A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Roses in Your Garden

Think you need to be a grandma with a green thumb to grow beautiful roses? Armed with a few tips, anyone can grow these gorgeous perennials. In this guide, we’ll share essential advice so that even beginner gardeners can grow epic roses!

Beginner Growing Roses in garden

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If you’ve always thought roses were too complicated for you, we’re here to help! With some foundational knowledge, roses are just as easy to care for as the other perennials in your garden. In fact, you might already be growing some members of the rose family. Blackberries, apples, and apricots (and about 4,000 others) are all classified as Rosaceae.

Roses are unbeatable for beauty, large blooms, fragrance, and repeat flowering. They have a history of cultivation going back to China over 5,000 years ago, though fossil records indicate roses have been around for millions of years. Over the centuries they’ve been used for medicines, perfumes, and even currency!

 Love roses but have been too intimidated to plant them? Keep reading for tips on varieties, planting, and care to get you growing the queen of flowers.

First, Pick the Right Rose

There are over 30,000 varieties of roses to choose from. Which will grow best for you?

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Picking the right type of rose for planting is a critical part of the process.

Make sure that the rose you select fits your space and conditions. Start by checking your USDA hardiness zone to ensure a rose can handle your area’s coldest temps before you plant. Some roses are rated highly for drought, while others will tolerate high heat and humidity.

Let’s take a look at some popular rose types.

Hybrid Teas

Close-up of a blooming Black Pearl rose flower in a garden against a blurred green background. The flower is large, double, with dark velvety red petals, slightly curved back.
Hybrid tea roses are the popular choice for bouquets due to their large, elegant blooms on long stems.

If you’ve received a rose bouquet from the florist, it likely contained hybrid tea blooms. Hybrid teas are what many think of when they picture a rose. Hybrid tea roses:

  • Have large, swirled blooms on long graceful stems, perfect for cutting 
  • Range from 3-8 feet tall
  • Can be lightly fragrant to strong and fruity
  • Bloom in cycles throughout the season
  • Are fussier and more susceptible to disease and winter damage than other types

Try ‘Black Pearl,’ a hybrid tea with dark, velvety red blooms and delicious fragrance.

Floribundas

Close-up of a blooming Julia Child rose flower in a garden. The rose exhibits a beautiful medium sized buttery yellow flower in the perfect shape of a classic rose with overlapping petals. The leaves are dark green, pinnately compound, composed of oval serrated leaflets.
Floribundas are compact, bushy roses known for their abundant cluster blooms and disease resistance.

Compact and bushy, floribundas are crosses between hybrid teas and tough polyantha roses. Floribundas:

  • Grow to about three feet tall.
  • Are prolific bloomers
  • Flower in clusters
  • Are more disease-resistant and winter-hardy than hybrid teas

Try ‘Julia Child, ’ a gorgeous buttery-yellow floribunda.

Grandifloras

Close-up of a blooming Queen Elizabeth rose flower against a blurred green background. The flower is large, the petals open, forming soft, gentle waves. Petals are pale pink. Each individual petal is elegantly curved and positioned to create a visually pleasing arrangement.
These tall roses blend the continuous blooming of floribundas with the traditional form of hybrid teas.

Grandifloras combine the bloom power of floribundas with the classic shape of hybrid teas. Grandifloras:

  • Repeat flower all summer
  • Are generally 4-7 ft. tall
  • Have large blooms and shorter stems
  • Range in fragrance and color, including bright colors

Try ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ a stately grandiflora with soft pink waved petals.

Shrub Roses

Close-up of a blooming 'The Fairy' rose bush in a sunny garden. The plant has many small charming flowers with several layers of delicate petals that form compact rounded brushes. The flowers are bright, cheerful pink. Petals have a velvety texture. Each individual flower consists of many petals, intricately arranged in the form of a perfectly shaped miniature rose. The leaves are pinnately compound, consisting of many small oval leaflets with serrated edges, glossy green.
The shrub rose encompasses a wide range of low-maintenance varieties commonly used in landscape design.

Shrub roses are not a specific class but rather a name often used to refer to varieties that work as low-maintenance shrubs. They’re frequently used as landscape design elements. Shrub roses range from low-growing polyanthas to large Knock Out hedges. Shrub Roses to try:

  • ‘The Fairy,’ a bullet-proof pink polyantha rose that stays under 4 feet.
  • ‘Easy on the Eyes,’ a multicolored single-petaled rose hardy down to zone 4.
  • ‘Carefree Beauty,’ a vigorous disease-resistant double rose great for hedging.

Miniature Roses

Close-up of a flowering Life's Little Pleasures (Rosa 'WEKswenchev') rose bush in the garden. The flowers are medium sized, classic rose shape with numerous tightly closed petals. The color of the flowers is a stunning lavender, reminiscent of delicate pastel shades. Each petal is elegantly shaped and shaped, forming a lush and voluminous flower head. The petals curve gracefully inward to form a captivating focal point at the center of the flower.
These smaller roses are ideal for pots and small areas, staying under 2 feet tall, offering a wide range of bloom colors.

Miniature roses are versatile and great for growing in pots and compact spaces. Minis:

  • Usually stay under 2 feet tall
  • Come in nearly every color and bloom form
  • Are just as hardy as larger roses

Try ‘Life’s Little Pleasures’ with perfectly-formed lavender blooms.

Climbers

Close-up of a blooming Lady Banks rose in the garden. It is a climbing rose showing an abundance of beautiful and delicate flowers. The flowers are medium in size, soft yellow in color, composed of small individual petals that form a tight bunch, giving them a charming and full appearance. Flowers are collected in clusters.
Climbing roses offer a vertical gardening solution with various varieties.

Climbing roses come in many different varieties and are a great way to maximize your space by growing vertically. They send out long canes that can be trained to grow beautifully over a trellis or arbor. Roses don’t produce attaching tendrils like other climbing plants and need your help to secure their canes to a vertical support. Climbers to try:

  • ‘Cécile Brunner,’ a 10-foot climber with lots of small, fluffy pink blooms.
  • ‘Polka,’ with heavily-scented large apricot blooms
  • ‘Lady Banks,’ a spring-blooming giant climber (15-20 ft. tall) with yellow or white pompon flowers and thornless canes.

While these varieties are the most popular, don’t overlook Old Garden roses, species (wild) roses, noisettes, ramblers, and rugosas. The world of roses is vast, and you might find an unusual variety perfect for your yard!

Own-root or Grafted?

Method of propagation by grafting on rose sprouts. Many young rose plants in a decorative white pot with a layer of white granular fertilizer. Rose seedlings have vertical short stems to which stems of other types of roses are attached. The seedlings have several small, pinnately compound leaves. The leaves consist of green oval leaflets with serrated edges.
Grafted roses combine a desired rose with a strong rootstock but may produce different-looking canes.

Grafted roses are the most commonly available. These are made by grafting a desirable rose to a different, more vigorous rootstock.

While they generally do well, they can sometimes send out canes (called suckers) from the rootstock, which will look different from the rose you bought.  Grafted varieties are more susceptible to winter dieback.

If you live in a cold climate, seeking out own-root roses is worthwhile. Own-root roses are genetically the same, from roots to flowers. Though they can be slower to establish, they’re more likely to survive a harsh winter and will guarantee that the rose only produces the flowers you purchased.

Both types of roses can be purchased from a local nursery.

Planting

Top view, close-up of female hands with purple and white gloves planting a young miniature rose bush into the soil in the garden. The bush is small, consists of many vertical short stems covered with small sharp throns, and pinnately compound green leaves with serrated oval-shaped leaflets. The flowers are small, classically shaped roses, double, with soft pink petals, the edges of which are slightly curved back.
Plant roses in spring or fall when temperatures are ideal or in summer with extra care to prevent shock.

The ideal time to plant a rose is in spring or fall when temperatures are between 40-60℉. You can plant roses in the heat of summer, but water them more often and provide some temporary shade so they don’t go into shock as they transition to a new site.

To plant:

  • Pick a spot that gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Space each rose 2-3 feet apart, and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the plant’s rootball (at least as deep as the container it came in).
  • Place the rose in the hole and backfill with a mixture of compost and your native soil, covering the roots up to the bud union (knuckle-like graft point or knob between roots and canes).
  • Water deeply.
  • Top off with a couple of inches of mulch to stabilize soil temperature, cut down on weeds, and retain moisture.

Care

Now your rose is planted! Here are some tips for optimal watering, fertilization, and pruning to keep it looking great.

Water

Watering blooming roses in the garden from hoses. Close-up of a green spray nozzle with a powerful jet of water directed towards blooming pink roses. The rose bush has dense pinnately complex green foliage and beautiful large lush double flowers, a classic rose shape with peach-pink petals.
Water roses deeply but infrequently, about 2-3 gallons per session, once or twice a week.

Roses prefer deep infrequent watering over a shallow daily dose. For established roses, water deeply, once or twice per week, about 2-3 gallons per watering session.

Check newly planted roses and those growing in hot weather (above 85℉) daily to determine when to water. They may need it 3-4 times per week or even daily until they mature. For all roses, avoid overwatering with the knuckle test. Stick your finger knuckle deep in the soil; water again if it’s dry at that level.

Always water at the base of the plant to direct hydration to the roots where it’s most needed. Overhead watering can lead to wet foliage, inviting diseases like powdery mildew and black spot.

Fertilizer

Close-up of a gardener's hand with a metal shovel pouring granular fertilizer under a rose bush in a garden. The rose bush has strong upright stems covered with sharp thorns. The leaves are pinnately compound, consisting of small oval leaflets with serrated edges.
For newly planted roses, use compost and consider adding bone meal or mycorrhizal fungi.

For newly planted baby roses, compost is all you need. You can provide some bone meal or mycorrhizal fungi at planting time or mixed into the soil afterward. Avoid synthetic fertilizers for new roses. They contain high amounts of nitrogen that can burn young roots.

After the first season, promote new growth and lots of blooms by fertilizing 3 times a year: when roses leaf out in early spring, after the first flush of blooms, and in midsummer. Some growers like to up the ante by applying an organic fertilizer every 2-4 weeks.

Stop fertilizing 6-8 weeks before the last frost to encourage roses to go dormant for winter.

Pruning

Pruning rose bush in the garden on a blurred green background. Close-up of a woman's hands in red gloves with white polka dots cutting the stem of a rose with the help of green secateurs. The rose bush has lush, dark green pinnately compound foliage with serrated edges. The rose has a bunch of red-pink lush flowers, consisting of several layers of slightly corrugated petals.
Simplify pruning for new rose growers by focusing on removing dead, dying, or diseased parts.

Pruning is usually the most feared task for new rose growers, so keep it simple. There’s no need to prune your rose in the first 3 years (especially if it’s a climber). The main task is to remove anything dead, dying, or diseased to revitalize your rose and encourage it to focus on new growth.

Pruning Guidelines:

  • Prune in early spring (after your last hard frost) when roses are just beginning to wake up, and new leaf nodes are swelling.
  • Use sharp, clean bypass pruners and sanitize them between plants to avoid the spread of disease.
  • Cut back any dead or sickly canes to where you see healthy, green growth.
  • Clear out any canes that face toward the interior of the plant, clearing crossing canes in the center that disrupt airflow.
  • Aim to prune just above an outward-facing bud eye (growth node). This encourages canes to grow outward and keeps the center free of congestion.
  • Give roses another look in fall cut out anything sickly so diseases don’t overwinter.
  • Clean up well! Pests and diseases can hang out in the soil or in fallen debris, so remove and dispose of your trimmings.

Pests

Roses are pretty resilient, but they are beloved by some pests. Here are some common ones you might encounter. 

Aphids

Close-up of a new growth of a rose attacked by a swarm of aphids in a garden, against a blurred green background. The rose has an upright stem with small green concrete and pinnately compound leaves. The leaves consist of green oval leaflets with serrated reddish edges. Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped, pale green insects.
Manage aphids by interplanting rose companions like yarrow, marigolds, and ornamental alliums.

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that show up to suck the juices from fresh spring growth. You’ll usually see them in large colonies.

Fortunately, they are dumb, slow, and easy to manage. Interplant your roses with companions like yarrow, marigolds, and ornamental alliums. These will attract their natural predators, like parasitic wasps and lacewings, and confuse the aphids by masking the smell of your roses.

If the beneficial bugs don’t take care of your infestation in a week or two, give the aphids a strong, direct spray from the hose. They can’t get back up easily. If you don’t mind the yuck factor, squish them with your fingers.

Spider Mites

Close-up of rose leaves infested with Spider Mites. The leaves are pinnately compound, composed of oval dark green leaflets with serrated edges. The leaves are covered in a thin cobweb with tiny white pests.
Combat spider mites by spraying them off with a strong hose spray and use companion planting.

Spider mites are tiny little bugs most often found on the undersides of foliage. Though difficult to spot, it’s easy to identify their sticky white webs. 

They cause stippled, brown leaves. Knock spider mites off with a strong spray from your hose and companion plant, just like you would for aphids.

Thrips

Top view, close-up of a blooming rose in a garden damaged by thrips. The flower is medium in size, lush, with several layers of creamy petals. The middle and right side of the petals are brown and rotten.
Deal with thrips by removing visible infestations and allowing natural predators to control them.

Thrips are minuscule winged black or brown insects usually found inside rose blooms. They are the likely cause if you find brown or deformed buds that never open.

Snip off any visible infestations of thrips and let the predators do the rest. Thrips populations usually decline on their own in a few weeks. If not, you can spray your roses with organic neem oil in the evening, but do so only as a last resort, as it also harms beneficial bugs. 

Sawflies

Close-up of four Sawfly larvae on a rose leaf in a garden, against a blurred green background. Sawfly larvae are small, caterpillar-like insects that are green in color. They have an elongated body with six true legs and additional prolegs along the length of the abdomen. They have black spots on their bodies. The larvae feed on rose leaves.
Combat sawfly larvae, resembling green caterpillars, by manually removing them with gloves or tweezers.

The larvae of the Sawfly (a type of wasp) are the main problem here. They look like little green caterpillars and like to munch on foliage, leaving behind irregular holes and tannish blotches. They sometimes skeletonize leaves completely.

For sawflies, manual removal is your best bet. Pick them off using gloves or tweezers, or spray them with the hose (remember the leaf undersides!). Birds and ladybugs will eat these guys if you avoid pesticides.

Diseases

Fungal disease is the most common issue you’ll see pop up on your roses. While some cultivars can deal with rose rosette disease, the diseases you see below are the most common. The best preventative is to keep them healthy via good watering, pruning, and spacing.

Black Spot

Close-up of rose leaves infected with black spot. The leaves are pinnately compound, composed of oval dark green leaflets with serrated edges. The leaves are covered with irregular black spots.
Prevent black spot by avoiding overhead watering, promoting good airflow, and removing affected leaves.

Black spot is a common fungal disease that causes irregularly shaped black spots on leaves, often surrounded by a larger yellow circle. When canes are affected, they may develop rusty purple-brown splotches. It spreads via spores and loves moisture, so avoid overhead watering and prune for good airflow to prevent it.

Black spot can weaken but won’t kill your rose. There’s no need for alarm when you see it. Remove any affected leaves and clean up thoroughly so the spores don’t reinfect your plants. Remember that your rose doesn’t have to look perfect to be healthy.

Powdery Mildew

Close-up of Rose leaves infested with Powdery Mildew on a blurred green background. The leaves are oval, with serrated edges, covered with a white powdery coating.
Prevent powdery mildew by ensuring sunlight, proper watering, and removing infected parts.

Powdery mildew is another fungus that covers your plant in a white, powdery coating. It likes hot days, cool nights, and excess moisture.

Prevention is key: keep your roses in 6-8 hours of sun and water at the base of the plant in the morning, so roses can dry out during the day.

If you see powdery mildew, remove all severely infected parts of the plant and try this homemade solution: add one tablespoon of baking soda to one gallon of water and mix thoroughly. Spray roses, making sure to get every part of the plant, and repeat once a week as needed.

Final Thoughts

Roses are just garden plants like any other, so don’t stress over their care! Remember that 6-8 hours of sun, deep infrequent watering, basic pruning, and companion planting for pest management will keep them healthy.

Whether you go for a cute miniature rose in patio containers, a showstopping hedge, or a dramatic climber that wows the neighbors, you won’t regret adding roses to your garden. Keep these care basics in mind, and enjoy your roses!

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