Planting roses from a cutting or a bare root plant is a thorny issue. How can a twig blossom into the beautiful rose plant your local nursery promised? With a lot of water and sunshine (and these gardening secrets we’re sharing with you), it won’t be long before your garden is filled with gorgeous roses. You’ll thank us a bunch later.
1. Pick the right rose plant for your garden
Successfully planting a rose starts with choosing the right one for your garden. There are a lot of rose varieties that you can buy from nurseries or order online. Save yourself the hassle (and heartache) by doing your research. Our article on the different types of roses will help you decide which variety best suits your gardening needs.
2. Schedule your rose planting
Winter is the best time for planting roses in Australia. This is when your rose plant is dormant – meaning there’s no growth happening – and your rose is conserving its energy in time for the growing season. It can’t be helped if you’re feeling excited and can’t wait for winter, however. Roses have that effect, I must admit.
Thankfully, you can also plant your roses during autumn. Just be sure to count at least 6 weeks before the first frost arrives. This will ensure that your new rose plant has plenty of time to establish its roots before it slips into dormancy during winter.
Take care to plant bare-root roses as soon as you get them to prevent them from drying out. New rose plants that come in pots or containers will give you more allowance with their planting time.
3. Prepare your gardening tools and materials
When you’ve found the rose for you (and believe me, it’s hard to choose!), it’s time to start planting. These are the tools and materials you’ll need when planting roses:
- Shovel or trowel
- Gardening gloves
- Bone meal or superphosphate
- Epsom salts
- New rose plant
- Granular rose fertiliser
4. Follow these steps on how to plant roses
How to cultivate a new rose plant
Planting roses is more of an art than a science. Make time to lovingly go through each step of the planting process, and you’ll be rewarded with thriving roses after. You can grow a rose plant from either a bare root plant or a cutting. Most types of roses thrive under full sun, although a few varieties prefer partial shade. Be sure to use rich loam as your planting soil, and to plant the rose cuttings at least 1m from each other.
Step 1. Prepare your planting spot
Pick a planting spot where there’s full sun. Sunshine is the best medicine for most rose varieties, and your rose plant will thank you for it. Make sure that your planting soil is made of rich loam for best plant growth. If your soil needs some boosting, you can enrich it by mixing in organic matter.
Avoid planting under trees to protect your rose plant from falling branches. At the same time, make sure that your planting area isn’t too exposed to harsh winds and cold.
Step 2. Dig a hole
Dig a hole in the ground that’s as deep as your rose plant’s root ball. Make the hole slightly wider in diameter than the root ball. A hole that’s 38-45 cm deep and 45-60cm wide is ideal for a regular-sized new rose plant.
Save the soil that you removed from the hole. Add a handful of bone meal or superphosphate to the soil to enrich it, then add it back to the hole when it’s time to refill.
Step 3. Get your rose plant ready
It’s time to prep your rose plant for planting. Remove it from the pot by gently shaking it free. If your plant is sticking stubbornly to the pot, you can do this simple trick: with one hand firmly holding the base of your rose plant (make sure to wear protective gloves when you’re doing this), invert the pot and loosen your plant slowly. Your rose plant will come out without any resistance, and you’re assured that the root ball remains intact.
Check that there are no broken roots. Untangle any tightly packed roots and slightly loosen the root ball to prepare it for growth.
Step 4. Place your plant into the hole and refill
Gently place your plant into the hole. The graft union should be slightly below the soil level, around 2.5cm from the soil line. Refill the hole with the soil and bone meal mixture. When the hole is half-full, sprinkle ⅓ cup of Epsom salts around your rose plant. Epsom salts contain magnesium and will give your soil an extra nutritional boost. Continue filling the hole until it is completely covered.
Step 5. Water well and mulch
Roses are thirsty, thirsty plants. Water your newly planted rose well, then cover the ground with 2.5-5cm of mulch. Encourage new growth by watering your roses daily, especially when the weather is warmer than usual.
Step 6. Provide support when you’re planting standard roses
Standard roses are beautiful rose plants that result from grafting a modern or miniature rose variety onto a single, bare stem. Topiaries and weeping standard roses (those with a cascading effect) are examples of standard roses.
When planting standard roses, it’s important to attach them to a sturdy support. You can protect your standard roses from strong winds by using a wooden stake. Avoid using a metal stake because it can develop rust and damage your rose plant.
5. Do these tweaks if needed
How to plant roses from cuttings
Before you can plant a rose cutting, you’ll have to coax the roots to grow. This step is called ‘rooting’.
Step 1. Remove the leaves from your cutting
Start the rooting process by removing the leaves from the cutting. Retain the 2 topmost leaf pairs. Removing the leaves will help your rose cutting focus its energy on root production.
Step 2. Make a cross-shaped cut at the bottom of your cutting
Using clean, sharp shears, make a cross-shaped incision at the bottom part of your cutting. The cut should end below the bottom node (this is the knobby part of the stem where new growth appears). When you’re done with your incision, the bottom part of your cutting should look like it has 4 legs.
Step 3. Dip your cutting in rooting hormone
Moisten the bottom part of your cutting (where the cut was made) with water, then dip it in powdered rooting hormone. This will boost root growth in your rose cutting. Gently tap off any excess powder.
Step 4. Plant your cutting in potting mix
When your cutting has been prepped, plant it cut-side down in a pot filled with 15cm of potting mix. Make sure to use a potting mix that’s made specifically for roses. Water your newly planted cutting well.
Step 5. Cover with plastic wrap
Cover the cutting and pot lightly with plastic wrap to preserve soil moisture. At this stage, you’ll want to prevent fungal disease while keeping your cutting well-hydrated. If the plastic is touching the leaves of your cutting, you can place a wooden stick in the pot to prop the plastic away from the leaves. Don’t seal the bag too tightly, in order to still allow air to circulate.
Step 6. Let it grow
Allow the roots to grow out – this usually takes 2 weeks. Make sure to keep the potting mix moist the whole time. Tug your cutting gently to check for the presence of roots. When there’s resistance, it’s likely the roots are starting to develop. You can transfer your cutting to a prepared planting spot or a bigger container when you see new leaves appear on the stem.
How to plant bare root roses
Bare root roses are cuttings that have been cultivated long enough for roots to grow out of them. They are usually cheaper than potted roses, and not any trouble at all to cultivate. Planting bare root roses should be done during winter while they’re dormant.
Step 1. Prep your bare root rose
Remove your bare root rose from its packaging and inspect carefully for broken or rotting roots. If there are any, simply cut them away using sharp, clean secateurs.
Step 2. Hydrate
As their name suggests, bare root roses don’t come with any soil (or leaves, for that matter). That’s why it’s important to protect them from dehydration. Keep your bare root roses in a bucket of water while preparing your planting site. A 12-hour soak before planting will give your cutting enough moisture. This will ensure that your rose plant stays healthy and is ready for growth before you plant it.
Step 3. Prepare your planting site
Prepare your planting site by digging a hole in the ground. Don’t discard the soil that you removed from the hole – you’re still going to need it after you plant your bare root rose.
Step 4. Add a mound of soil and bone meal
Mix bone meal into the soil that you dug out from your planting site. When you’re done mixing, place some of the soil-and-bone-meal mixture back into the hole. The mound should be high enough to prop your rose’s graft union at least 2.5cm lower than the soil line.
Step 5. Place your bare root rose in the soil
Carefully lower your bare root rose into the soil, then cover with the remaining soil mixture. Water well and mulch.
How to plant roses in pots
If you plan to grow your new rose plant in a nursery pot, you can certainly do so. You’ll want to re-pot your rose the following winter if you want to prevent your rose plant from becoming root-bound.
Choose a large well-draining pot for your rose plant. This will give your rose more than enough room for root growth, and prevent the formation of root rot.
How to plant larger rose varieties
When planting larger rose varieties, trim the cane down to 15-20cm. This will help your rose plant to focus more on growing roots and spend less energy on top growth. After you have prepared your rose plant, follow the planting steps mentioned above.
6. Plant them far apart
How far apart to plant regular rose bushes and climbing roses
Rose bushes are prone to fungal disease. As one way to prevent this, plant your climbing roses at least 1m from each other. This will allow enough air to circulate between your plants and deter diseases such as black spot and mildew from forming.
How far apart to plant standard roses
Standard roses aren’t as dense and poorly ventilated as your usual rose bushes, but they still need plenty of air circulation. Plant your standard roses at least 1.2m apart to allow air into your plants and prevent the occurrence of fungal disease.
7. Add companion plants
Companion planting for roses has a lot of benefits. Companion plants for roses like lavender or catmint balance out the thin bottom stems of rose bushes and make them look fuller. These tiny shrubs also act as a living mulch to cool down the soil’s temperature. Other plants you can use for companion planting include heliotropes and summer snapdragons (sun-loving plants) and chives and oregano (pest-warding plants), among others.
8. Fertilise and prune
Maintain your newly established rose plant by watering it every week. Encourage healthy foliage and flowers by feeding your roses with granular rose fertiliser every six weeks during its growing season.