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The Complete Guide to Roses Care

Have you always wanted to grow roses but were afraid to try? They are the perfect cottage garden flower and not as difficult to grow as many believe. Follow these roses care tips and learn how to grow gorgeous, healthy flowers.

(Post updated on May 28, 2022)

When I first started gardening, I wanted to grow roses but was a little intimidated by the amount of care required to grow them successfully.

I’d always heard how difficult and fussy they were so I didn’t take too many chances growing different types of roses.

Once I learned that some roses are easier to care for than others, I started with the easier shrub roses and slowly progressed to other rose types.

Fast forward several years and I am thrilled with how my roses are all doing this year and can’t wait to show you the flowers!

In my opinion, there’s a rose type for everyone.

Know how much work you want to do and choose resistant varieties to pest and disease, and you’ll be on your way to successfully grow roses in no time.

In the meantime, here are the basics of roses care.

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close up of globemaster alliums and knock out roses on the happy gardening tour

The Complete Guide to Roses Care

In order to understand rose care, it’s important to understand there are several types of roses that may require different types of care.

Types of Roses

  • Floribundas and Polyanthas
  • Grandifloras
  • Hybrid Teas
  • Shrub roses
  • Climbing roses
  • Miniature roses
pink Roses climbing up obelisk -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
The Complete Guide to Roses Care
Close up of double flowering pink knockout roses in the backyard garden by garden shed and raised garden beds -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
This knockout rose border was my first attempt at growing roses. They’ve stood the test of time, are stunningly beautiful and the easiest rose to work with.

Floribundas and Polyanthas – Many blooms per stem, shrub rose

Grandifloras – Cross between hybrid tea and floribunda with masses of large flowers.

Hybrid Tea – Most popular, long stem with single flower

Shrub Rose – Catch all class of hardy, easy-care plants that are bushy and don’t fit another category of rose bushes.

Miniature Roses – Small size, excellent for containers.

close up of davide austin rose 'charlotte' The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Charlotte’ David Austin Rose
pink roses on green wood picket fence

How to Select Roses

  • Select a plant based on the size that will fit the garden space. And if it’s a climber, that it has a strong enough support.
  • Choose plants that are adapted to your hardiness zone and climate.
  • Look for plants that are resistant to pests and diseases. The more resistant they are, the easier they will be to care for them.
close up of white dawn climbing rose with pink knockout rosesThe Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘White Dawn’ Climbing Rose

How to Plant Roses

  • Select healthy plants. Make sure there is no yellow or diseased foliage and check the undersides of leaves for pests. If packaged or bare-root plants are dry, immerse them in water for a few hours before planting.
  • Plant in fertile, well-drained soil where roses will receive at least 6 hours of sun.
  • Follow plant tag directions for proper spacing. Air circulation is important to keeping roses healthy.
  • Dig a planting hole as deep and twice as wide as container.
  • Fill the hole with a mix of native soil, good quality garden soil, compost and perlite.
close up of roses and peonies in the garden with obelisk -David Austin roses up close on an obelisk in the garden -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Lady of Shallot’ David Austin Rose with my blooming peonies.

For Bare Root Roses

  • Soak the entire rose bush in water for 8-24 hours.
  • Dig hole 18-30 inches wide and deep to accommodate the root ball. And create a soil cone for the bare root to sit on.
  • Fill the hole with native soil, good quality garden soil, compost, and perlite.
  • Spread roots over soil cone. Plant the bud union 2” above the soil line, then backfill with remaining soil.
  • Apply mulch.
  • Water every day for one week. How much you water will depend on your climate and weather.
close up of lady of shallot david austin rose -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Lady of Shallot’ Rose by David Austin

How to Transplant Existing Roses

Depending on your climate, the best time to transplant healthy roses is during dormancy.

When transplanting, cut the rose canopy to one-third to one-half back and move as much of the root ball as possible.

This will help ensure there is as little disruption to the root system as possible during transplanting.

close up of lady in red climbing rose -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Lady in Red’ Climbing Rose

How to Water Roses

Roses need good drainage to be happy and healthy. The root system likes to be moist but not saturated.

Water roses when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry.

Note: don’t just do a light watering of the surface. Make sure it’s a deep watering that ensures deep soil penetration.

  • Water slowly to 2-3 feet depth.
  • Keep in mind that watering depends on soil characteristics, weather, and microclimate. If you are not sure, speak to other local gardeners about their experience or contact your local cooperative extension for guidance.
close up of david austin rose 'ebb tide'The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Ebb Tide’ by David Austin

The Importance of Mulching Roses

After yearly pruning, add a 4-inch layer of mulch around roses to add organic material, help regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds.

Keep mulch away from the plant stem and place it roughly 6 inches away from the base of the plant to form a basin.

close up of climbing white rose
‘White Dawn’ Climbing Rose

The Importance of Fertilizing Roses

Simply put, roses need to be fed for healthy foliage and blooms.

As such, they need frequent fertilizer applications.

Roses are heavy feeders and, once established, need more fertilization to perform best.

When using fertilizers, it’s always important to follow the manufacturer. They know their product.

close up of roses at the garden nursery -The Complete Guide to Roses Care

I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER but have also used THIS 3-in-1 synthetic fertilizer.

After using both, I prefer THIS ONE because the blooms were more prolific and it’s organic.

Let me know what you like to use in the comments below.

close up of david austin rose 'tranquility' The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Tranquility’ David Austin Rose

How to Prune Roses

It’s important to prune roses because it stimulates new growth and encourages more flowers.

In general, pruning roses are done both in dormancy and during the growing season.

Pruning Tip: Clean your pruners well between plants to minimize the spread of pest and disease problems. I like to use a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water.

Garden obelisk in the cottage garden with climbing roses and pink knockout roses
Climbers need good support like this obelisk from H Potter.

Dormancy Pruning

Pruning roses while in dormancy stimulates new growth in spring.

  • Depending on your climate, prune in late winter/early spring before or when buds start to swell.
  • Cut off dead wood, cold and unproductive canes, as well as crossing branches that rub against others. This will help prevent pest and disease problems.
  • In general, leave about 5-12 canes that are 18-24 inches tall.
  • When pruning, remove roughly one-third to no more than one-half the length of the previous season’s growth.
  • Cut off suckers below the graft union to keep the growth energy in the main plant.
  • When pruning, keep the center of the shrub open (kind of like a basket). This encourages light and air circulation while the plant grows.
backyard garden with corrugated metal raised garden beds, garden shed with sign and pink knockout roses - The Complete Guide to Roses Care

Pruning Throughout the Growing Season

In addition to pruning when roses are dormant, it’s equally important to prune them during the season to remove spent flowers and keep the plant healthy.

  • Prune dead and diseased wood, weak and crossing canes to help prevent pest and disease problems.
  • Make cuts to canes above a bud on a slant away from the bud.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to the newest 5-leaflet leaf.
close up of david austin rose 'Charolotte'-The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Charlotte’ by David Austin Roses

Pruning Floribundas

Floribunda (hybrid tea x polyantha) produce flowers in clusters on vigorous, bushy plants that are wonderful for hedges or informal borders.

backyard garden with garden shed, raised corrugated metal garden beds and pink knockout roses -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
My Knockout Roses are the first roses I worked with. I planted them at the base of my deck to form a small hedge and they look amazing to this day!

To prune:

  • Leave as many strong new canes as plant has produced.
  • Cut back the previous season’s growth only by one-fourth and can be pruned to hedge effect.
close up of flowers in Colorful Cottage Garden that include double flowering knockout pink roses, dahlias and yellow pansies

Troubleshooting Rose Problems

There are a variety of pest and disease problems that affect roses.

To have success with roses, it’s important to control and identify pest and disease problems.

This requires good sanitation practices as well as a regular spray program using materials as directed by the manufacturer.

And whatever you do, don’t start treating roses with a pesticide before you know what’s wrong with it.

close up of knockout roses at the garden nursery -The Complete Guide to Roses
Knockout Roses at the local nursery.

There are different pesticides for different types of problems so knowledge is power where roses are concerned.

One of my go-to rose sprays to combat pest and disease problems includes THIS.

In general, these are common problems with roses.

  • Aphids
  • Cane borers
  • Thrips
  • Spider Mites
  • Leaf cutter bees
  • Black Spot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Crown gall
  • Rose mosaic virus
  • Salinity
  • Nutrient deficiencies
Close up of double flowering pink knockout roses in the backyard garden by garden shed and raised garden beds -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
Knockout Roses

I am by no means a rose expert but have learned that walking the gardens and inspecting plants every day helps prevent massive pest and disease problems.

Catch problems early and plants will reward you with happy healthy blooms all season long.

Allium globemaster and double flowering pink knockout roses in suburban cottage garden - The complete guide to roses care
Knockout Roses in the cottage garden.

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Close up of David Austin Rose
Rose Care for Beginners
The Complete Guide to Roses Care

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    1. Thank you Ann! They are doing so well this year! I hope you try roses – the knockouts are a great starter rose. Very easy to work with. xo

    2. Your roses are gorgeous. I forgot about Knockout Roses

      We just finished planting tons of coreopsis. We had them in our old house and loved them so much

  1. This is a great post! Very informative and detailed…thank you. I love roses but don’t care for them as well as I should. You just gave me a nudge:)

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy the post Maria! Roses are not to be feared – there are some fuss-free varieties out there. xo

  2. Pingback: Dirt Road Adventures - Guest Cottage Adventures - The Ponds Farmhouse
  3. Stacy – Thank you for the tutorial. I just want to tell you how kind you are to teach us what we want to do but don’t know how.
    For most of my plants I use Espoma for plants. Stinks but the odor goes away pretty fast.
    Blessings to you

  4. This is great! I have knock out roses that I’ve done nothing with but keep coming back. They don’t look great so I thought I may pull them all out. But now I’m going to try your tips and maybe they’ll flourish! Thank you!