Taking Care Of Roses

Taking care of roses in your garden

Now that you have picked out the perfect rose for your garden, here is some important information to ensure you have the best success for years to come. The amount of care your rose will need will vary by what type of rose you have chosen. In addition, newly planted roses will require more care than established roses.

Rose Site Requirements– For the best performance, roses have some basic requirements.

  • Sun – Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sun.
  • Soil – Moist, well-drained soils that are nutrient rich are best. To improve soils previous to planting add compost to improve drainage, moisture retention, and nutrients.
  • Protection from winter winds – In more wind and cold exposed areas, you may need to provide extra protection. Choosing hardier roses will help reduce the need for winter protection, but even hardy shrub roses may need some protection in very exposed areas such as hilltops and colder zones.

Planting– Roses can be grown in containers or planted in your garden.

  • Container planting – Choose a container that is at least 15-18” deep and wide (7 to 10 gallon) for mini roses and other smaller varieties. If growing larger shrub roses, a larger container, such as a 15 gallon,  may be necessary. Drainage is important so make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Use a potting mix to fill the container.
  • Garden planting – Dig a hole the same depth as the root mass and twice the width. If necessary to amend the soil, use 2/3rdexisting soil to 1/3rdcompost mixed well to backfill the whole. The top of the root mass should be level with the existing soil grade. Water the rose in well and adjust the planting depth if needed.

Watering– Roses should be watered as needed so be sure to check that the root zone is beginning to dry before you water. Some points to consider:

  • Newly planted roses require more monitoring for moisture than established roses. New roses should be checked daily for the first few weeks until you are familiar with how much water the rose uses. Once the root system has established after about a year, you should still monitor soil moisture in periods of dry weather.
  • Weather conditions will greatly change the amount of water a rose will need. Dry wind on a sunny day will increase the demand for water. Conversely, a cool, cloudy day will reduce the demand for water.
  • When watering is needed, the full root zone should be moist. It’s better to water more deeply and less frequently than to water lightly and more often.
  • When watering, avoid using methods that wet the foliage. Instead, water at the base of the plant. This will help reduce foliar diseases. Soaker hoses at the base of the plants work well if watering a larger area.

Fertilizing– For the ultimate performance in flowering and growth, use a fertilizer specifically formulated for roses. Follow the instructions for application on the package. Using a granular time-release fertilizer will continuously feed the shrub throughout the season. You can use a water-soluble fertilizer as well if needed.

Seasonal Care


  • Water as needed during dry spells.
  • Fertilize as needed with a water-soluble fertilizer. If using a time release granular fertilizer for roses, this may not be necessary if the foliage is deep green and flower production is satisfactory.
  • Monitor for disease and insect issues. Early detection will make solutions much easier.
  • Prune off the old flowers on Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and Floribunda roses to keep the shrub looking fresh. Shrub roses can be sheared lightly to keep them shaped and to clean off old flowers.

Late Summer/Early Fall

  • Continue to water as needed.
  • Stop fertilizing.
  • Do not prune late in the growing season. New growth will not have time to harden off before cold weather. Wait until after the rose has gone dormant if pruning is needed.

Late Fall/Winter– Make sure you know what zone your rose is hardy too. Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, Climber, Mini, and some Floribunda will require more winter protection than roses such as Shrub roses. Winter protection should be done once the weather has become consistently cold and the rose has gone dormant.

  • For Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and Floribunda
    • Prune the rose back to about 24” once it has gone dormant. For Climbing roses, cut back to several main canes.
    • Mulch the root zone heavily to about 8-12” deep, protecting the bud union which appears as a knob just above the root zone.
    • Use a rose cone for smaller roses or several layers of burlap for larger roses and Climbing varieties. Do not use plastic.
  • For zone hardy roses such as shrub roses
    • Prune the rose back about 1/3rdto clean off old flowers and broken branches.
    • If the rose is in an area that is exposed to extreme winter winds, protecting with burlap may be needed. If not, no other protection should be necessary.
    • If you suspect that rabbits may be a problem, protect the main stem using wire mesh.
  • For roses in containers
    • Prune the rose back about 1/3rdto clean off old flowers and remove any broken branches.
    • Place the container in an unheated shed or garage. The roots are vulnerable to freeze damage unless additional protection is provided. Do not bring inside to a heated location for the winter. Roses must go dormant. If the rose must be kept outside, the pot can be dug into the ground. Follow the instructions above for the type of rose it is.
  • For Tree Roses – Please, see our care sheet on how to overwinter Rose Trees.

Spring Clean Up– Once the temperatures are consistently above 40◦, start preparing for spring.

  • Begin to remove winter protection. Keep the protection handy in case of a late spring freeze.
  • Prune any black stems back to a live bud once the buds start to swell.
  • Apply granular rose fertilizer once the rose is actively growing.
  • Once your rose is fully leafed, monitor for insect and disease problems, catching issues early will make the solution much easier.

Not all varieties are available throughout the season so please call ahead to check current availability with our nursery.

For a copy of this guide to download and keep please click here.