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 excellent cut flowers. 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. Given the huge number of varieties, 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 free-draining 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 encourage flowering in summer
  • Prune roses annually to promote healthy growth, control the shape and stimulate flowering
  • Plant bare-root roses from November to March. Container-grown roses can be planted at any time of year

More on growing roses:

Find out more about growing roses, below.

How to grow shrub roses

A reddish-pink rose
A reddish-pink rose

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.

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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

How to grow climbing roses
Pink roses climbing up a trellis

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 grow rambling roses

How to grow rambling roses
Pink rambling rose blooms

Rambling roses are often confused with climbing roses. Ramblers are far more vigorous than climbers, bearing one fantastic flush of flowers, usually in June, followed by colourful hips. Climbing roses often repeat flower and have larger blooms.

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 outbuilding.

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 the video guide below from BBC Gardeners' World, Monty Don shows how to plant two different rambling roses – 'Wedding Day' and 'Sander's White Rambler'. 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

How to grow patio roses
Pink 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 rose 'Suffolk'
Red 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 ground-cover are modern introductions that have good disease resistance. If given the right conditions, ground-cover roses can suppress weeds.

Roses to grow by colour

Roses by colour
Yellow roses

Roses come in a huge variety of colours. Browse our lists of roses by colour, below, for the best one for your garden:

Growing roses in pots

Growing roses in pots
Rose 'Suffolk' growing with clematis in a pot

It's possible to grow roses in pots, which means that 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 – at a minimum of 50cm in diameter and in depth – to keep their roots cool and moist during summer.

In hot, dry weather, soak the compost every two to three days, and feed regularly.

What to grow with roses

Lime alchemilla and pink roses around a garden bench
Roses growing with other plants surrounding a garden bench

Many plants can be grown with roses to great effect; for example, climbing roses work well grown with clematis while 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. Backfill with soil and firm in well, then water thoroughly.

In this clip from BBC Gardeners' World below, Monty Don shows 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

How to plant a bare-root rose
Planting a bare-root rose

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, which means there is 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 roses

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.

In the clip below, 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

Rose problems
Rose leaves with black spot

Roses suffer from many problems, including black spot, aphids, die-back and bloom balling. In the Quick Tips video below, Richard Jones explains why you shouldn't worry about leafcutter bees damaging your rose leaves.

Find more solutions to rose growing problems, below.


Frequently asked questions 

Why are some of my rose stems growing very tall?

If your rose has grown very tall stems, they could be suckers. Suckers are shoots that develop from the rootstock and grow from below ground, rather than from the rose itself. Suckers usually emerge from the ground around the rootstock.

However, young growth on roses can be vigorous and look similar to suckers, so check before cutting or pulling any new shoots out. If it is a sucker, it will grow more strongly than your rose, and use up its nutrients and water in the same way that weeds do. Cut it out as close to its origin as possible, using a pair of secateurs. See below for how to identify a sucker. 

How do I identify suckers on roses? 

Rose suckers have different leaves to the foliage on the main plant – they might have a different number of leaflets and are usually a different colour, often paler than the leaves on the main plant. The stem of a sucker will emerge from the ground, below the bud union (the part where the rose plant is attached to the rootstock).  

How do I get rid of ants in my roses?

Although it can be annoying to discover an ant nest in your border, ants don't do anyone any harm. They're an important part of the ecosystem, and provide food for birds and amphibians. Ants like to build nests in dry soil, therefore a good way to encourage ants to move to a new location is to water your rose regularly during the summer. Ants will move their eggs to a new location if the nest is wet. 

Ants can be a sign of an aphid infestation on roses. Ants eat the honeydew, a sticky, sugary substance produced by aphids. They also protect aphids by removing their predators. If there are lots of aphids and they are causing damage to your rose, you can remove them by squashing them or washing them off your rose with a jet of water from a hose.  

How do I transplant roses? 

The best time to transplant a rose is when it’s dormant, between November and February. Choose a time when the ground isn’t frozen. Prepare the planting hole before digging up your rose, adding some organic matter to the bottom. 

Prune your rose first, cutting it back to around 35-40cm. Dig around it, then use a fork to gently lever out the rose. Replant it immediately into its new hole, filling in around it with compost.