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How To Transplant Rose Bushes: Instructions, Timing and Tips

How To Transplant Rose Bushes: Instructions, Timing and Tips

Your garden’s main focal point is a thriving rose bush, but it may eventually outgrow its designated area.

You might also notice that you’re getting fewer and smaller blooms over the years. 

This calls for transplanting the rose to a sunnier and more spacious area in the garden.

Since rose bushes are sensitive plants and prone to transplant shock, you’ll need to time this delicate process right and handle it with extra care and caution.

Tools and Supplies

1. Clear the Area of Weeds and Debris

Choose a spot in the garden away from walls or fences that gets between 6 to 8 hours of sun during the growing season.

Make sure that no other plants grow in the area that could crowd the rose bush or compete with it over resources. The only plants allowed are other rose bushes.

Remove all debris and weeds in the area with your hands or by using the trowel.

When you pull the weeds with your gloved hands, make sure they come off with their roots intact. Otherwise, the roots will grow back quickly if left in the soil.

2. Check the Drainage of the Soil

Poorly draining soil can get waterlogged, which would damage the sensitive roots of the rose bush. So, check that the soil drains quickly.

To do that, dig a hole 18 inches deep and wide, and fill it with water. If the water doesn’t drain from the hole within an hour, you need to amend the soil.

Add compost and organic materials to the soil, and mix them well to improve drainage. Repeat the test again until the hole drains completely in just under an hour.

3. Dig a 15-Inch-Deep Hole in the Soil

Use a shovel to dig a hole in the center of the cleared area. The hole should be about 15 inches deep minimum and between 12 and 16 inches wide.

It should be wide and deep enough for the root ball of the bush to sit comfortably and spread its roots. Use the measuring tape to get the measurements of the hole right.

4. Build a Little Mound in the Center of the Hole

To make the hole comfortable for the root system of the rose bush to rest, build a 2-inch high mound of soil in the center of the hole.

Use the trowel to make the mound with the soil you just dug up, and firm it gently.

5. Dig the Rose Bush Out of the Soil in the Early Morning

With the gloves on and pruning shears in hand, inspect the rose bush before digging it up. Remove any spent flowers to preserve the resources of the plant.

Prune broken, crossing, or damaged branches as well. Cut the branch above a node at a 45° angle.

When you’re ready to dig up the bush, start early in the morning before the day gets hot to prevent the dehydration of the plant.

Use the shovel to dig around the drip line of the rose bush, and go as deep as 18 to 20 inches into the soil.

If you hit a large root while digging, cut it with the pruning shears and keep digging until you have reached the recommended depth.

Push the shovel under the root system of the bush from all sides to dislodge the plant. Keep working around the root ball until it loosens and comes off on its own.

Now you can pull it out and place it on the burlap. Examine the roots quickly and remove any damaged ones. Then wrap the burlap around them tightly to preserve the moisture.

6. Plant the Rose Bush in the Hole and Backfill It Halfway

If the root ball is larger than 18 inches, adjust the depth of the hole and rebuild the mound. Now remove the burlap, and ease the rose bush into the center of the hole.

Spread the roots to fill the bottom of the hole and cascade over the mound. 

Cover the roots with a few inches of soil, and firm it to push out any air pockets. Keep adding soil and tamping it to ensure the bush stands upright. When the hole is half-filled with soil, stop.

7. Water the Half-Filled Hole Thoroughly

Use the garden hose to give the bush a thorough watering. The water should fill up the hole. Wait for the hole to absorb the water completely. This should take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

8. Fill the Rest of the Hole With Soil

Add more soil and tamp it every few inches. When the hole is full and level with the rest of the area, build a raised edge around the drip line of the bush about 2 inches high to hold the water.

Thoroughly water the rose bush again, and let the water drain. From here on out, give the bush one inch of water a week, and factor in any rainfall.

A new, freshly planted rose bush in a sunny garden spot.

When Is the Best Time To Transplant Roses? 

When transplanting your rose bush, timing is crucial. You want to move the bush when it’s dormant. That makes the early spring the ideal time to transplant the rose.

You can start this delicate process as soon as the soil is warm enough and workable but before the bush has come out of dormancy.

If you miss your chance to transplant the bush in the early spring, you should wait until the fall.

Usually, late October or early November is a good time as long as the soil is still warm. That’s when the last roses have faded and the bush has gone back into dormancy.

Tips For Transplanting Roses In Summer

Summer is usually a busy time for the rose bush. The foliage is dense and the roses are in full bloom.

It’s not recommended to choose the height of summer to transplant the rose bush, as it might result in transplant shock.

However, if you have to do it at this time, you should follow the above steps along with the following tips:

  • The best time to transplant the rose is in the evening since summer mornings get hot quickly.
  • Don’t keep the root ball of the bush exposed longer than necessary.
  • Drench the roots with water before you wrap them in burlap.
  • Amend the soil in the garden by adding peat moss and mulch to the soil in equal portions to improve water retention.
  • Water the hole fully and wait for the water to drain before you place the bush.
  • Build the mound of soil in the center of the hole and get it thoroughly moist before planting the bush.

Why Are My Roses Drooping After Planting?

As sensitive plants, rose bushes show signs of stress at the slightest change in the growing conditions around them. Some of the common causes of roses drooping are:

  • Dry Soil: If you allow the top 3 inches of the soil to dry out after transplanting, that could lead to drooping. During transplanting, the bush loses a lot of moisture, and replacing it takes time. Keep the soil moist until the bush adjusts.
  • Roots Not Established: You might have left air pockets in the soil, or the soil might be too shallow around the roots. This prevents the roots from getting enough moisture and nutrients from the soil.
  • Poor Drainage: Too much water in the soil can also lead to drooping. If the soil is poorly drained, the sensitive roots will rot, which causes drooping.
  • Excessive Fertilizing: If you use concentrated fertilizers or fertilize the bush too often, that leads to drooping stems and leaves.  

Four healthy rose bushes planted in a straight row.

Rose Bush Transplant Shock

Transplant shock refers to the state where the newly transplanted bush looks wilted and droopy.

It often happens when the disturbed roots struggle to absorb enough nutrients and moisture to sustain the fully grown bush.

Most rose bushes go through transplant shock. The severity of the shock depends on how well you have handled the transplanting process.

If you follow the above steps carefully, the bush will recover quickly and start the growing season on time.

How To Treat Transplant Shock in Roses

You can treat transplant shock in a few ways, depending on the cause of the problem. Here’s the lowdown of the possible solutions.

  • Water: Keep the soil moist for the first few weeks after transplanting the bush. Once the top 2 inches dry out, soak the soil and let it drain.
  • Pruning: If the soil is moist but the bush still looks droopy, cut the foliage and flowers back by about a half. With less foliage to support, the bush won’t need as much moisture and nutrients and can recover quickly.
  • No Fertilizer: Avoid fertilizing the droopy bush since that would stress it out more and increase the impact of the shock. The bush should recover on its own.

Transplanting Wild Roses

Transplanting wild roses doesn’t differ much from transplanting a rose bush in your garden.

You should always wait until the bush is dormant, and prepare the hole in the garden before you attempt to dig up the rose plant.

Once you have the wild rose wrapped in burlap, try to plant it in the garden as soon as possible to reduce the transplant shock. Follow the steps above.

Transplanting Roses In Pots

To transplant a rose in a pot, place the pot on its side, and ease the plant out. Shake the roots to get rid of excess soil and examine them for damaged roots.

Wash the pot, then fill it halfway with a potting mix that contains soil, clinker ash or coarse sand, and aged manure.

Place the rose in the center of the pot, and add soil slowly. Firm the soil every few inches to push out air pockets.

Cover the surface with mulch (these cedar chips may help to repel pests), then water the pot until water flows out of the draining holes.

Wrapping It Up

Transplanting the rose bush is often a necessary step to keep it growing well and ensure that you get an abundance of blooms every year.

Only transplant the bush when it’s dormant in the early spring or fall. Avoid fertilizing the newly planted bush, and water it regularly to reduce the transplant shock.