses have deep roots and can cope with prolonged drought, but it's still best to give them an occasional watering during flowering and hot summer days. As with other plants, water roses early in the morning, late in the evening or in cloudy weather so that they don't suffer from cold water shock. Mulch is an excellent addition when planting roses, as it prevents the soil from drying out quickly. Mulch made of natural materials (wood chips, bark, dry leaves, etc.) in a layer of 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) is ideal, with the base of the plant kept clear of the mulch.

What roses really hate is permanently waterlogged soil, which is why well-drained soil and moderate watering are important. Watering should be infrequent and deep rather than more frequently with less water. When watering roses, the leaves should not be wetted as this increases the likelihood of fungal diseases. 

Best soil for roses

Roses do best in well-drained, nutrient-rich soils. If you have heavier clay soil, add sand or other draining material when planting to improve its drainage. The ideal soil pH for roses should be neutral to slightly acidic (pH 6 - 7).

fertilizing roses

Fertilizing roses

Between April and July, or until the rose stops flowering, support your roses with monthly doses of a slow-release fertilizer. The ideal fertilizer is compost, which releases nutrients slowly. Alternatively, granular fertilizers (NPK 5-10-5 or 5-10-10) with a controlled release can be worked into the soil around the rose, keeping it away from the stems.

When fertilizing roses, less is more, so you need to be careful in order to avoid over-fertilization. This is especially a risk in case of liquid synthetic fertilizers, which have an immediate effect. Over-fertilized plants attract pests such as aphids like a magnet.

How to plant roses

how to plant rosesYou can get roses as either bare root rose seedlings or in pots. The best time to plant bare root roses is when they are dormant (early spring or late autumn), following the same procedure as for planting bare root fruit trees. Potted rose seedlings can be planted throughout the year, except for the winter and the hottest part of summer.

In both cases, choose a sunny location with well-drained soil and dig a planting hole that is a bit larger and deeper than the rose's root system. Soak the bare root rose seedlings in water for 12 hours, cut the thin roots by a third, and trim the thickerwatering roses ones at the ends (to refresh wounds) before planting. For roses in pots, take care that the roots are not bounded. If they are, loosen or prune them to allow them to easily establish themselves in the soil.

After this treatment, place the rose in the planting hole, cover with soil, placing the transition between the roots and stems about an inch (2.5 cm) below ground level and tamp down thoroughly. Then water generously and repeat watering regularly after the top layer of soil dries out. 

Rose plant care

Pruning roses

rose careRegular pruning helps roses to focus their energy on flowering and keeps them in the desired shape. However, it is important to know when is the right time to prune roses. Roses should be cut after the last frosts in spring, when their buds are swelling. Exceptions are roses that flower only once a year or roses that flower on old wood (e.g. climbing or rambler roses), which should only be pruned after they have flowered.

More on how and when to prune roses

Rose care in winter

If you're in a colder climate, it's a good idea to overwinter your roses by adding additional insulation to the base of the plant. Pile soil or compost up to a height of 8 inches (20 cm) above the plant's core, or cover it with mulch or straw. This is especially true for roses that are sensitive to low temperatures (tea hybrids, floribundas and other smaller modern roses). Stop fertilizing roses two months before winter.

Propagating roses from cuttings

The most practical and widely used way to propagate roses is with cuttings.  The ideal time to take rose cuttings is during their fastest growth in the spring/summer. Choose young stems that are no longer soft, but are not yet fully matured or with flowers already blooming.

Choose a healthy stem from the top and outside of the plant (stems from the middle of the plant are less likely to root) with at least 3 leaves and take a 4 – 6 inch (10 - 15 cm) cutting at a 45° angle to enlarge the rooting area. Most cuttings root better if this cut is made just below the leaf.

The bottom of the cutting can be dipped in growth hormone for a greater success rate, and the cutting can be planted in a pot or directly in the garden. The potting medium can be a mixture of peat and drainage material (sand, perlite, vermiculite, etc.) or a specialized potting medium with good drainage and plenty of organic matter. 

Water planted cuttings generously and cover them with large glass jars to maintain temperature and humidity. Provide partial shade to prevent them from overheating. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. The cuttings usually take root within 3 to 4 weeks, and then they can be transplanted to their final place in the garden. Avoid temperature shocks by transplanting late in the evening or when it is cloudy). The glass jar can also be left on the plant during the winter for insulation.


Useful tips:

1. Complete rose types and varieties overview: Rose types and varieties

2. How to prune roses: Pruning roses in 6 easy steps


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