Watering Roses

The following advice applies to watering bare root roses and potted roses.

To produce a vigorous, healthy rose which in turn will produce a lot of flowers, it is important that the plant is not stressed from lack of water. Roses naturally produce a deep root system and once they are well established, about two years after planting, they will probably need little additional water to natural rainfall. Of course this will depend upon soil type, the amount of natural rainfall, the type of summer we get and where they are planted.

Roses grown against walls and fences need special care as these can create a natural rain shadow and in some cases the soil may be thin and thirstier, depending on what the builders left behind during construction.

Watering Roses At Planting Time In Soil

  • Make sure the roses are well watered and the compost wet.
  • Make sure the soil is damp not just around the rose, but also at the base of the hole continuing further down into the soil. If not, a good way to do this is to dig the hole, then pour half a bucket of water into the hole, let it drain away overnight then follow the notes below.
  • Place the rose in the hole, replace the soil around the roots firm it well.
  • Pour another half a bucket round the base of the rose.
  • Mulching with organic matter round the base of the rose will aid water retention in the soil.

We now know that the rose has every opportunity to root out into the surrounding soil, this allows it to establish more quickly and eliminates the risk of the root ball drying out, which could lead to plant failure.

Watering Roses At Planting Time In Pots And Containers

  • Make sure the roses are well watered and the compost wet.
  • Use a good quality compost, such as a John Innes No.3, or a dedicated rose compost, these often have wetting agents to improve water absorption and may have some loam which helps retain moisture.
  • Place the rose in the container and add the additional compost, firming it as the pot is filled.
  • Give the pot a good soaking with a generous amount of water.
  • Containers should be raised off the ground by 1cm or so allow excess water to drain away from the container and prevent waterlogging.

Roses planted during the autumn and winter will need a lot less water than those planted during the spring and summer when the plants are actively growing and have a big demand for water.

Follow Up Watering

If we have done the above then we know that the roses have been given the best start. We still want to make sure that they don't dry out though by checking and watering them regularly.

  • Scratch down into the soil next to the rose root making sure it is moist.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and the size of the rose, big plants in hot weather will need a lot more water.
  • If plants start to get stressed they wilt from the very top of the stem. Wilting means that the young soft growth starts to bend over, through lack of water.
  • If you see wilting give the plant a thorough soaking.
  • It's difficult to overwater a plant in the summer especially if it is growing strongly, producing a lot of flowers and the soil is in good condition / drains freely. But at the same time, we don't want to waste water.

As the roses establish a root system the need for additional watering will diminish, but keep an eye out during hot sunny conditions and against walls. Rose bushes in containers will always require watering as the root is restricted to the size of the pot and the amount of moisture the compost can retain.