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last updated Dec 19, 2012
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Queen of Sweden Credit: RHS/Advisory.

Roses are one of the most popular garden plants. These beauties come in a range of colours, many with scented blooms, and they can be grown in borders, containers, over arches, pergolas and as groundcover. They are easy to grow and live for a long time, if looked after.

Cultivation notes Back to top

Roses will grow in almost any soil, as long as it is well-drained. Incorporating some well-rotted garden compost or manure into the planting area will get your roses off to a flying start.

There are so many different roses, there is possibly one for any spot in the garden, from a container on a sunny patio, to a climber for a north-facing wall.

Roses are deep rooted plants that, once established, can survive on the moisture present naturally in the soil. But, in the first few years after planting, and where the soil is especially dry, thorough watering is recommended. Wet the top 25cm (10in) of the soil every 10 days in prolonged dry spells to give the best results.

Roses in containers need to be watered so that the compost never dries out, but is never soggy; this could be every day in hot weather. For more on selecting suitable roses for container growing, see the links below.


Roses are hungry plants that respond well to generous feeding:

  • Sprinkle general-purpose or rose fertiliser around roses in spring at 70g per sq m (2oz per sq yd)
  • Mulch with rotted organic matter, ideally rotted manure, immediately after adding fertiliser
  • Feed roses in containers every fortnight from mid-spring until late summer with general-purpose liquid fertiliser until flower buds form and then with high-potassium liquid fertiliser, such as tomato feed

Weeding around roses

Roses have roots that come up near the soil surface, so hoeing is best avoided or at least kept very shallow. 

Hand weeding and mulching will control annual weeds, but perennial ones may need to be removed individually with a fork. Mulching and planting groundcover plants will help to keep roses weed-free.

Weedkillers based on glyphosate and other systemic chemicals might be taken up by rose suckers and can cause severe damage to roses. Contact weedkillers are less risky.


Songs of Praise, a Floribunda rose with a light scent. Credit: RHS/Advisory.

Songs of Praise, a Floribunda rose with a light scent.

Pruning and training Back to top

Roses should be deadheaded after flowering where this is practical, but only on plants that don’t produce attractive hips (seed-pods) after flowering.

With standard roses (which are grafted onto a tall trunk), prune the crown according to the cultivar used; floribunda, hybrid tea and shrub cultivars are most commonly used. 

See the links below for general pruning advice as well as specific advice on pruning different types of roses:

Propagation Back to top

Roses are usually budded in summer, but rootstocks are seldom available to gardeners and budding requires skill and practice for good results.

Home gardeners who want to try propagating a favourite rose should try taking hardwood cuttings in autumn or semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.

Roses that are grown on their own roots can be propagated by cutting off a sucker from the main plant and replanting it separately.

Layering is sometimes used, especially for shrub, climber and rambler roses.

Roses can be raised from seed, and if they are species roses will come true to type, but cultivars will not come true to type.

Cultivar Selection Back to top

Roses are such a large and diverse group of plants that it can be hard to know where to start. See our advice page on choosing suitable roses for your garden and the links below:


RHS Plant Selector
RHS Plant Finder
AGM plants
10 AGM roses chosen by Graham Rice

Problems Back to top

Roses can suffer from numerous pests including; brown scale, rose aphids, rose leaf-rolling sawfly,

Common diseases or disorders of rose include; replant disease (aka rose sickness), rose dieback, rose powdery mildew, rose blackspot and rose rust.

A lack of flowers or blindness in roses can be a problem. On heavily double flowered forms rose balling can ruin the flowers after wet weather.

Quick facts

Common name Rose
Latin name Rosa
Group Shrubs, climbers, ramblers and groundcover plants
Flowering time Summer and autumn
Planting time Late autumn to early spring
Height and spread 30cm-9m (1ft-30ft) height and spread
Aspect There are roses for sun and shade
Hardiness Mostly fully hardy, but some are only frost hardy
Difficulty Easy