How to grow roses: expert advice on choosing the right rose for your garden

Learn how to grow roses with our top tips and you can tumble them from an arch, frame a doorway or display them in a patio pot for beautiful summer displays

how to grow roses: 'Princess Anne' David Austin Roses
(Image credit: David Austin Roses)

You don’t need an English country garden to want to learn how to grow roses. There is a type of rose for every kind of space, from miniature roses that will grow in a pot on a balcony or patio, shrub roses which are ideal for cultivating in borders, rambling roses which will romp over a porch in a mass of colour, and the more restrained climbing rose which is the perfect choice for cloaking a trellis. 

Roses come in a palette of soft colours, from pure white to blush pink, peach, gold, scarlet, lemon, plum and deep, velvety cerise. Many varieties are deliciously fragranced. Although they will need pruning and feeding, caring for roses is straightforward and it should not put anyone off growing them, whether you want to add them to your garden borders or your patio pots. 

Roses can fit happily into so many different garden styles, as part of prettily jumbled country cottage garden borders to creating a dramatic stand out solo feature, trained across a modern painted trellis. 

Ready to add these classic, lush looking blooms to your space? Keep reading for our expert tips...

What are the different types of roses? 

If you want to know how to grow roses in a certain part of your garden, choosing the right rose for the right place is key to successful growing. Here are the main rose types for you to choose from:

how to grow roses: 'The Country Parson' David Austin Roses

'The Country Parson' by David Austin Roses is a small to medium shrub rose

(Image credit: David Austin Roses)

Shrub rose Good for creating structure in a border or for making a rose hedge. Bushy, with lots of foliage, this rose works well in a border, paired with other plants, such as grasses and perennials. Many will repeat flower from June into the autumn. Examples include ‘Ballerina’ with lots of simple pink flowers or ‘Poseidon’ which has lilac, cup-shaped blooms. 

how to grow roses: climbing roses over an arch

Climbing roses are perfect for growing over an arch like this

(Image credit: Jacky Parker/Getty Images)

Climbing rose With a continuous supply of flowers all summer and into the autumn, these roses have a woody framework from which new flowering shoots grow. They provide good coverage for walls, but they don’t grow as exuberantly as rambling roses, so they are more suited to small garden ideas. ‘Lady Emma Hamilton,’ ‘Madame Alfred Carrière and ‘Constance Spry’ are three good growers. 

Climbing roses are good for planting next to a door, against a wall, over an arch, up a trellis as well as for your pergola ideas.

how to grow roses: Rambling Rector rose

Rambling Rector rose

(Image credit: Alamy)

Rambling rose They will enthusiastically cover a wall, fence or an ugly shed with small flowers in large sprays creating a mass of colour, but although rambling roses are dramatic, they produce only one flush of flowers a year lasting a couple of weeks, usually in early summer. 

They are best suited to gardens with plenty of space, as their growth is vigorous. 'Rambling Rector’ is fragrant, ‘Wedding Day’ is an ethereal white variety and ‘Lady of the Lake’ has pretty pink blooms. 

They are good for scrambling their long, flexible stems through bushes and into trees, and used as a living support for other climbing plants such as clematis. Like the sound of this planting combination? You can find out how to grow clematis in our guide. 

how to grow roses: floribunda rose

Floribunda roses have a long flowering period

(Image credit: Jacky Parker/Getty Images)

Floribunda rose If you like loads of flowers and bold colour, but are less bothered about fragrance, then this variety could be for you. The blooms grow in clusters, and they have a long flowering period. They are not usually scented. Try classic ‘Iceberg,’ the glorious ‘Golden Wedding’ or pretty pink ‘Valentine Heart.’ 

These roses have been bred to be robust and disease resistant. Put them in a deep bed or border, mixed with the best cottage garden plants for a stunning show. 

how to grow roses: standard tree rose

You will need to prune standard tree roses to ensure they maintain their shape

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Standard tree rose They look like lollipops, with rounded balls of blooms on top of a long, slim trunk. Created by grafting two or three cuttings of a rose on to a single stem, they can be grown in pots or planted in the ground. They need to be placed somewhere sheltered. 

These roses require pruning to maintain their shape, which will also encourage larger flowers to form. Pruning should be done after the second summer of flowering. Try ‘Silver Jubilee’ or ‘Blessings.’ They are ideal for making a feature either side of your garden path ideas in a formal garden, or a flanking a front door in pots.

how to grow roses: 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' David Austin Roses

(Image credit: David Austin Roses)

Hybrid tea rose This is the type of rose that often appears in shop bought bouquets, with one large, beautifully shaped flower on a long stem. They grow upright, with little foliage apart from at the base of the stem, and they usually flower three times between summer and autumn. Good for showcasing in a dedicated rose bed or a rose garden. They don’t blend well in mixed beds.

How to grow roses: follow our top tips

how to grow roses: cottage garden

(Image credit: Flower Council of Holland )

Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies Garden Centres, which has just launched an own-brand rose collection, says: 'As one of the UK’s best loved flowers, roses will add a charming country feel to your garden and these glorious blooms are much easier to grow than you think. You don’t need a huge garden with space for rose beds or a climbing arch, as they will happily grow in containers, making them perfect for patio ideas and balconies.' 

Roses may look exotic and fragile, but the majority of plants are toughened up by a process called ‘grafting.’ Because the flowering part of the rose at the top of the plant is not as robust with its own root system, expert growers swap them on to the bottom part of a hardier variety. Look for a knobbly area at the base of the plant and you can see where they have been fused together. Roses are tolerant of many types of soil. According to Marcus Eyles of Dobbies: 'they are easy to grow in any fertile well-drained soil, they will even grow well in heavier clay soils.' 

Most roses prefer a sunny spot, with at least four hours of sunshine a day, although, says Marcus Eyles, 'some tolerate light shade,' so pick your type carefully. Give them plenty of space. They need to be planted at least one metre away from other plants so that air can circulate around them. This reduces the risk of certain fungal diseases. 

Exposed, windy spots should also be avoided as this can cause the roots to loosen and the rose may die. 

Climbing and rambling roses will need a structure to grow against, whether that is a trellis, shed, wall or pergola. Tie in the stems horizontally, as it makes the rose produce side shoots, which produce the flowers. Keep tying them in as the rose grows. 

When to plant roses

Roses can be planted at any time of year, avoiding the middle of winter, when the ground is frozen, or times when soil is waterlogged or during a drought. Late winter is a good time to plant. This is when bare root roses (see below) are available to buy by mail order or at the garden centre. 

Bare root roses come without compost and a pot, and although they look off-putting, resembling a bundle of dry looking roots, they are cheaper to purchase than potted ones, and they will soon grow strong and healthy, putting on plenty of foliage and flowers in their first season. 

Tips for planting a bare root rose

how to grow roses: planting bare root rose

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Soak the rose in a bucket of cold water for 30 minutes. 
  2. Dig a hole in the ground which is twice as wide and deep as the longest roots. Tease them out to make sure they are not compacted.
  3. Mix a bag of multi-purpose compost in with the soil and fork together.
  4. Sprinkle 30g of mycorrhizal fungi into the hole. This mix of natural fungi helps to create stronger root systems, which leads to healthier growth, more flowers and improved disease resistance. 
  5. Put the root into the hole. Look for a mark on the stem which indicates its previous soil level, and match this up. 
  6. Holding the rose upright, fill the hole with soil. 
  7. Press the soil in place with a spade.
  8. Firm into place using your hands or apply gentle pressure with your heel.
  9. Water thoroughly, using a full can. 
    There's more expert tips on how to plant bare root roses in our guide. 

CARING FOR ROSES 

how to grow roses: deadheading

Deadheading your roses is one of the best ways to get them to flower for longer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Roses have an unfair reputation for being high maintenance, but one thing is true: they are hungry plants. Marcus Eyles from Dobbies explains: 'For healthy growth and lots of blooms, feed each spring with granular rose fertiliser forked into the surrounding soil. Cover with a layer of manure to help retain moisture.' This should be done in late March or the beginning of April at the start of the growing season. A second feed is recommended in late July. Use a specially formulated rose food, widely available from garden centres. The food should be sprinkled around the base of the plant. 

Take care not to over-feed roses, as this can do more harm than good. Once the feed has been applied, mulch the plants, with a layer at least five centimetres deep. 'Make sure you spread it to the width of the canopy,' advise the experts at David Austin Roses. For mulch, they recommend Carr’s organic soil improver, garden compost or well-rotted manure. Head over to our guide to mulching for more top tips on using this method in your garden. 

Deadheading means that roses will flower for longer. When you spot a bloom that has gone over, pinch or cut off the flower, where the base joins the stem. For roses that flower in a cluster, remove the entire head once the flowers have finished. Cut it off with your best secateurs, just above the first leaf with five leaflets.

How to water roses

how to grow roses: watering roses

(Image credit: Karan Kapoor/Getty Images)

It’s not quite as simple as dumping a full watering can over the top of a rose. David Austin Roses’ expert growers recommend these tips:

  • Water as close to the base of the plant as possible. Go slowly, allowing the water to soak in.
  • Do not water over the foliage or the flowers of a rose as this encourages certain diseases, such as black spot. 
  • If you are watering with a hose, avoid using a jet spray. Some hoses have a special rose setting, but if yours doesn’t, ensure that the pressure is not too high. Find the best garden hose for the job in our guide. 
  • As a general rule, each time you water, shrub roses need five litres, climbing, rambling and standard tree roses need 10 litres and roses in pots require five litres. 

During October to February, roses require little or no watering. In March to May, they will need hydrating if there is a dry spell lasting two weeks or more. Newly planted roses need watering every two to three days. 

Between June and September, water established roses every other week, and newly planted ones twice a week. Roses in pots and containers need a drink every other day. Water twice as often if the weather is very hot and dry. Give each rose one large watering can full.  

Tips for pruning roses

how to prune roses: pruning floribunda roses

(Image credit: Yana Tatevosian/Getty Images)

Don’t stress about pruning roses because the principle is very simple. Prune them with sharp secateurs each winter (February is a good time) to keep their shape and encourage new shoots, says Dobbies’ Marcus Eyles. 'Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged stems, cutting remaining stems back to a strong outward facing bud,' he advises. 

For in-depth advice on keeping your roses in great shape, head over to our guide on how to prune roses

PROBLEMS WITH ROSES

cottage garden layout ideas: roses and lavender

(Image credit: Victoria Wade)

Roses can attract a number of pests and they are prone to fungal diseases such as black spot and mildew. The key is to inspect plants regularly and to act promptly if you find something amiss. 

  1. Rose black spot shows when small black or purple spots develop on leaves, and it can make them drop. Roses which are particularly prone to this disease are hybrid tea roses, floribundas, climbing roses and patio roses. Fallen infected leaves should be collected up and destroyed (not added to a compost heap). The plant can be treated with a spray.
    For a choice which will not affect beneficial insects such as bees, ladybirds and lacewings, try Sulphur Rose Spray (available from Amazon). This will also tackle mildew and certain aphids. Or try Fungus Clear Ultra, also available from Amazon. 
  2. Suckers are whippy shoots. They grow when the grafted root of the rose produces a shoot of its own which is different to the rest of the plant. They are undesirable because they may remove vital nutrients from getting to the top of the plant, ultimately causing it to die. To remove a sucker, find the source (below soil level if necessary) and pull away. 'If you are unsure if you have a sucker or fresh growth, leave it until it’s obvious that it matches the rest of the plant,' say the David Austin experts. Suckers can develop when a rose’s roots are damaged by digging or hoeing, so take care when working around the base of the plant.  
  3. Waterlogged soil can kill roses at their roots. Ensure that they grow in a well-drained area. If they are to be put into a container, make sure to add plenty of drainage holes before planting. 

Where to buy roses

You can buy roses as either bare root plants (the cheaper option) or as pot grown plants. Follow our quicklinks below to shop roses for your garden.

Where to buy roses in the UK:

Where to buy roses in the US: 

cottage garden ideas: cottage garden with rambling roses climbing a stone wall

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)