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FAQs and Expert Advice about Growing Garden Roses

Chris and Margaret Styles are experts in growing Garden Roses and offer their best advice right here.

Bareroot roses are supplied as dormant or semi-dormant field-lifted plants with roots bare between November and March, Potted Roses are available to buy and plant all year round and supplied in a recently planted or fully rooted stage depending on the time of year ordered.

Advantages of Bareroot Roses: cheaper to buy, less attention is needed for successful establishment once planted in the final position, less watering is required if planted November to January

Advantages of Potted Roses:  Can be planted all through the year, instant colour in the garden during flowering months, can be kept in the pot supplied for up to 9 months if not ready to plant with regular watering, ideal to give as a gift.

Ideally, garden roses require planting in a position that will get between half & a full day of summer sunshine, the more light and sun the rose gets, the more flowers and frequency of flushes of blooms.

Roses like plenty of room, ideally without competition from other plants or weeds and no heavy shade from overhanging trees or bushes, choosing an open or semi-open position where the winds can travel through the stems which will help greatly also in controlling diseases.

Good soil drainage is also required so the roses are not regularly standing in waterlogged/flooded ground or in very wet soil conditions for long periods.

Yes! Provided there is still good light, no heavy shade from overhanging trees or buildings and ideally some direct sunshine for a few hours. Roses will grow happily in these positions but growth can be more drawn and elongated in the search for stronger light, flowering will take longer with less heavy flushes than roses grown in full or half sun positions.

Roses with small single blooms like Climbing rose ‘Warm Welcome’ or Shrub rose ‘Jacqueline Du Pre’ and many Austin English roses will grow and flower in full light shade to acceptable levels.

As a general rule:

Patio/Front border Roses – 2ft / 60cm apart*

Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, Shrub & English Roses – 3ft / 90cm apart*

Climbing, Repeat Rambling & Groundcover Roses – 6ft / 1.8m apart*

Single Flowering Ramblers – 15ft 4.5m apart*

*Note – these are minimum planting distances

Roses will grow well in almost all kinds of soil as long as it is not too acidic or in areas that get contaminated directly with salt from passing road gritters or direct sprays from the sea in coastal areas.

We regularly see roses happily growing on coastal paths, light sandy soils, chalky gardens & they love clay & silt soils that have a neutral PH or slightly alkaline/Lime PH.

If you are unsure of your soil PH, it is a good idea to buy a test kit and find out, if you are planting your roses into soil that is acidic, we strongly recommend forking in a good handful of garden lime into the bottom of the planting hole and then filling in soil.

Repeating this process every spring around the base of the planted rose, chalky or high lime planting positions will benefit greatly from adding good quantities of John Innes No.3 compost or well-rotted garden compost or manure into the planting hole.

Rootgrow is a Mycorrhizal fungi supplied in dry granular form and and will greatly benefit all roses over the years if used at planting time.

This fungi occurs naturally in time in the soil below and around the root systems of plants giving the rose in effect a second root system which provides added water and nutrients to the rose root system from much deeper areas below ground.

It gives all roses when used at planting time a much faster establishment and as a direct benefit earlier new foliage and flowers, it is particularly beneficial when used on light and sandy soils for providing additional much needed water when dry hot conditions prevail.

Using rootgrow at planting time also prevents the need to exchange the soil to prevent Rose re-plant sickness which commonly occurs when planting a new rose where a rose grew before and helps save the need to water by hand so regularly when dry.

Provided you keep the granules in the packet dry, Rootgrow will be OK to use for many years, our smallest 60 gram packet will plant 2 roses and the largest 1kg pack will plant up to 40 roses.

It is very important that the granules are used at planting time, sprinkled into the bottom of the prepared planting hole, in and around the root system and also comes into direct contact with the root system of the roses being planted.

Yes, the larger the rose grows in height, the bigger the container needed, as a minimum use a 7.5lt pot (8 – 10 inches / 20 – 25cm wide and deep) for the smallest growing patio/front-border roses rising to a large half barrel pot for a climber or rambling rose.

Quite often you will see decorative pot designs offered in 3 different sizes in Garden Centres and it is the largest size pot available of the 3 that is best for Hybrid Tea, Floribunda and Shrub/ David Austin English roses.

For something very different, try growing a ground-cover rose in a large hanging basket which will then provide long trails of flowering stems covered in blooms in repeat flushes over the summer and autumn months. Over-winter the hanging basket and rose in a cold greenhouse and re-hang in the early spring for continued year on year displays.

Choice of pot/compost: Choose a heavy, treated wood or frost-resistant stone/ceramic pot with drainage holes to help give weight & prevent the pot and planted rose from being blown over in strong winds, add some small drainage stones or large gravel pebbles into the bottom of the pot. Always use a John Innes soil-based compost to plant the rose into, never use general purpose or wood-based composts as the roses will perform badly and likely die.

Adding a larger saucer under the pot after planting will help greatly with reduced summer watering, help prevent drying out and if going away for short periods without watering, that said it is very important the compost remains moist at all times otherwise death will occur to the rose in a short space of time without water in hot conditions.

As the rose root system when potted is much more exposed to frost damage in winter months in comparison to roses planted into your garden, we strongly recommend during periods of extreme day and night freezing temperatures that the root system and pots are protected with bubble wrap plastic/dry hessian sacking or ideally picked up and moved to a cool frost free area whilst the severe weather conditions persists.

Move back outside as normal winter conditions return, night frosts down to -5°C will not damage your roses.

No, definitely a bad idea. True Garden roses need to be outside at all times unless very severe winter with day and night freezing temperatures below -5°C persist.

If being grown in containers when ideally they should be covered with bubble wrap around the base of the rose and pot or moved to a cold frost-free area like a garage or shed until normal winter weather returns, normal night frosts to -5°C are not a problem for roses outdoors.

Leaving your potted garden roses in a house or heated area will lead to long, elongated unnatural growth, die-back on stems, rose diseases, severe attacks from greenfly, whitefly and houseplant pests even in winter months and ultimately the very likely death of your rose in a short period of time.

Roses with little or no thorns (e.g Rosa Banksia, Abracadabra, etc) planted directly outdoors can be also prone to greater frost damage during periods of severe winter weather and we recommend planting these varieties in sheltered and non-exposed positions, if severe winter day and night freezing weather (Beast from the East) takes place we recommend again bubble wrapping or strawing around the base of the rose and stems whilst the severe weather persists.

Deep snow is usually a good thing for roses as it offers a layer of frost free protection to the basal stems helping to keep the soil at warmer safer temperatures for the rose.

Always use a John Innes #3 soil-based compost, commonly available from Garden Centres and DIY stores to plant a garden rose into a container, soil based composts also retain water better than others providing longer periods of moisture to the root system of the planted rose.

Never use general purpose or wood-based composts as the roses will grow & perform badly and very likely die in the first or early years.

Burying the basal stems below ground at planting time as advised by many so called rose experts and TV garden celebrities is really a bad idea as this will greatly increase the chance of stem rot and death to the rose.

It will also likely trigger the existing stems to start forming their own roots rather than using the root system from the original grafted rootstock to give the rose extra vigour, which then in turn creates a severe lack of growth & vigour to the rose which is the reason for using a rootstock rose and grafting in the first place, to give the rose extra health and vigour.

Plant so the union at the base of the stems, where the original bud graft was made onto the rootstock and where the basal stems begin is just above ground level after planting and the first watering is completed.

Prevention of ‘Wind Rock’ given as the main reason for burying the stems at planting issue will not be an issue if the rose is both pruned and supported correctly where necessary during active growth.

Hybrid Tea roses form large single blooms on strong upright stems, occasionally 2-3 blooms are formed on the same stem, especially on later flushes of bloom, they provide a spectacular display of specimen blooms and are also perfect for cutting and indoor display of flowers in the home or at indoor events and flower shows.

Floribunda roses produce much greater numbers of generally mid-sized flowers grouped together in large clusters.

Both types of rose grow to similar heights 3 – 4ft / 90 – 120cm, mix well together in beds or containers and flower at similar times of the year, typically from Mid-June to Late Autumn With regular dead-heading, many have a good to strong fragrance.

Climbing roses require formal training of growth and tying in of main stems with soft string onto trellis, wires, or strong nails on fences and walls. Main basal branches require spreading out and training both sideways and upwards to fill and cover the required area over a number of years.

Modern bred Climbing roses repeat flower from early June to late autumn, typically producing either large single flowers or mid-sized clusters of double or semi-double bloom, depending on the chosen variety, many climbing roses have good to strong fragrance.

Rambling roses, with modern rose breeding, are now available in two forms:

Traditional / Old Type Rambling Roses
Single flush varieties that bloom for a long period of up to 6 weeks starting from mid-June to early July (e.g Albertine, Rambling Rector, Veilchenblau) that typically rapidly grow to heights of 15 – 30ft / 5 -10m and are perfect for growing over large long walls, old buildings, unattractive structures, high pergolas and up into tall trees.

Modern Repeat Flowering Rambling Roses
Repeat flower, a relatively new innovation in rambling roses, typically blooming en masse from early June to late autumn, annual growth is around 3ft/1m per year with a typical maximum height of 6ft – 10ft / 2m – 3 metres. These are perfect for Pillars, Rose arches, 6ft / 2m fence panels and walls, the Spread of growth can be easily controlled to around 1m wide if needed on many varieties (e.g Fair Eva, Highworth, Perennial Blush, Perennial Blue, Rambling Rosie)

Both kinds of Ramblers when flowering produce typically 100s of small single or semi-double blooms in clusters from top to bottom of the growth, producing spectacular all-over displays of flowers and colour on established plants.

Rambling roses are generally left to do their own thing with upward growth and find their own way up the structures after some initial training and tying in of strong stems. Prune to shape as required after.

Traditional single-flowering ramblers flower only on the wood/stems that have grown in the previous year, so pruning to shape when required should be done immediately after flowering in August.

Repeat flowering ramblers should be pruned/shaped as needed to control shape and growth in the winter months

Standard Roses are also known as ‘Tree roses’, as rather than being propagated and budded onto the rootstock at ground level (bush roses), they are instead budded onto a pre-planted tall single stem and are available from us as Half & Full Standard roses.

With differing appropriate heights depending on the growth habit of each particular rose variety.

Half Standard roses are grafted on the stem at a height of around 80cm and Full Standard’s at 100cm approximately. When these grafted buds shoot and grow in their following year the normal height of the variety when grown as a bush rose is then added onto the original graft height to give an overall height of the standard rose when in full growth and flower:

  • Average Half Standard flowering height = 5ft / 1.5m
  • Average Full Standard flowering height = 6ft / 1.8m

In the professional world of rose growing, any rose that is budded/grafted at ground level onto a Rootstock is classed as a bush rose, this also includes Climbing & Rambling roses.

Yes. Roses are heavy feeders and this helps to keep them strong & healthy, requiring a good handful of high Potash granular rose feed sprinkled all around the base of the rose twice a year in March & mid-July just after the first main flush of blooms.

If you are growing roses in containers these will require an extra third feed in May, regular feeding helps greatly in keeping rose diseases at bay, increases the size of flowers and number of blooms and gives a stronger colouration to the flower and foliage.

Good products for feeding roses include Empathy Biofertiliser for roses (available from our website) which is a natural plant food also containing Mycorrhizal fungi beneficial for helpful soil bacteria and also containing Magnesium an important trace element for long term rose health, other granular feeds containing high levels of Potash for flowering with added Iron & Manganese trace elements are also very beneficial to roses.

Apply when the foliage is dry and water in after a few days if it has not rained heavily after applying.

During early establishment of all roses planted directly into the garden, regular watering is very important when needed for the first 3-4 months until the rose root system has become well-established into the garden soil below the original roots, adding Rootgrow Mycorrhizal fungi into the planting hole below the root system is also very beneficial for the long-term uptake of natural water from the root system over the life of the rose and also greatly reduces the need for watering once established and is particularly beneficial for roses and other plants grown in dry sandy soils.

During periods of extreme summer heat and dry weather, watering will definitely benefit your roses and help reduce or eliminate stress from the rose plants resulting in healthier foliage, stronger growth and longer-lasting flowers.

Watering when required is best completed in the early part of the morning or evening when cooler, giving each rose up to a gallon/4.5litres of water at the base of the rose, avoid getting water onto the foliage as much as possible to reduce the risk of diseases & sun scorching using a watering can with a watering rose attached or watering gun with a gentle showerhead setting.

Roses grown in containers will always require regular heavy watering to the container at the base of the rose, during periods of hot and dry weather roses grown in pots will require watering every day.

Adding a larger, deep, non-porous plant saucer under the pot will help to give an extra day or two break from watering and a useful help if going away for a few days without help from others or you could install an automatic timed drip irrigation system.

Using a loam-based John Innes No.3 compost at planting time in a container will also help greatly with longer-term water retention in the pot.

The main pruning of roses in the UK should be completed once a year in the winter months and timing is dependent on what part of the country you live in, for Midlands and South of England pruning should be completed in November to December once the leaves start to fall off for winter dormancy, for areas North of the Midlands, main pruning should be completed in January or February.

It is very important that you hard prune roses every winter (with the exception of Climbing, Rambling and Weeping Standard Roses) to remove weak & diseased growth and promote new basal branches & strong healthy growth in the following summer.

Many garden and TV experts still wrongly recommend pruning in March, but this is based on Old advice from a 100+ years ago when winters were much colder and longer, and with global warming pruning in March will only now delay flowering in summer by a further 6 weeks and should be avoided.

Except for Climbing and Rambling roses reduce the overall height of the rose by half to ⅔, remove all thin/weak stems and any visible die-back where the stems are turning black or brown down to healthy green/red wood below where the inner core of the pruned stem is white indicating the stem is happy and alive at the point where pruned.

Pruning to just above an outward-facing leaf or bud will help create an open airy plant with reduced disease risks and evenly spaced flowers the following year. All pruned stems, waste and fallen non-diseased foliage should be removed from the garden to a compost heap or garden bin to also greatly help with disease prevention in the following summer months.

Climbing roses require training and tying in of the main stems with soft string sideways and upwards over trellis or wires for a number of years (typically 2-3 years) until the area of the wall, fence or trellis is filled, once the desired height is reached, prune off the ends of the trained stems in winter to around 15cm/6” from the top or end of the structure, these main shoots stay in place and will then produce flowering side shoots in the following summer and these side shoots require hard pruning in winter to about 60mm/2” from where the side shoot begins off the main trained stems.

Rambling roses are ideal for rose arches, arbours and for scrambling up old or ugly structures and up and through large trees and hedges, some initial training may be required to get the rose growing in the right direction but after this point Rambling roses generally will Look after themselves growth-wise and just need pruning to shape as and when needed in the winter months.

Traditional older single-flowering Ramblers like Albertine or Rambling Rector for example all flower on the previous years’ grown stems, so pruning if required should be completed immediately after flowering in late summer, Modern repeat-flowering Ramblers require pruning to shape in winter months when needed to control shape & size.

In all cases of pruning roses, you should use Bypass Secateurs which give a sharp and clean cut without bruising or crushing lower growth and will help greatly with die-back and disease prevention.

We use on the nursery and strongly recommend Felco No 2 secateurs available from our website and will last a lifetime for most gardeners with regular cleaning and maintenance.

Although not essential, mulching in conjunction with twice-yearly feeding will benefit your roses, especially in dry light soils by helping to retain moisture in the soil, reduce weed growth and provide both added nutrition for your roses and for beneficial soil organisms like Earthworms and Mycorrhizal fungi.

Mulching where needed is best applied in the Spring by forking a 3” or 4” layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost around the base of each rose to cover an area of around 1 metre in circumference.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, USE BARK OR WOOD CHIPPINGS UNDER ROSES AS THIS WILL BOTH INTRODUCE AND HARBOUR DISEASES THAT MAY WELL ATTACK YOUR ROSES

Planting position is very important, ideally an area with good airflow, gets a minimum of half a day of sunshine, moist soil conditions and given plenty of room from other competing plants by planting 1 metre or more apart is ideal in helping to prevent rose diseases.

Select and buy modern, healthy new rose varieties introduced in the last 20 years, where rose breeders have specifically targeted seedlings for hybridisation that show no disease symptoms without any use of commercial fungicides over a number of years trialing, and is the way forward.

Buying older varieties you recall from your parents or grandparents garden, unless a specie Rose (such as Canary Bird or Rosa Banksia Lutea) originating from the wild is likely to be a bad idea as generally through the passing of time and rose growers continually using the same propagation material source over many years, infected with increasing levels of harmful virus from greenfly attacks that weaken the roses growth and performance in comparison to when introduced and be much more prevalent to rose diseases like Black Spot and Rust.

If and when watering is required, do so in the morning to mid-day ideally and avoid getting the foliage wet, especially the lower leaves.

Feeding your roses twice a year (3 times in a container) between spring & mid-summer will help greatly in keeping your roses strong, happy and healthy, leaving them less susceptible to attack from disease.

Be aware! Regular inspection, every few weeks of your roses through the year is very important, catching disease problems at the early stage, as soon as seen, leads to much easier control and management: Prune away any stem die-back to healthy growth, just above an outward-facing leaf.

Remove any unhealthy brown, spotted or yellowing leaves as seen, this will help to quickly regenerate healthy new foliage and stop further infection problems.

Rose diseases such as black spot and rust are easily spread to other healthy roses from infected plants present in your garden or your neighbours garden, if the problem rose varieties continue to get year on year issues with rose diseases, despite regular feeding & preventative spaying before diseases are evident, you should wherever possible remove and dispose them from your garden and replace with healthy modern rose varieties with high disease resistance.

Spraying foliage regularly during active growth will undoubtedly give the best results and health for your roses, see FAQ 23.

Foliage turning yellow is a very strong indicator of severe stress to your roses, but is something that can easily be rectified in most cases and in nearly all cases the result of one of the following reasons:

  • Lack of Light – Poor planting position, choose an area that gets half a days full sun
  • Ensure surrounding plants are not too close and blocking direct sunlight.
  • Upper branches on roses are blocking light to branches below (pruning required)
  • Lack Of Water – Always ensure the ground around your roses is water-moist
  • Lack of Feed – Feed Your roses twice a year (3 times in a container) between April and Mid July with a good handful of granular Empathy Biofertiliser Rose Food, lightly sprinkled around the base of each rose

Uncle Tom’s Tonic is also an excellent pick me up for roses when applied to roses as a soil and foliage and root drench when these symptoms occur and we have had countless comments from customers about how well this product has worked, applying 5lts of water mixed with 50ml of Uncle Tom’s Tonic per rose using a watering can with a rose head connection on the spout

Deadheading of roses is very important and involves the removal of the flowerhead, hip or truss of flowers after flowering has just finished and petals are about to fall.

By removing the flower heads, it triggers the rose to produce new flower blooms instead of pollinated rose hips and during a long hot summer can mean up to 4 flushes of flowers on your roses from early June through to hard frosts in November or December.

To deadhead roses well, after flowering has finished, use Felco 2 bypass secateurs and prune down below the flower head by 3 to 4 leaves normally or lower if needed, cutting away the flower stem just above an outward-facing leaf and at a point where the stem is strong, This then triggers new flowers to be formed on strong new shorter side stems.

Typically it will take a rose around 4 to 6 weeks to re-flower after dead heading with hot sunny weather causing a more rapid process of re-flowering and is a way of controlling the timing (subject to normal summer weather)

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