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  • Writer's pictureKassi Kuppinger

A Beginner's Guide to Planting a Rose Garden

Roses truly are some of the most beautiful perennial flowers with their large and often aromatic blooms that are bold enough to stop anyone in their tracks. At Bath Garden Center and Nursery, we carry hundreds (literally) of different varieties of roses in every color, shape, and size, and their arrival is always a most anticipated event! If you are counting down the days until you can come pick out your favorite rose varieties to add to your landscaping, or if you are wondering how to start a rose garden, here is a guide with everything you will need to know to make sure your new roses thrive in their new home for years to come.

Planting a Rose Garden

Rose Planting Guidelines

The first and most important thing to do when considering buying a rose bush is to make sure that the location you have in mind for planting is ideal. Planting a rose in a less than ideal location will result in an unhappy plant, and a plant that is not happy will not grow big or produce an abundance of flowers. Worst case scenario, your rose may die off if left in a location that is not ideal. So, to make sure your rose bush has the highest chance of success, consider the following environmental factors!

1.Consider Your Space

Roses require adequate space to grow. A rose bush that is planted too close to another rose or a building will lead to growth issues and can introduce more opportunities for disease. Depending on the mature size of your rose bush, you will want to plant them approximately 2/3 of the expected height of the plant apart, or around 20-30 inches apart depending on mature size. If you are planting a rose near a structure, allowing for a foot of space between the rose and the structure will give the roots enough room to grow while also allowing the rest of the plant the space it needs. Planting a rose a foot away from any building or structure also gives you more room to work when pruning or spraying your rose bushes.

2. Make Sure They’ll Get Enough Sun

Most roses generally need four hours of direct sunlight at the very minimum. While select varieties may be able to grow well in more shaded conditions, always make sure to know the needs of the rose before you buy! Sunlight is a plant’s main source of energy, and if it is not getting enough sunlight, there is no amount of watering or fertilizing that will make up for it!

3. What Kind of Soil Do Roses Prefer?

Planting your rose in healthy soil is also key to the success of the plant. Especially here in Colorado, our soil is naturally very clay-heavy. Such soil does not contain a lot of essential nutrients, does not drain well, and is very dense and compact, making it difficult for the roots of your plant to spread and establish themselves. Healthy soil is light and fluffy, drains well while also holding onto some moisture, and is full of nutrients and rich in organic materials. If you are not sure how to tell if you have healthy soil, check out this blog for more insight!

How to Choose Roses & Prepare Your Garden

Choose Roses & Prepare Your Garden

Now that you know what sort of environment your roses will need to thrive, it’s time to do some research! Picking out your roses is the most fun part. Planning things out and anticipating the beauty you will get to enjoy is exhilarating!

What Kind of Rose is Right for You?

The main different rose varieties we sell at Bath Garden Center and Nursery in Fort Collins include climbing roses, hybrid tea roses, grandiflora roses, floribunda roses, miniature roses, shrubs roses, and groundcover roses.

  • Climbing Roses: This category of rose is more a description than it is an actual variety. There are many different kinds of grandiflora or floribunda roses that are considered climbing roses. Such roses grow long canes that, when trained and provided with the proper support, can reach great heights and create a marvelous spectacle.

  • Hybrid Tea Roses: These are some of the most popular roses on the market with their large and ornate blooms which don anywhere from 30-50 petals. Many of these roses are hybrid varieties that have been bred to combine the best features of certain roses. They often also have a lovely and sweet tea fragrance to them.

  • Grandiflora Roses: These roses are technically a subclass of hybrid tea roses that have floribunda features. They feature elegant and showy blooms that grow in clusters of three to five blooms. These roses generally grow larger and taller than hybrid teas, are quite hardy, and can grow vigorously in the right conditions.

  • Floribunda Roses: These are another favorite among many, featuring large clusters of flowers that bloom continuously, giving you more color to enjoy for longer, as compared with grandifloras or hybrid teas that really only have a 6-7 week blooming cycle. Another perk of this type of rose is that they are quite low-maintenance and easy to care for.

  • Miniature Roses: Also referred to as patio roses, they have a much more compact growth habit, staying within 15-30 inches. They feature smaller foliate with petite blooms that will charm any passersby. Miniature roses are actually a type of hybrid tea or grandiflora rose.

  • Shrubs Roses: In general, shrub roses tend to grow large and wide and are capable of consuming fifteen feet in every direction once they reach maturity. They are very hardy and are able to withstand harsh winters. These roses also feature beautiful blooms that appear in large clusters.

  • Groundcover Roses: Also called landscape roses, these often exhibit vibrant color, continuous blooms, convenient growth, lovely fragrance, and are low-maintenance as well. They stay low to the ground, only reaching around a foot in height, and are also resistant to both diseases and pests, making them ideal for most situations.

Prepare Your Garden and Plant Your Roses

Prepare Your Garden and Plant Your Roses

Once you have picked out a variety of rose that is best suited to your location, environment, and aesthetic desires, dig a hole that is approximately three times the size of the container. Most of the roses we sell here at Bath Garden Center come in 3-gallon containers, so in this case, you would want to dig a hole that could hold approximately 9 gallons. Remove your rose from its container and gently loosen the roots up a bit so that they are not tightly bound together. This will help encourage the roots to start working their way into the soil they are planted in. Place your rose in the hole and fill in the space around the root ball of your rose with an organic soil and compost combination (you should also put a layer of soil/compost at the bottom of your hole before positioning your rose). You can also add in some manure or earthworm castings for some extra nutrition! Pack the soil and compost mixture in around the base of your plant so that it is secure in its position. You can also add a layer of mulch on top of your soil when you have finished planting. This will help support your plant as well as help the soil retain moisture on hot and dry days. For more details on planting guidelines, check out this blog!

Once your rose is planted, soak the area with water. It is best to water with a slow and consistent trickle of water for a couple of hours rather than allowing your hose to gush for ten minutes. Watering slowly for a longer period of time allows the water to soak deep into the soil and saturate the area around your plant while watering quickly for a short period of time simply causes the water to spread out over the surface of the soil and then only soaks in an inch or two. You will want to give your newly planted rose thorough and frequent waterings especially within the first year after planting, as this is necessary to help the rose establish itself.

Caring for Roses

Caring for Roses

Now that your rose is planted, providing it with the appropriate care will be imperative if you want to keep it looking happy, healthy, and beautiful. Here are a few basic recommendations to follow!

Develop a Watering Schedule

Your roses will require a consistent watering schedule, especially within the first year after planting and during the hottest months of the year. As we mentioned above, your rose will need deep, thorough waterings. Frequent and shallow watering will not saturate the roots of the rose and will lead to the rose not getting the moisture it needs. Water your rose 1-2 times per week and for long enough to saturate the roots of your plant.

Pruning Your Roses

Pruning your rose bushes yearly is a necessary practice that helps control the size, shape, and health of your plant. It also helps stimulate growth and can influence the size and number of blooms your roses produce! You will want to prune your roses in the spring when your plant breaks dormancy and once any chance of frost has passed (the annual last frost date is usually around Mother's Day). At this point, you will want to remove any dead plant material, pruning as far down as you must go to reach healthy wood. You may have to prune down to the ground if necessary. You can tell if the wood is healthy when the pith is white or cream-colored and the inner cambium layer is green. On most Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, or Floribundas, leaving 3-4 healthy canes will result in a fewer number of large roses, while leaving 5-7 canes will encourage a larger number of smaller roses. In general, the last cut on each cane should be made a quarter of an inch above an outward-pointing bud eye (where a leaf joins the stem). Trimming in this manner will encourage upward growth from the bud eye. It is also recommended to keep an eye on your rose throughout the summer months, pruning off any thin or weak-looking growth. This will help to focus the plant's energy on the strongest canes, which will result in bigger and more beautiful rosebuds!

Pruning also takes place if you harvest any blooms for your enjoyment or remove any spent blooms. When harvesting roses, make sure to leave at least two five-leaflet leaves to help provide your plant with nutrients to keep it strong. When deadheading your rosebush, cut the plant back to a pencil-thick cane or to the nearest five-leaflet leaf. This is where new growth will begin to sprout! To help your rosebush grow with a favorable shape, cut just above an outward-facing bud eye/group of leaves as this is where the next cane will grow from.

Fertilizing Your Roses

While the question of what fertilizer to use or how often to use it may not have a single, straight-forward answer, one thing for sure is that applying a fertilizer to your roses will result in healthier plants that produce bigger roses. If you are new to rose gardening, don't let yourself become overwhelmed by the plethora of advice, which is often conflicting. We hope that the following general information will help guide you to make the best choice for yourself!

  • Use a balanced fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer contains a blend (not necessarily an equal blend) of the three most essential nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K). All fertilizers should have an N-P-K value, and these numbers make up the percentage of each nutrient in the fertilizer. For example, if you see a bag of fertilizer that has a value of 7-8-4, this means that 7% is Nitrogen, 8% is Phosphorus, and 4% is Potassium, with the leftover percentage being made up of other filler ingredients or trace elements.

  • Why are these elements important? Nitrogen helps promote healthy growth. So, if you want tall, strong canes, good blooms, and rich, dark foliage, you won't want to skimp on this nutrient! Phosphorous helps promote healthy root and flower development and also hastens plant maturity, allowing it to better withstand winters. Potassium also aids in healthy root growth, contributes to vibrant bloom color, and helps maintain the vigor of your plant.

  • How to apply your fertilizer. All fertilizers will have their own application instructions, which you should be sure to follow closely! Applying a fertilizer incorrectly can result in more damage than good. In general, you want to apply your fertilizer with lots of water, and be sure to water well both before and after applying the fertilizer.

  • When should you fertilize your roses? Fertilize initially in the spring after you have pruned your plant. Using a fast-acting, quick release fertilizer (usually inorganic) will make nutrients available to your plant immediately! You can also use other organic fertilizers such as Mile-Hi Rose Feed, just know that it may be slower to take affect as the nutrients may take a little longer to be absorbed by your plant. Continue fertilizing every 4-6 weeks with your last application being around mid-August.

  • Don't fertilize newly planted roses. Be cautious when fertilizing newly planted bushes. If you plant your roses in nutrient-rich soil as instructed above, this will give the plant all the nutrients it needs while it acclimates to its new home. Using fertilizers prematurely can cause damage or add more stress to your rose as it establishes itself. In general, you should not use fertilizers on your roses until there is evidence of new cane and leaf growth, and if you want to be particularly cautious, wait until after the first bloom.

  • What fertilizer should you use? As we mentioned above, there is no right answer to this question. With the hundreds of different options, opinions, and methods, we simply cannot say that one way is the best way, or one product is the best product. However, we do have some of our favorite rose fertilizers available in-store and online, so take a look and decide for yourself!

Protect Your Roses Throughout the Winter

Now that you have put so much care into making sure your rose is planted properly and adequately cared for throughout the warm season, it is even more important to make sure that your roses are properly cared for and protected throughout the cold season so that they will come back strong and healthy next spring! Many established roses may not need much extra care throughout the winter, however, Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, in particular, will benefit from some pampering.

As the temperature begins to cool down, ensure that your roses are well watered. In the case of freezing temperatures, a plant with hydrated roots will handle the cold better than a plant with dry roots. Adding a layer of mulch around the base of your rose will also help regulate conditions throughout the winter season. Once temperatures have dropped into the 20's, pile 6-12 inches of mulch up around the base of younger or more tender roses is highly recommended. Using a rose collar is an easy way to do this and will require less mulch. You may also want to stake some tall roses or tie up any loose case of climbing roses to help protect them from damage caused by wind or heavy snow.

Just like any other trees, shrubs, or perennial plants, ensuring that your plant has adequate water throughout the winter season is imperative. Even though the plant is dormant, that does not mean that it does not need water! If there is not a layer of snow covering the mulch around your rose, and if the soil is not frozen, dig 2-3 inches into the soil. Ball up some of the soil in your hand, and if it remains in a cool, damp ball, there is no need to water. However, if the soil crumbles, water is necessary! Watering should be done early in the day when temperatures stay above 45 degrees for several hours. This will ensure that the water has enough time to soak in deep around the roots of the plant before freezing with cooler evening temperatures. As mentioned above, watering slowly and deeply is necessary for the moisture to reach the roots of your plant!

You can remove your rose collars and mulch in early May after the average last frost date. To avoid shocking any new growth, remove winter mulch a few inches at a time in the late afternoon to allow tender new growth to become familiar with the lack of insulation throughout the night. Removing winter mulch too early (as soon as April) can result in new growth freezing and dying, while removing it too late (near the end of May) may result in more efforts needing to be put towards hardening off your tender new growth so that it is not scorched by the sun.

How To Plant A Rose Garden

The world of roses is highly extensive, and there is more information to be shared than can be covered in a single blog. So, if you have any lingering questions about how to plant a rose, how to care for rose bushes, what types of roses are best, how to fertilize a rose or any other rose-related topics, please, let us know! Our rose specialists are on the property daily and are always more than happy to help! You can also check out our video on How to Care for Roses:


Board, Jennifer. "It’s Time to Start Planning Your Dream Rose Garden." Clever. 20 April 2021. Web. Date accessed: 1 April 2022. Retrieved from:

Denver Rose Society. "Growing Roses in Colorado." Denver Rose Society. 2019. Print.

Jackson & Perkins. "The Different Types of Roses: An Ultimate Guide." Jackson & Perkins. Web. Date accessed: 1 April 2022. Retrieved from:

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