Growing Roses: The Complete Guide

Photography by Mac Jamieson

Text by Hannah Jones

Roses might just be one of the most coveted flowers, and yet, they are one of the least grown plants in the average garden. With a reputation for being high-maintenance and difficult to grow, these beautiful blooms are seen more often in stores than your neighbor’s garden. Usually, though, roses get a bad rap and are much easier to cultivate than people may think. There are many varieties of roses—some being quite high-maintenance while others are considered relatively easy to grow. As with most gardening, a little bit of planning and research goes a long way when it comes to caring for roses. Below, we’ve got a quick guide that’ll have you growing your very own rosebush in no time!

Choose Your Varietal

Photography by Emily Reiter and Rhianna Mercier, Florals by Margaret Joan Florals

To start, know exactly what kind of rose you’re getting or have already. There are many varieties of roses, each with their own specific likes and needs, and keeping this in mind is essential to growing them successfully. ‘Knock Out,’ ‘Mystic Fairy,’ ‘Little Mischief,’ and ‘Sally Holmes’ are all types of roses that are great for beginners thanks to their low-maintenance nature. When choosing what varietal you’d like to grow, it’s vital to take into consideration your planting zone and in what area your new rose will be located. A little research and planning pay off when it comes to getting the perfect rose.

Potted vs. Bare-Root

Photography by Stephanie Welbourne Steele, Florals by Rose Story Farm

After you’ve selected your rose varietal, you’ll want to decide whether you want to purchase a container rose from a nursery or a bare-root rose, which can be ordered online or bought in- store. Bare-root roses are significantly cheaper but require a bit more care and take longer to grow. Roots need to soak in water overnight before planting, and their soil must be kept damp for the first few weeks after planting. Mature roses bought in containers are preferable for beginners, despite having a higher price tag. Bonus: you can go ahead and enjoy your beautiful blooms immediately.

Location, Location, Location

Photography by Stephanie Welbourne Steele, Florals by Rose Story Farm

The best planting spot for your new rose depends on what variety you choose, but generally, most roses love morning sun but should be shielded from blistering afternoon light. Well-draining soil is important, as well. If you decide to pot your rosebush, be sure that the container has proper drainage holes.

Stay Hydrated

Photography by Emily Reiter and Rhianna Mercier, Florals by Margaret Joan Florals

Roses love a good soaking when it comes to being watered. Water your plant at least once a week, possibly more in hot climates, allowing the water to soak deep down. Be sure to water at the base of the plant and close to the soil.

Essential Nutrients

Photography by Mac Jamiesoon

You’ll want to fertilize your rose once a month with rose fertilizer from March/April through August/September. Fertilization is necessary for plant performance. Fertilizing not only grows more bountiful and beautiful blooms but also protects the plant from disease and infection. Be sure to water well after fertilizing.


Photography by Stephanie Welbourne Steele, Florals by Rose Story Farm

Pruning guidelines vary, but most gardeners suggest pruning roses in late winter to encourage new growth or towards the end of the growing season in July or August. Pruning your plant isn’t absolutely vital, but it is encouraged to keep your rose in tip-top shape and healthy from year to year. You can also cut any dead blooms to signal your plant to grow more.

Maintaining Your Work

Photography by Mac Jamieson

Keep an eye out for various pests and diseases that can affect roses. If you notice holes in the leaves, black spots, or areas of your plant dying, take a trip to your local nursery and ask what the problem might be. Water your plant less frequently at the beginning of fall, and aerate the soil at the end of the season so your rosebush comes back happy and healthier than ever the next year!

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