The Complete Guide to Growing Roses
The Complete Guide to Growing Roses
Roses are one of the most popular plants in the UK, and for good reason! They’re hardy, easy to grow and can be planted at any time of year. With their large, brightly coloured flowers, heavenly fragrances and intriguing names, we can’t get enough of them.
To get the most from your roses year after year, check out these essential tips from our experts.
How to choose the perfect rose
Thanks to their popularity, there are almost limitless choices of rose varieties out there. With 7 main types of roses to choose from these versatile plants come in many forms, including shrubs and climbers. You can choose by fragrance level, colour, flower shape or even by name - roses are a popular choice to commemorate a special occasion, remember a loved one or celebrate favourite literary, historical or royal personalities.
Now, here's a break down of the 7 main types of roses.
Large with fragrant flowers held alone on straight stems.
Pros: Repeat flowering, bred for hardiness and vigour, classic looks
Cons: Can get leggy without regular pruning
Best for: Borders, cut flowers
Examples: Peace, Samaritan, Captain Tom
Compact bush roses with continuously blooming flowers for long lasting colour
Pros: Low maintenance, hardy, disease resistant, wide range of colours
Cons: Smaller flowers than a hybrid tea, many have no scent
Best for: Hedges, edging, pots
Examples: Arthur Bell, Jane Austen, York Minster
Tall, strong roses with the form of a hybrid tea and the clusters of a floribunda.
Pros: Disease resistant, hardy, large numbers of roses from a single stem
Cons: Can grow leggy so need a lot of pruning, may need support
Best for: Hedges & Screens
Examples: Cherry Parfait, Mother Of Pearl, Queen Elizabeth
Climbing and Rambling Roses
Large or clustering flowers on vigorous twining stems that can reach 6m in height - the classic ‘roses around the door’. Climbing roses are more structured than ramblers.
Pros: Summer and autumn repeat blooming (climbing), fast growing, most are fragranced
Cons: Need training when young by using supports, need regular pruning
Best for: Walls, trellises, pergolas and arbours. Great for disguising unsightly structures.
Examples: Lutea, Alba Plena, Rambling Rector, Albertine
The favourite rose type for any size of garden, with hundreds of varieties - includes English Roses.
Pros: Vigorous, repeat blooming, disease resistance, low maintenance, often beautifully fragranced
Cons: You may need several hours to choose
Best for: Borders, beds and large containers
Examples: Gertrude Jekyll, Golden Celebration, Anne Boleyn
Bushy, compact plants with clusters of small flowers
Pros: Excellent heat resistance, repeat blooming, most are fragrant
Cons: Need pruning in spring to around half their size
Best for: Ground cover, edging borders, containers
Examples: Jean, Perle d’Or, Edith Cavell
Easy maintenance dwarf roses that are perfect for containers and as houseplants
Pros: Huge variety to choose from, very hardy, plenty of blooms
Cons: Needs careful watering if kept indoors
Best for: Containers, hanging baskets, windowsills, edging
Examples: Lavender Jewel, Pour Toi, Mr Bluebird
Common questions about roses
Are rambling roses or climbing roses better?
Neither is better nor worse, they just offer different things. The main difference between rambling roses and climbers is that rambling roses usually flower once, whereas climbing roses usually repeat flower throughout summer and autumn, but there are exceptions.
Can I grow roses in pots?
Unless the rose is a miniature variety, we advise not growing in pots. Even then the pot must be deep.
Only a few roses are tolerant of growing in contains because roses generally have long shallow roots are restricted too heavily by a pot.
What fragrances are there?
How to plant rose plants
Unless the ground is very dry, frozen or waterlogged, you can plant roses at any time of year.
Choose a position in direct sunlight, where your rose will get at least 4 hours of light each day. The best place to plant a rose is in a sheltered site 1m away from other plants or 60cm from other roses.
Planting potted rose plants
Potted roses are available all year round. Before removing your rose from its pot, give it a good watering. Prepare a weed and stone free position for it, and dig a hole 40cm wide and 40cm deep. You can add well rotted manure and rooting hormone at this point. Remove your rose carefully from its pot and position in the centre of the hole. Fill in the soil and firm it down well before watering in.
Planting bare root rose plants
Bare root roses are available from November to March, and should be planted as soon as possible after receiving them. When your roses arrive, soak the roots in a bucket of water for a minimum of two hours. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds and stones, and digging a hole of approximately 40 x 40 cm. Add some well rotted manure and optionally, some rooting hormone. Position the rose in the centre of the hole, fill it in and firm down the soil well. Give your new rose a good watering.
How to support climbing roses
Climbing roses are vigorous plants and need a lot of support!
Train your rose by making a network of wires across your wall or fence, or train on a pergola, arch or through the branches of a large tree.
How often to water and feed roses
When roses are newly planted, you should water them every 2-3 days, unless you’re planting bare root between November and March, when the weather should be wet enough.
As the weather warms up, you should water your roses once a week, but watch out for dry spells during spring and summer. If the flowers start to wilt or droop, it’s a sign that they need more water. Always water your roses at the base of the plant and avoid wetting the leaves, as this can encourage disease.
Feeding your roses can encourage stronger and healthier flowers - feed with a general purpose or specialist rose fertiliser in spring before flowers form, and again in late summer when flowering has slowed or stopped, to encourage healthy growth the following year.
How to prune and deadhead roses
Deadheading is perhaps the most important part of rose pruning, and simply means cutting off the flower heads after they’re past their best.
Deadheading prevents the plants growing seed heads and means that your rose will produce more flowers. Roses also need to be pruned to maintain their shape and keep the plant healthy - the best time to do this is in late winter or early spring, and ideally in January or February.
Pruning shrub bushes
In their first year after flowering, shrub roses should have flowering shoots cut back by 7-12 cm and any stems that are crossing over or wildly out of place can be removed.
In the second year you can cut back all the stems by a third and reduce any longer ones to the length of the rest.
In the third year and beyond, cut back by a third unless you want to reduce the size of your plant, in which case you can cut back by up to a half.
Pruning climbing roses
In the first year after flowering, prune away any stems that are growing away from the structure and can’t be tied in.
In the second year and beyond, repeat this step and if your rose is getting very vigorous, you can also cut away some of the weaker growth. Prune out old flowering stems to around 15cm from the main stem.
For both kinds of rose, you should also prune out all dead, damaged or diseased parts of the plant and remove any remaining leaves each year. Don’t worry if your rose looks a little bare - it will come back stronger and healthier in the spring!
Common problems with rose plants
Greenfly, or aphids, appear as clusters of tiny green insects on the flower heads and stems of roses.
They suck the sap from plants and excrete a sticky substance that if left, can lead to black mould.
To get rid of greenfly, the best solution is to encourage predatory insects like ladybirds, hover-flies and earwigs through a technique called companion planting, read about companion planting here.
Along with this, you can use a spray made of soapy water or water and oil to remove them from your plant. Find out how to make your own sprays from ingredients you already have at home.
Caterpillars will eat the leaves of roses, preventing them from absorbing sufficient sunlight and causing stunted growth.
Unfortunately by the time the caterpillars are big enough to be spotted, some damage will already be done. You can pick them off by hand or with tweezers - if you keep chickens, any non-hairy caterpillars you find make a good snack for hens. If you’d rather the caterpillars didn’t die, you can release them into the wild, away from built up areas with gardens.
Although very serious for pirates, Black Spot is a relatively mild disease for your roses.
It does, however, look pretty unattractive. It is spread from plant to plant by airborne spores and appears as brown or black patches on the leaves, which then fall prematurely. No rose is immune, but it helps to choose one which has high disease resistance.
If Black Spot strikes your roses, remove the affected leaves and stems and burn or dispose of them (not in the compost). Some gardeners also recommend mulching with woodchip around your roses, to prevent the spores multiplying in the soil.
Powdery mildew is an airborne fungal disease which appears as white or grey powder on the young leaves and shoots.
If left untreated it will distort the growth of the rose and spread to the flower buds, which will fail to open and then drop off. To treat powdery mildew, you will need to either cut away all the affected parts and dispose of them (not in the compost) or spray the plant with a fungicide.
Rust is a serious disease that is best treated if spotted early on.
From early summer, check the underside of the leaves for small orange pustules and if you find any, pick off and burn the affected leaves. Once the rose is dormant for the winter, you may be able to save it by gathering up any fallen leaves and spraying the plant and surrounding soil with fungicide.
If Rust is left to develop until the pustules turn brown or black and get larger, it is probably too late. If it spreads into the stems, all you can do is dig up the rose and burn it.