Planting and Transplanting Roses

There are two main ways to buy new roses. Bare root, and potted. While it’s tempting to think the only difference is that one has soild around the roots and the other does’t, and therefore treat and plant them the same way, this isn’t entirely true. if I’m totally honest, I often get lazy, dig a hole and stick them in, but I always feel guilty afterwards.

planting a bare root rose

Having said that, I have to admit that if I spend a few extra minutes doing the job properly, I get the benefits. Roses that just seem to be “better doers”, versus ones that never seem to take off and do well. It really is worth giving your plants that bit of a headstart in life. They will replay you with stronger plants and more/bigger blooms!

Position of your rose bushes

Pick a sunny spot where the rose plant will be in direct sunlight for more than four hours a day. Six hours is even better. Roses are a reasonably thirsty plant but you do not want the soil to be soggy. That is why raised beds work well for roses so you are able to control the moisture level.

Another plus in platform growing is in controlling the weed population. For fertilizer I my own compost, with a bit of blood and bone during the flowering season. 

When to Plant

Potted Roses. You can pretty much plant these any time of year, with spring being the optimum time. However, if you plant them during summer, then no harm done. However I would avoid the coldest months.

Bare Root Roses. These are best planted just as the roses are about to move from their dormant stage. So, last month of winter, first month of spring should be about right. If you are just beginning to see swelling on the buds, then it’s time to plant!

At first glance, bare root roses will seem like they are completely dead. The stems will look lifeless and dormant and the roots will usually look brown as well. Many growers, even beginners, can have success with these. The advantages to planting this way is that you can avoid any issues with transplant shock. It some cases its also easier than using cuttings.

Check your shipment as soon as they arrive. Don’t be surprised when you see something that looks like a pile of sticks and roots. You’ll want to look out for any black roots or canes that may be splintered and broken. Be sure to prune off these pieces. You don’t want rot or disease to spread. Then submerge your whole plant in a tub of cold water for 24 hours. It’s important to hydrate and remember that this has been in transit for a day or more already. You’ll want to plant the roses immediately. If that is not possible, keep the roots covered in moist soil.

How to Plant

There are a few videos on youtube that show the correct way to plant both bare root and potted roses. These two give the information in a clear and easy to understand fashion.

Transplanting Roses

Transplanting roses can sound like a harrowing experience but its really not as tough as it sounds. If there was one simple golden rule to follow, it would be this… if at all possible, transplant roses when they are dormant.

You may need consider a move for many different reasons. You may be starting a new garden. Your plants may need a new location as the current one is not conducive to growth. Or, you may just have planted things too close together.

Understand which jobs are good to try yourself and which rose transplants you should leave to a professional. I think of it kind of like a house move. If its just a few smaller things, do it yourself. A bigger piece, call a pro. If you have a large rose bush that needs to roll, consider a gardening professional. It will probably be too big and unwieldy for you to handle yourself. The last thing you want to do is ruin your prize bushes.

When to move….

The best time is whenever the plants are still dormant, but the soil is not frozen solid. In most zones this is going to be in the very early spring, say March or April.

How to move Shrubs….

You’ll want to keep the soil moist for a week beforehand to keep the digging easy. Dig about 24 inches around the roots to make sure to get everything. When you replant, use the same rules as for a bare roots planting.

How to move Bushes….

The preparation for moving a bush takes several months of advanced preparation. Whenever you are moving a bigger plant, you wan to make sure the size is manageable. You’ll want the root core to be about eighteen inches round. To get that size the roots should be pruned. Spade a circle around the root base at an angle towards the plant root. Don’t chop wildly into tough roots! This can severely injure your plant. Stop and use prunes if necessary to give a clean cut.

The plant responds to the cut roots by growing a tighter rootball. It may not flourish as much as it works to replace the lost growth. Keep up the normal watering and maintenance routine after transplanting roses.

How to move Climbers….

These can be tough to move as well, especially if they are thorny. Again, this is best done in the late winter or early spring when the flowers are dormant.

Prune away beforehand to eliminate some of the dead bulk. Use care when removing the plant from the trellis or other support structures. Don’t let the end of the canes hang haphazardly as they can snap.

Dig a wide circle to gather as much of the roots as possible. Replant with the same instructions as with the shrubs above.


In addition to the instructions for bare root roses, its also important to add extra care to the plant as they will be in shock. You can purchase a shock treatment formula from most garden stores to handle this. Transplanting roses isn’t difficult in most cases, but you need to be observant.