How to Plant a Rose Properly

Roses have been a favorite for generations.  Planting a rose correctly is key to its future performance in the garden. Before you plant any rose here in Alberta, be intentional about checking its zone hardiness rating.  Our horticultural zone is rated as zone 3 and zone 4.  The hardiest rose bush types for our area are those of the series named Explorer Roses, Parkland Roses, and Canadian Artist Roses. Be sure to check out our blog called Roses For Alberta to give you more information of what to look for.

An incorrectly planted rose won’t necessarily die, but it may not thrive.  It may grow weakly and bloom poorly.  Factors that affect rose growth include the correct site selection, the right kind of soil, and proper placement.  Roses for purchase come in two basic forms: bare root and actively growing in a pot.  Roses can be planted anytime during the spring and summer in our climate.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get into the details of how to plant roses:

Site Selection

  • Roses are sun lovers.
  • Choose a spot that gets a minimum of 6 to 8 hours a day of sunshine. That will essentially be an east, south, or west exposure.
  • Remember to take things into consideration that will cast shade on the rose like trees, other homes, garages, sheds, or fences.


  • Roses prefer fertile, well drained soil.
  • Roses like their fair share of water but they don’t like to be in standing water. If the roots stay too wet, they will eventually rot.
  • Take a look at your yard, and avoid planting roses in an area where water collects after a rainstorm, that area will be too wet for your rose.

Transplanting Bare Roots

  • Bare root roses come as exactly that – bare roots packaged without soil.
  • The University of Arizona extension recommends cutting the rose canes (those are the branches above the root) back to 8-10” and to soak the bare root roses in water for 8–24 hours to hydrate them really well before planting.
  • Dig a generously sized hole (18-30”) to accommodate the root ball plus a liberal amount of fresh soil to cover the roots. A good mix of soil for infilling is 1 part native soil to 1 part good quality potting soil. If you would like to know more about good quality potting soil, see our blog called Container Planting:  Soil Quality is Huge. Spread the roots out over a cone of soil.
  • Pay close attention to where the graft union is on the stem. The graft union is the bulgy area just above the roots where the stems originate.  Place this graft union at soil level or just above.  A good way to double check you’ve placed this union properly is to place a stick on the soil stretching from side to side over the width of the hole.  This will give you a guide to the soil level.
  • Fill in the hole with your mixed soil and compress the soil slightly so it is firm, but not packed – don’t step or jump on the soil because it will compress the air spaces which are vital for water retention and root metabolism.
  • Water daily with clear water for a week, unless it is rainy.
  • Mulch with good quality mulch to a depth of about 4”.  If you would like more information on mulch, see our blog called The Magic of Mulch.

Transplanting Roses in Containers

  • As with bare roots, hydrate this actively growing potted rose. Water it well so that water drains out of the bottom of the pot.  Another good way to make sure the rose is well watered is to place it in a container of water filled to about 6” & allow the roots to take up water from the bottom like we would drink from a straw.
  • Dig a hole that is twice the width & height of the pot the rose comes in. If you are planting more than one rose, double check labels for the rose’s mature dimensions – not all roses grow the same – and plan accordingly to allow each rose enough space to grow and have adequate air circulation.
  • Gently loosen the root ball from the pot so it stays intact and gingerly place it in the hole, again doing your best to keep the root ball together – the less the roots are disturbed, the better.
  • If the rose is root bound, loosen the roots at the bottom, which will encourage their growth.
  • Again, be sure that the graft union is at soil level or a little higher using the method described above in the bare root section. Don’t bury the graft union.
  • Back fill with a 1:1 mix of good quality potting soil and native soil. Firm the soil in, but avoid packing it hard.
  • Mulch with good quality mulch to a depth of about 4”.
  • Water well everyday for a week unless it is rainy.

Giving attention to detail in planting a rose correctly will give it a healthy start.  Be sure to check out our blogs on Caring for Roses and Overwintering Roses in Alberta to make your rose care complete and comprehensive.  Be sure to stop and smell your rose and to enjoy the beauty that it has to offer!

If you have any questions about your rose garden, please send us an email or give us a call.  We love to dialogue with you about your gardens.