Planting roses - site selection and ground preparation

KJ Reyland | 27 September, 2021

            Planting Roses NZ

There is nothing quite like the sight of a bed of roses or the thrill of picking a vase full for the table. Add to this the satisfaction and sense of achievement. Even in a small space two or three roses can make a house into a home with a welcoming feel.

Selecting the site

Roses will grow best in a warm sunny position. They will not grow and flower well in shade or where they have to compete for light and moisture. Shelter from strong winds is also a benefit.

The soil

Roses require a free draining soil rich in organic matter (compost). In clay soils, the plot should be raised or built up some 15cm above the surrounding soil to ensure good drainage. See our blog on ‘What makes a good soil’ for more detail.

The plants

Most rose varieties are grafted onto a vigorous rootstock to ensure strong growth in all soil types.

These grafted plants are 2 years old and are sold for a brief period in winter as bare root plants. Garden centres pot up these same plants which are ready for sale as pot grown plants from mid - September onwards. These potted roses can be planted out any time provided they are watered regularly through the first summer.

Some roses are grown from cuttings, eg. Flower Carpet roses, which are available as pot grown plants all year.

Planting new plants

Ground Preparation

Roses are best planted in well-prepared ground. Preparation should be done in advance by deep digging and by working-in compost or well-rotted organic matter, plus a dressing of lime or dolomite. In clay soils, the planting area should be raised 15cm above the surrounding soil. Should this not be possible before your bare root roses arrive, ‘heel’ them in to a spare bit of ground until their permanent home is ready. This is to ensure that the roots do not dry out. Container grown roses can be held for a few weeks before planting provided they are watered daily.

Rose bushes should not be planted where other roses have been growing. Should no alternative site be available you must change the soil, giving each plant at least half a barrow of fresh material, swapping it, for example, with soil from the vegetable garden or a bag of garden mix.


Each hole should be at least a full spade depth and wide enough to allow the roots to spread out evenly. For bare root roses, place the roots on a low mound of worked-up soil at the bottom of the hole and fill, holding the plant steady so that it remains upright. Mix in a handful of Novatec Premium plant food as the hole is filled. Novatec fertiliser will provide an excellent balance of nutrients for the first 4-6 months. The depth should be deep enough to allow the graft - the base of the top branching part of the plant - to lie just above surface level. It is important to tread the plant in well as the soil is replaced and to water well. This will help to settle the soil round the roots and avoid air pockets.