How to Transplant Roses: Expert Tips and Advice

No matter what reason you have for transplanting doesn’t go start ripping roots out of the ground without reading this.

Whatever reason you have for transplanting roses you will find the endeavor a bit easier if you follow these few instructions. You may be very anxious to move your plants and have some constraints on doing it, just remember unless you absolutely have to, do not transplant roses while they are blooming.

When to Transplant Roses

Timing is Crucial When Transplanting Roses

Of course, there are no blooms in the late fall or early spring so naturally, this is the transplanting season. The reason for this is that the rose plant may go into a state of shock; it is alive, blooming, and flowering with great enthusiasm, and then all of a sudden, wham, the poor thing is pushed around, its roots disturbed, jostled, and dug up. Separation from its normal channel of food supply causes the rose to react.

So timing is everything, treat your babies carefully and prepare them for the move just as you would prepare your own children for an upcoming displacement. There are many things to do before we start ripping roots from the earth, so let’s get started.

Transplanting Preparations – Moisture

Here is a tip to keep in mind whenever your roses are not in the ground, either before you plant them the first time or when you are transplanting. Keep your roses moist.

First of all, do not buy dry roses. And when you’re transplanting you’ll want to be sure to keep them moist at all times. Keep rose bush in a cool place and make sure the root ball is out of any direct sunlight.

Be cautious to keep them moist if you have to travel a distance by wrapping wet burlap around the roots. One way to ensure that they don’t dry out is to have your new hole ready to plant in so the roses do not have to remain unplanted for very long.

Some gardeners will recommend that you water them well the night before you dig them up but my personal preference is to water them every night for a whole week before I uproot them.

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The benefits here are that when it’s time to dig the soil is nice and pliable, the roots of the plant and the plant will have absorbed a sufficient amount of water that the transplanting procedure will not sap its supply and cause it to dry up.

Our experience tells us the more water you supply the fewer complications you will run into. You will notice that when you uproot your plant it will lose a lot of soil around the roots so you want to have the plant to have soaked up as much as possible to tide it over till the roots have a chance to settle and begin to supply nutrition to the plant again.

Transplanting Preparations – Dig a New Hole

So let’s prepare a new hole for our roses. Being astute rose gardeners we’ve ensured our new spot has sufficient sunlight and space for our bloomers. The size of your new hole will depend largely on the size of your plant but in general, you want to dig about 15 inches deep and 18 inches wide.

One quick tip is to be sure to prune annually, this keeps the plant smaller and easier to manage if you envision someday transplanting.

Image by Brandon Green

We want to make sure the rose has plenty of nutrition when it gets to its new home. Stock the kitchen with bone meal, maybe a half a cup; they love to eat organic.

Now in the center of the new hole make a mound of soil to set the roots in. This simply provides support so they don’t tip over while you finish planting.

Post-transplant tip: If you notice your rose is starting to wilt at the tips, it likely means the plant is on shaky ground, or better put is experiencing difficulty supporting the top of the structure. You can remedy this by supplying extra water when you hydrate and prune the tips.

Moving Day

You may prune the rose if you need before transplanting. Prune back as much as possible and this will make the transition smoother. Some rosarians in colder climates will refrain from excessive pruning.

One of my California fellow rosarians says, ‘It’s easier to prune before you move. If you lose part of the rootball, take off some of the top growth in proportion to the amount of rootball lost–if you’ve lost half the rootball, for example, take off at least half the top growth.

Image by Annie Spratt

Map out a circle around the plant about 9 inches out from the drip line. Then dig down about 15 inches. The roots of the rose have most likely gone deeper and wider so it is not practical or necessary to bring the entire root. Don’t be alarmed if you have extra roots to be shortened. Go ahead and snip them off cleanly.

When you’ve undercut the roses and made sure all the roots are dismembered you are ready to transplant. You will want to remove as much of the root ball as you can handle.

You are going to firmly and gently grasp the plant dirt and begin to lift it out of the hole. You will notice a lot of soil will fall away leaving you with bare roots. Don’t be alarmed, just set the plant on the mound you’ve prepared in your new hole. Spread the roots out and make sure they are properly positioned.

Ensure the mound you have placed them on allows for the plant to rest with the bud union about an inch or two higher than it was in the previous spot; it will settle in later.

Backfill the hole about halfway and flood with water. We recommend not tamping the soil to preserve the structure, just make sure it’s very wet so the soil will settle in all the crevices of the root system.

Give it some time to settle and when it does fill again with soil add plenty of water again. Continue to add soil and water until the hole is filled in, and then build a mound of soil to encircle the hole so that you can add water to make a temporary pond and wait for that to soak up.

Finishing Touches

You are almost done just a few more steps. First, fill in the drained pond with a finished soil and top that with a little fertilizer if you think it needs and definitely mulch.

I always say if you don’t do much at least do mulch. The benefits are unending. Then water according to the rose’s needs and your climate. Make sure the water gets to the roots. Some people like to water every day for two weeks, others like to make sure they give it an inch a week.

It seems the key to transplanting is in the water, water, water… make sure the plant stays moist and is supplied with generous amounts of water because it will not be able to absorb all you give.

Well, now you know all you need to know to successfully transplant roses. This is the easy way to do it so just be prepared and you will enjoy a flourishing bloom of excellent roses.

how to transplant roses