How to Grow Roses (Even if You Can’t Keep a Succulent Alive)

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Roses are one of the world’s most classic and romantic flowers, but these low-maintenance stunners are much sturdier than you may think…when you give them the right conditions, that is. Roses work in every garden setting from a casual cottage style to a formal manicured English garden, adding color and fragrance. Some types, such as landscape or shrub roses, bloom all season long until a hard freeze, while others come and go on a more fleeting schedule. The most important thing to remember: Roses need a sunny spot with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day in order to bloom and thrive.

Here’s what else you need to know about how to grow roses in your own garden:

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What kind of roses should I plant?

There are many different types of roses. The American Rose Society classifies them into several main categories, including wild roses, Old Garden Roses (which are those that existed before 1867) and modern roses, which are those created after 1867. These newer roses, including many recent hybrids, have been developed to survive in a range of climates. They include Hybrid tea roses, shrub (landscape) roses and climbing roses.

The easiest type for a newbie to grow are shrub roses, including many which have been designed to be low-maintenance with long or repeat bloom times and improved disease resistance. No matter what type you buy, read the plant tag or description to make sure they’ll survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here), and pay attention to the mature size listed on the tag so you give them plenty of space to grow. Also, not all roses are fragrant, so read the tag to be sure of what you’re buying if scent is important to you.

How do I plant a rose bush?

First, make sure the area where you’ll be planting has enough sunlight. Roses also need good air circulation, which helps prevent disease, so don’t place them right up against a wall or fence (unless you’re planting a climbing rose). Next, dig a hole about 2 to 3 times the size of the pot, and set the plant in the hole at the same level as it was in the pot. Replace the soil, and pat down firmly. Water well (but don’t drown it!) and don’t let your new baby rose dry out completely as it’s getting established. Mulch can help retain moisture and keep the weeds down. It’s not necessary to add fertilizer at this time; in fact, some types may burn young roots.

What’s up with bare root roses?

Bare-root roses are just what they sound like: There’s no root ball, only the dormant rose with its roots exposed (they’re easier and cheaper to ship this way). They don’t look like much, but they actually are tough, little plants and will grow just fine! Bare-root roses typically are available in the spring and should be planted as soon as possible after you receive them. Soak the rose’s roots overnight, then dig a hole large enough so you can fan out the roots. Replace the soil, making sure not to cover the “crown” of the plant where the stems meet the roots. Then water well as it gets established. You should see it start to push out new growth in a few weeks.

Feeding your roses helps them bloom.

A balanced slow-release fertilizer is your best bet for feeding roses so that your plant receives a long, slow, steady release of nutrients. Start feeding in the spring. Some fertilizes also contain a systemic fungicide, which makes the plant less susceptible to disease. Follow the package instructions for feeding, but stop by late summer so that the rose can prepare to go dormant in the fall.

Do I have to prune my roses?

Pruning is more about aesthetics than plant health. And it’s not that complicated. That being said, prune in the spring as the first leaves emerge. Use a pair of pruners to snip off about 1/3 the total size of the plant, no matter what type of rose it is. Take off any dead, old growth, and trim straight across the stem. Throughout the season, it’s also fine to snip off spent blooms, called deadheading, if you want to neaten your plant up, but it’s not totally necessary.

Get your roses ready for winter.

Clean up all leaves under the plant to remove any potential diseased plant matter, which can overwinter in the soil. In cold climates, it’s also helpful to mulch lightly around the crown of your plant with shredded pine bark about 6 inches deep. In the spring about a month or so before the last frost is expected, pull the mulch back and let your plant take off. Even if it looks dead, give your rose time. Roses are incredibly robust and even those that look like they didn’t survive the winter often make a comeback after a few weeks.

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Must-Have Roses for Your Garden

how to grow roses at last rose1
Natal'â Morozova/EyeEm/Getty Images

1. At Last Rose

Gorgeous orange-pink flowers with a delightful, strong fragrance

how to grow roses peach drift rose
yhelfman/Getty Images

2. Peach Drift Rose

Peachy pink flowers on a sturdy bush with good disease resistance

how to grow roses popcorn drift rose
The Home Depot

3. Popcorn Drift Rose

Tons of butter-colored roses on a 1 ½-foot tall shrub

how to grow roses petite red knock out rose
JHVEPhoto/Getty Images

4. Petite Red Knock Out Rose

Deep red blooms atop an adorable shrub that maxes out at 18 inches tall

how to grow roses oso easy hot paprika rose
The Home Depot

5. Oso Easy Hot Paprika Rose

Stunning bold, orange blooms on a plant with good disease resistance

purewow author

Freelance Gardening Editor

Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other...