10 Steps to Plant Your Dormant Rose & 40+ Tips to Keep It Healthy All Year

Written by Elizabeth B.

Congratulations on your new rose! We’re happy you’ve decided to usher in the new year with one of the most rewarding investments you can have in the garden. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to properly plant your dormant rose in the ground or a container. We’ll also outline what to do every month for the rest of the year to ensure that your roses are healthy, thriving, and pest-free for years to come.

What To Do with your Dormant Rose As Soon As You Get Home

In So Cal, January is the best time of the year to plant dormant roses because root growth happens quickly. Good winter growth is essential for roses to withstand the heat and dryness of late spring and summer. While we do recommend planting your rose immediately after purchase from one of our five locations, don’t worry if you’re a little late. 

Many nurseries sell dormant roses as truly “bare root” stock with nothing but sawdust to protect and maintain the plant’s tiny roots. At Green Thumb, we prefer to send you home with a rose that has a little bit of soil surrounding the roots in the pot just in case you’re not able to get it in the ground immediately.

When you are ready to plant your rose in the ground, follow these 10 steps:

  1. Carefully remove the rose from the pot’s soil and transfer the plant to a bucket with enough water to cover the roots. Let sit for at least 2 hours but no longer than 12. 
  2. If you’re planting in the ground, prepare the site by removing weeds and improving the soil with compost. Roses prefer loose and loamy soil like you have in your vegetable garden.
  3. Dig a hole that is 12”-18” deep and 24” in diameter. 
  4. In equal parts, combine soil and a soil amendment like E.B. Stone Organics Rose & Flower Potting & Planting to retain moisture but enhance drainage. (We like E.B. Stone because it’s specially formulated for roses with aged fir bark, aged redwood, chicken manure, and earthworm castings. For strong and disease-resistant plants from the start, you can also add alfalfa meal and organic Sul-Po-Mag (sulfate of potash-magnesia).)  
  5. Use the new soil mixture to build a cone in the hole that rises about halfway up.
  6. Carefully remove the rose from the bucket of water and spread out its roots. Place the stem at the top of the soil cone and arrange its roots around it. 
  7. Keep holding the stem upright while filling in the hole with the rest of the soil mixture until the stem is 1”-2” above the soil line at the top of the hole. 
  8. If you have leftovers of the soil mixture, put them around the stem so that you create a shallow bowl at the surface. 
  9. Add a layer of bark or wood chip mulch around the stem but make sure that it’s not touching the plant’s crown.
  10. Finish by sprinkling about two gallons of water in the hole. You should continue to hand water your rose twice a week for the first year that it’s in the ground. 

How to Plant your Dormant Rose in a Container

Before you plant your new rose in a container, make sure that it’s a type of rose that will flourish out of the ground. We sell a variety of dormant roses at Green Thumb, and our knowledgeable staff is always available to answer any questions you have about plants that you’d like to buy or that you’ve already purchased. 

For the most part, miniature and shrub roses will thrive in a container. Do not plant climbing roses or those that grow over 5’ (e.g., hybrid tea) in a container.

When you’re ready to plant your rose, follow these 3 steps: 

  1. Follow the same pre-planting step as above by soaking the roots in a bucket of water for 2-12 hours.
  2. While the roots are soaking, prepare the container. Choose a container that is at least 24” in diameter. Containers that are too small will consistently dry out and stress your rose. Your rose’s roots must have ample room to spread out. 
  3. Plant your rose in potting soil that’s equally mixed with homemade or purchased compost. You can also add a specially-formulated starter such as E.B. Stone Organics Sure Start made with feather, bone, blood meal, and bat guano. 

Container roses need to be root-pruned and repotted every 3-5 years. It’s best to perform this maintenance in the winter months while the plant is dormant. 

What To Do Every Month To Keep Your Roses Healthy & Pest-Free

Every plant in your garden is a rewarding investment, and roses are especially so. It’s easy to keep your roses disease- and pest-free with a plan for the entire year. Here’s what to do every month to keep your roses happy in So Cal. 

January

If you just got your dormant rose, plant it in the ground or in a container before February by following the above steps. 

If you have roses planted already, clean up the beds by removing all old leaves and debris that could foster fungus and mildew. January is also a good time to spray your plants with a dormant spray after pruning to protect them from pests. Dormant spray is a diluted mineral oil that controls overwintering eggs of common rose pests, including aphids and spider mites. 

Unless it’s a wet January, continue to water all of your roses 1-2 times a week.

February

In February, continue to prune established roses if you have them. Apply organic granular fertilizer to all the roses in your garden. 

Compared to liquid fertilizer, granular fertilizer slow releases into the ground so that plants receive broad-spectrum nutrition over a longer period of time. Apply the fertilizer by first scratching the surface of the soil, sprinkle on the fertilizer, and then top with 3 inches of mulch. 

Continue watering 1-2 times a week. Make sure that you’re hand-watering the dormant rose you planted in January. 

March

In March, some dormant roses may begin to wake up. When you see a few inches of new growth, apply an organic, soluble N-P-K liquid fertilizer. Continue to apply the same fertilizer every two weeks until the end of June to encourage early growth. 

If you’re seeing aphids or other visible pests on your plants, remove them manually with your fingers or a quick blast of water. In March, you should also begin looking for signs of pests that are too small to see. If you suspect a problem, live beneficial insects are the best pest control. 

With cool nights and dry days, you might notice that leaves look powdery on the surface. That’s mildew that should be removed with a gentle watering early in the morning so that leaves are dry when the sun goes down.

April

You might see your first blooms in April! Be sure to deadhead spent blooms to encourage new growth. You should still be watering twice a week, but you can also increase your irrigation time in April to ensure that your roses never dry out. 

May

May is maintenance month. Continue to water twice weekly, deadhead spent blooms, apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks, check for pests and fungus, and remove buds or leaves with pest damage. You may also need to add another watering day to the week.

June

June is the last month to apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks. You should begin to check your roses for rose slugs, a pest that will turn a leaf into a skeleton of itself. As soon as you see a leaf in this state, remove it and begin a daily regimen of washing the underside of leaves with water early in the day. 

Reapply organic granular fertilizer this month according to the product’s directions.

July

From now through August, decrease the application of liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks to every 3-4 weeks at a lesser strength. Look out for spider mites on the underside of leaves. You can dislodge them with water and keep them away with a natural pest solution. While you’re looking for pests, you can also remove inward-growing leaves from the entire bush. These leaves inhibit airflow and encourage fungus and pests to flourish. 

We’re creeping towards peak sunshine and temperature in July so try not to cut long stems on the rose bush’s upper part. You’re risking sunburn if you do.

August

Continue to lightly apply liquid fertilizer only every 3-4 weeks. Water deeply and more frequently, about 3-4 times a week. Roses planted in a container may need daily water by August. You should wash down foliage early in the morning every day now to allow time for leaves to dry before night.

September

When September hits, it’s time to “summer prune” to encourage impressive, late-season blooms. Summer pruning includes removing dead wood, deadheading spent blooms, and shaping the rose bush. Here’s a complete 8 step guide to summer pruning

You should resume a more frequent liquid feeding schedule now and apply liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks at the original strength.

October

In October, we’re thinking about impending dormancy. Stop all liquid fertilizer applications at mid-month. Your watering schedule of 3-4 times a week can continue, and you can increase irrigation if temperatures are still scorching. 

November

Reduce watering to only twice weekly but remember that we don’t want roses to dry out. Stop deadheading blooms in November and instead pull off petals, so that rope hips can form. We want to encourage dormancy and not strong blooms at this point. 

Pro Tip: rose hips are an anti-inflammatory powerhouse of nutrition packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants. Once they form, you should harvest them to make various sweet yet slightly tart teas, jams, and jellies. 

December

Your roses should be fully dormant again, which means that there’s not much to do other than continue their regular twice-weekly watering schedule. You can also increase irrigation, but only if they’re in danger of drying out.

Do you like what you see? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get content like this every week!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!