How to plant and grow roses

Here's a brief guide on how to plant and grow your roses...

Planting out bare roots

  • Soak the root in a bucket of water overnight.
  • Dig a hole at least as deep and wide as a spade head.
  • Fork the base of the hole over well to break up the soil and add a handful of all-round fertilizer (e.g. Blood, fish and bone or chicken manure pellets).
  • Mound a small pile of soil - mixed with a little compost - in the centre of the hole to support the crown of the rose.
  • Place the rose in the centre.
  • Lay a bamboo cane across the top of the hole to make sure that the ‘union’ of the rose (ie the union between the root plant and the graft, which looks like a knee) is slightly below soil level. If it isn’t, dig the hole more deeply. This is crucial. If the union is above soil level, you promote the formation of suckers from the root material. These may then outgrow the grafted rose on top.
  • Fill in the hole with soil mixed with well rotted manure (or home-made compost).
  • Firm down with your heel, mulch well and water.

Soil and Site

  • Choose a site that gets at least 50% of the day in the sun.
  • If you are replacing old roses with new roses remove as much of the old soil as possible and replace with soil that hasn’t grown roses before (the old soil will grow anything else apart from roses).
  • Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots and place a handful of bone meal at the bottom of the hole, mixing in with the soil.
  • Place the rose in the ground and backfill with topsoil that has been enriched with organic matter (garden compost, manure or a proprietary rose and shrub compost).
  • Make sure the graft union (stumpy bit) is at, or slightly below soil level.
  • Water well.
  • Feed and mulch in spring.
For climbing roses
As a general rule, use climbers on walls, fences, pillars and pergolas and ramblers will grow into hedges, trees over large arches and may also be used on pillars and pergolas. 
To train them to grow horizontally (fan out)...
  • Stretch wires out securely along the wall/fence, and bend the rose over, attaching it to the wire with string or raffia. The first wire should be around 60cm above soil level and further wires at 60cm intervals.
  • After a time the stems trained horizontally will throw up vertical stems. Use the strongest verticals arising from the base and /or the middle of the plant to train along higher wires to create another tier if required.
  • Prune the remaining vertical stems to one centimetre from the horizontal stem during September-October. By following this procedure you will avoid an unsightly tall plant with a few flowers at the top and nothing below. 

Growing Roses in Containers

Roses have a really deep root run, so are not ideal for growing in containers. However, you could try using a 50cm+ diameter container pot with a climbing rose - make sure you plant in very good quality compost (especially for roses). Avoid shrub roses, as you would not be able to get adequate support for them as they grow; and look for specially bred varieties for containers.

Also, as with any plant in a container, make sure it is kept fed and watered.

Other rose articles by Sarah:

 - Find out how to pick and arrange your roses

 - Learn how to prune roses with the Sissinghurst method

 - Discover Sarah's favourite rose varieties for cutting to make homegrown bouquets and vase arrangements