Hybrid tea rose bush

There are many problems with the “standard suggested spacing” guidelines for roses. The biggest problem is there is no real standard. Rosarians who grow roses for a single exquisite hybrid bloom have much different recommendations than gardeners growing in their home landscape. In recent years some rose grower associations and university extension services are suggesting closer spacing than the old standards, especially in cooler growing regions. And remember that you can use any rose you like to create the effect you want. Note that the rose hedge at right is all floribunda roses. In cold regions you might space them 24” apart, in warmer regions perhaps 30” apart depending on the ultimate size of the variety and growing conditions.. So start with the guidelines, then consider all the following:

  • Roses growing in ideal conditions will reach or exceed the mature size specified by the grower. These conditions include ideal sun, soil, water, nutrients, protection from wind and protection from cold. Less than ideal conditions can produce a smaller size rose plant.

  • In growing zones 5 and north, roses do not get as large as they do in warmer climates. You need to adjust your spacing accordingly. Many of the Rugosa roses get very large and need some room to sprawl. The Canadian and Parkland roses are extra hardy and will often reach the specified mature size.

  • Own root roses do not generally grow as large as when they are grafted to a vigorous rootstock.

  • Shrub roses that are given plenty of room to grow, often spread wider than average.

  • Shrub roses that are planted closer together will generally grow taller and not as wide.

  • Shrub roses are available in hundreds of varieties and they are not all the same size by any means.

  • When rose bushes are too crowded air circulation is reduced, inviting disease such as blackspot, mildew and fungus. Certain varieties are highly disease resistant and can be planted closer together.

  • If your rose needs pruning you need well spaced plants to give you easy access. Certain varieties need little or no pruning, limiting the need to make your way through the thorny branches.

  • What is your personal preference? What effect do you want to create? Do you plan to prune regularly to encourage compact full growth or to maintain size? See the article How Far Apart for a little more guidance on preference and effects.

What Is The Proper Spacing When Planting Roses?

A view from one side of my rose garden. I plant the roses so they mingle on the fringes of their canopy.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman RosesA view from the other side. Keep in mind I also do not use chemcials on my roses. Instead I make sure to grow varieties that are disease resistant for my area.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman RosesA bed of younger roses that was planted just last summer. This bed has mass planting of the same vareity. Planted 20 inches apart and then 36 inches between the mass of each variety.

Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman RosesA view from one side of my rose garden. I plant the roses so they mingle on the fringes of their canopy.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman RosesA view from the other side. Keep in mind I also do not use chemcials on my roses. Instead I make sure to grow varieties that are disease resistant for my area.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman RosesA bed of younger roses that was planted just last summer. This bed has mass planting of the same vareity. Planted 20 inches apart and then 36 inches between the mass of each variety.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

With spring in the air I figure a lot of you are planting new roses in your garden and are probably a bit puzzled over how far apart (or how close together) you should plant them. Most likely you consulted a few rose guides and the recommended advice is to space them far apart so they don’t touch each other giving them lots and lots of “air circulation”. The latter being “sold” as a magic disease preventative measure.

The end result of this kind of spacing is lots of bare ground to look at between the plants and in my opinion a pretty boring vista. The sight of rose bushes in regimentally spaced rows like soldiers on inspection doesn’t exactly take my breath away. In fact it usually puts me to sleep.

Frankly, I don’t know of any other plant in the garden where the recommendation is to plant them so far apart. So if Roses Are Plants, Too why can’t we plant them close together like other plants?

The reason given is that magic air circulation argument. Air circulation is supposed to prevent disease. To which my response always is, “why are you planting disease prone roses in the first place!”

Keep in mind this idea of spacing came about at the recommendation of folks who exhibit roses. You need to be able to get all around the plant to groom it and you don’t want the individual blooms brushing up against each other and potentially causing damage. This makes perfect sense if you exhibit roses.

But I don’t

I like a mass riot of color and bloom. I don’t want to see the ground. In fact I want my rose garden to look like a carpet of blooms where you feel you could just step up onto the roses and walk across their canopy without your feet ever touching the ground. I want them to grow into each other so they can mingle their blooms on the fringes of their reach. I like to think my roses can actually shake hands with each other – or in their case blooms!

To this end I choose good Garden Roses and plant them anywhere from 20 inches to 30 inches apart depending on the ultimate size of the plant. If you live in warmer climates you may need to space them further apart. Cooler climates can go tighter all the while keeping in mind the ultimate size of the individual variety of rose.

So feel free to space your Garden Roses like you would any other shrub in the garden. As to air circulation if someone says they must have it for roses I suggest you tell them to go buy a couple of large fans!

Happy Roseing


Correct rose spacing is important for two reasons. Roses need room to grow and bloom, and you need room to tend them. Rose are one of the oldest cultivated flowers, and it is a well known fact that giving them room keeps them happy.

To plant a wide shrub border or hedge, set plants in a staggered row to get best screening effect. If you’d like a tight privacy screen, use 30 inch spacing. If you prefer a hedge that lets breezes through, go to a six foot spacing. Remember also to discuss height and spread with your local nursery.

Plan rose bush beds so that each plant receives maximum light and air. This not only cuts down on disease, it also gives you room for cultivating, pruning and spraying. Bush types require a minimum spacing of two feet, but 30 inches is prefered. Spacing between the plant and edge of bed should be approx. 20 inches.

Climbing roses, especially ramblers, have a long reach. A six foot spacing is a minimum even if you want solid coverage for privacy. But a 10 foot spacing gives a more pleasing open growth pattern and makes tending easier. It also allows horizontal training which will result in better blooms. (By Fen Lugrin)

Rose Type Minimum Space Requirements
Hybred Teas 2 Ft.
Floribundas 2 Ft.
Grandifloras 2 Ft.
Shrub Roses 2.5 Ft.
English Roses 3 Ft.
Climbers 6 Ft.

How to plant and grow roses

The red rose is often used to symbolise love or power

Roses can transform a garden, filling it with beautiful colour and delicious perfume. And growing roses can be easy and rewarding, providing you follow some good advice.
That’s where we can help. Whether you’re looking for a patio rose, a climbing rose or rose bushes, this is how to plant and grow your favourite rose. For further information on pruning roses, make sure you check out our pruning guide.

Types of roses

With so many varieties of rose available, it’s difficult to know which to pick. Let’s start with a rough guide to the different types of rose:

Hybrid tea rose

Tea roses often smell divine
Image: Jill Lang

If you’ve ever given or received a dozen red roses, you can be sure that they were tea roses. Growing one bloom per stem, tea roses are the perfect choice for florists. Their flowers are large and many-petalled, come in a range of colours, and are often beautifully fragranced. They flower throughout the summer and autumn and do best in containers and borders.

Floribunda rose

Floribunda means ?flowering freely?
Image: marinatakano

Floribunda roses are smaller and flatter than tea roses. They bloom in clusters at the tips of stems; and each flower within the cluster opens at a different time, giving a long-lasting display throughout the summer and autumn. That’s why they’re called floribunda, which means ‘flowering freely’. Many varieties of floribunda are fragrant and they look great in containers and borders.

Shrub rose

Shrub roses are often very fragrant
Image: Nick Pecker

Shrub roses are normally larger than hybrid teas and floribundas. The flowers can be single (like the ones pictured above) or double, and they’re usually borne in clusters. Modern varieties of shrub roses are repeat flowering, whereas old varieties will produce one heavy flush of flowers in early summer. They’re usually very fragrant and suit borders and hedging.

Climbing rose

Climbing roses are quintessentially English
Image: Jo Jones

Want to create that romantic, English cottage garden look? Growing a climbing rose around your front door will do it. These pretty roses love growing up walls, fences and pergolas. Climbing roses are upright, vigorous, stiff-stemmed plants that will flower throughout the summer. Many climbing roses are fragranced and there are several different types of blooms to choose from.

Rambling rose

Rambling roses will disguise unattractive areas of your garden
Image: Gercharan Singh

Rambling roses are more vigorous than climbing roses. They will cover a larger area more quickly, and so are great for disguising unattractive bits of your garden. But this does mean they can be more difficult to contain. They generally flower in one heavy flush during the summer. Blooms are single or double and are borne in clusters on short shoots from old wood. Many varieties are fragrant and they are happy climbing over a wall, fence, pergola, or growing into a tree.

Miniature rose

Miniature roses are small and delicate

The clue is in the name: miniature roses are very compact with small leaves and flowers. They produce clusters of single or double flowers in flushes throughout the summer and autumn, but they are rarely fragrant. These roses work best in containers, window boxes and border edges.

When to plant roses

Plant roses during their dormant season
Image: pryzmat

The best time to plant roses is during their dormant season – throughout autumn and from late winter to early spring. It’s best not to plant them when the ground is frozen in the middle of winter.
When you plant your roses will also depend on how you bought them. Roses come as either bare root, container-grown or containerised plants.
Bare root roses: Bare root roses have been lifted from the ground during their dormant season (November to March) and will arrive as a bare shrub with exposed roots. This may look unimpressive at first but once planted they will soon start to send out roots and grow. They’re usually good quality and great value which is why all Van Meuwen roses are bare root.
Bare root roses should be planted as soon as you receive them. But if you have to delay planting, keep your rose plants somewhere cool but frost-free. If planting is heavily delayed it may be best to ‘heel-in’ your rose. This simply means digging a trench in ordinary garden soil, placing the roots inside, and covering with soil.
Containerised roses: You’ll find containerised roses at garden centres from autumn to spring. These roses started as bare root roses and have been put in pots with earth to stop their roots drying out. Plant them as soon as you get them home.
Container-grown roses: Roses that have been grown in a container are available to buy all year round and can be planted at any time of year. They’re usually not as strong as bare root roses because their root spread is not as big. They’re also comparatively expensive.

Where to grow roses

Roses need a sunny, sheltered spot to flourish
Image: Vicuschka

Roses are very fussy when it comes to location. To get the best result, choose a spot that offers sun, shelter, space and good quality soil.
1. Sun: Rose plants like to be grown in a sunny position. They do best with at least four hours’ sunshine a day.
2. Shelter: Choose a location that’s sheltered from strong winds which can loosen the base of the rose in the soil and damage (or even kill) it.
3. Space: Roses don’t thrive when crowded by other plants, as they have to compete for moisture and sunlight. Aim to plant your rose 3 feet away from other plants, and avoid planting under overhanging trees.
4. Soil: Well-drained soil is essential, as roses suffer when they sit in too much water. If you have a heavy clay soil, dig in some organic matter and coarse grit to improve the drainage. If you’re planting a rose where another rose used to be, it’s important you change the soil first. If you don’t, your rose is likely to suffer ‘replant disease’ – a little understood, but well recognised disorder, which will prevent your new rose from thriving.

How to plant bare root roses

Dig a hole that?s wide and deep enough to accommodate the roots
Image: Yunava1

With just a little care and attention, your bare root roses will get off to an excellent start when planted in the ground. Just follow these simple steps:
1.Soak the roots of your bare root rose for 2-3 hours prior to planting.
2. Dig a planting hole that’s wide enough to accommodate the roots comfortably and deep enough so that the bud union (the point where the rose has been grafted onto the rootstock) rests at soil level. The bud union looks like a bulge at the base of the shoots.
3. Improve the soil. Even if your soil is well drained, it’s best to improve it with organic matter – such as well-rotted manure, compost or recycled green waste – before planting. Mix in some slow-release fertiliser (a specific rose food is best) as roses are heavy feeders. If the soil hasn’t been cultivated recently, aim to dig the soil to about 45cm (18 inches) deep.
4. Position the rose in the centre of the hole and check the depth is correct. Laying a bamboo cane across the top of the hole and lining it up next to the stem is a good way to check you have the correct depth.
5. Gently tease out the roots. This will help them to spread out more quickly.
6. Backfill around the roots with the remaining soil.
7. Tread the rose in firmly but not too hard.
8. Water your rose thoroughly and keep the soil moist, especially in hot sunny spells.

How to plant climbing roses

Use horizontal wires to train climbing roses against a wall
Image: ajisai13

Walls and other solid structures often cause the soil at their base to be dry, so plant your climbing rose 30-45cm (12-18 inches) away from the wall or fence at a 45 degree angle. This will enable it to receive sufficient moisture.
Climbing roses will require some support, normally in the form of horizontal wires spaced 45cm (18 inches) apart up a wall or fence and positioned about 7cm away from the wall to allow air circulation. You can also grow climbing roses over a rose arch, which is very effective.
Planting is the same as for other roses, with the bud union at soil level. After firming in, use canes to guide the shoots towards the support.

How to grow roses in containers

Container roses look beautiful on patios
Image: joloei

If you have heavy clay soil or just want to brighten up your patio you can successfully grow roses in containers. Containers need to be at least 30-45cm (12-18 inches) deep for bush roses, and 25cm (10 inches) deep for miniature roses.
1. Fill your chosen container with loam-based compost such as John Innes No. 3.
2. Follow the planting directions as for planting in the ground (see above).
3. Top-dress with rose fertiliser each spring.
4. Feed regularly once they begin to flower, with a liquid feed containing a high potash fertiliser (such as tomato fertiliser)

Feeding and mulching roses

Make sure your roses after are mulched during spring feeding
Image: Inc

Roses are greedy feeders and will need regular fertilising to encourage healthy plants. In the spring, sprinkle a handful of slow-release fertiliser around the base of your rose, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Lightly fork it into the soil, keeping it clear of the stems.
Next, mulch your rose plant by spreading an 8cm layer of well-rotted manure, compost or recycled green waste around the base, taking care to keep a 10cm (4 inch) collar free of mulch around the stem to prevent the bark rotting.
To find out how to feed patio roses see ‘Growing roses in containers’, above.

We hope this guide has told you all you need to know about choosing, planting and growing roses. Follow these steps and your rose plants will give you beautiful blooms for years to come.

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