Roses are some of the most beautiful and versatile garden plants. They come in a variety of forms, from patio roses to shrub roses, ramblers and climbers. Nearly all of them make an excellent cut flower. Single-flowered roses are great pollinator plants, while some species are used by leafcutter bees to make their nests. Most roses need sun and heavy soils to thrive, but some will grow well in partial shade and poorer soils. There really is a rose, or three, for every garden.
Key points about growing roses
- Most roses thrive in full sun
- Roses need rich, moist but well-drained soil
- Water roses regularly so the soil stays moist but not waterlogged
- Roses are hungry plants. Mulch annually with organic matter such as well-rotted animal manure, and consider using a rose feed to promote flowering in summer
- Prune roses annually to promote healthy growth, control the shape and encourage flowering
- Plant bare-root roses from November to March. Container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year
More on growing roses:
- Top scented roses
- Repeat-flowering roses to grow
- Rose types explained
- Hybrid tea roses to grow
- Best roses for all soil types
- Best roses for cut flowers
Find out more about growing roses, below.
How to grow shrub roses
Shrub roses and English roses come in a huge range of sizes and colours – some can grow to 2m in height. Shrub roses are typically robust, healthy, repeat-flowering plants offering colour when other shrubs have finished flowering. Some shrub roses have a good fragrance, but if you want a scented shrub rose then English roses are for you. Shrub roses and English roses are perfect for growing in a mixed border, large container or as part of a rose garden. Some can also be trained as climbers or used to grow into a hedge.
How to grow climbing roses
Climbing roses are the perfect plants to add height to a garden, without being too vigorous. There are climbing roses available in all the popular rose categories – hybrid tea roses, bourbons and English roses. Choose from double or single flowers, thornless or scented. Climbing roses can be grown up house walls, along garden fences, over pergolas or up large obelisks.
- How to prune a climbing rose
- How to train a climbing rose
- The difference between climbing roses and rambling roses
How to grow rambling roses
Rambling roses are often confused with climbing roses. Ramblers are far more vigorous than climbers, and bear one fantastic flush of flowers, usually in June, followed by colourful hips. Climbing roses often repeat flower and have larger flowers.
Rambling roses need plenty of space as they grow quickly. They’re ideal for growing up a tree or tumbling over a wall. They're perfect for covering an eyesore in the garden, such as an unsightly shed or out-building.
A rambling rose looks great growing up into a tree, especially an apple tree, providing flowers after the apple blossom fades but before the fruits form. In this video guide from Gardeners' World, Monty Don shows you how to plant two different rambling roses – 'Wedding Day' and 'Sander's White'. He details what conditions a rambling rose needs, how to prepare the soil, and how deep to plant it so it settles in well over autumn and gets off to a good start in spring. You'll also find out how far from the tree to plant the rose and how to encourage it to climb up the tree:
How to grow patio roses
Patio roses are small enough to grow in pots. They are compact in habit and thrive in lighter soils than many other rose types. Patio roses are not as long lived as other types of rose, but they're easy to manage and remain compact if hard-pruned each spring.
How to grow ground cover roses
Ground cover roses have a trailing or spreading habit. They're ideal for growing in a container, at the front of a border or on steep banks. Many are modern introductions have good disease resistance. If given the right conditions, ground cover roses can suppress weeds.
Roses to grow by colour
Roses come in a huge variety of colours. Browse our lists of roses by colour, below, for the best one for your garden:
- Pink roses to grow
- Purple roses to grow
- Yellow roses to grow
- Beautiful red roses to grow
- Orange roses to grow
Growing roses in pots
It's possible to grow roses in pots, meaning you can grow roses in even the smallest gardens. While all but rambling roses can be grown in pots, shorter growing bush varieties, or ‘patio roses', are ideal. They’ll do best in large, deep containers – an absolute minimum of 50cm in diameter and the same in depth – to keep their roots cool and moist during summer.
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In hot, dry weather, soak the compost every two to three days, and feed regularly.
What to grow with roses
Many plants can be grown with roses to great effect. Climbing roses work well grown with clematis. Rambling roses can be trained to grow up a tree. Patio roses work well with a variety of other plants suitable for growing in pots, while shrub roses can be grown in a mixed ornamental border, alongside nepeta, lavender and other herbaceous perennials.
When to plant roses
The best time to plant roses is in autumn, when the soil is warm and the water table is at its highest. Roses will establish quickly before becoming dormant, and then burst into life again in spring. Roses come as potted plants or as bare-root plants (sold without soil on the roots). Technically, you can plant a potted rose at any time of year and a bare-root rose from October to March, but autumn remains the best time to plant roses.
How to plant roses
Plant roses in a well-prepared hole with added compost to improve soil structure and aid water retention. Back-fill with soil and firm in well, then water thoroughly.
In this Gardeners' World programme clip, Monty Don shows you how to plant shrub roses. Watch as he plants the yellow-flowered, myrrh-scented rose 'The Pilgrim' in the Cottage Garden at Longmeadow. He explains how to prepare the soil and dig the hole, how and why you should add mycorrhizal fungi, and what rose care to provide to ensure the rose settles in well:
How to plant bare-root roses
Planting bare-root roses during the dormant season is cheaper than planting container-grown roses, because the growers don't need to water and feed the plants when they're dormant, and they weigh less and take up less room when shipping. What's more, there's a far greater selection of bare root roses available to buy than container-grown roses, giving you more choice.
You can plant bare-root roses at any time between October and the end of March, but planting them in autumn helps them establish more quickly because the soil is still warm from summer, and is typically moist.
Watch Monty Don plant a bare-root rose, below:
Pruning is essential for the overall health, vitality and appearance of roses. Winter is the key time to cut back most varieties, except rambling roses, which are pruned in summer immediately after flowering.
The basic principles of pruning are the same: cutting back hard will promote the strongest growth, while light pruning will result in less vigour. The other basic rules include cutting to an outward-facing bud to prevent compacted growth, and removing closely positioned stems that might rub or compete for space. Also remove stubby ‘snags’ (short, dead lengths of stem with no growth on them) and thin, twiggy stems, which are unlikely to produce anything worthwhile in terms of growth and flowering potential.
Watch Monty Don prune a shrub rose, below.
Here, Monty demonstrates how to prune a rambling rose. He also explains how to tell the difference between a rambler and a climber, and why they each need pruning at different times:
Growing roses: problem-solving
Roses suffer from many problems, including black spot, aphids, die-back and bloom balling. In this Quick Tips video, Richard Jones explains why you shouldn't worry about leafcutter bees damaging your rose leaves:
Find more solutions to rose growing problems, below.