Like pruning, transplanting roses is a task best done in late winter or early spring. You’ll want to be able to dig down in the earth without the fuss of frozen ground, but before the rose bush breaks its dormancy and begins to put forth new growth. Once actively growing, the roses are much more sensitive to such a radical thing as being dug up. Another reason transplanting rose bushes are done at this time is that before transplanting, you must prune the bush and it’s much more convenient to do this at a time when pruning would need to be done anyway.
Before you do any digging, prepare the new site. This means digging a hole about 18 inches wide and 15 inches deep, and having a big pile of rich compost on hand to mix in with the dug soil for when you fill the hole.
Make sure the bush to be transplanted has been well watered – ideally, you will want to water every day for a week. Dress intelligently for the project – wear a long-sleeved shirt and well-fitting gloves to protect yourself from thorns. Have on hand a quality pair of pruners, some loppers, a pruning saw, and a spade.
As with spring pruning, first remove the dead growth, diseased or overgrown canes, suckers, and crowded canes. You’ll end with five or six healthy canes. If possible, chose canes so that you are left with five or six that radiate outward from an open center (picture a human hand held out, palm up with fingers and thumb pointing up as well). Shorten the remaining canes to a level that is one or two feet above ground level (cut the thinner canes shorter and the thicker canes longer). Try to make your cuts at an angle just above an outfacing bud (a small “eye” which will be the source of future growth).
Tip! The receiving hole for the new location of the rose plant should be filled with very organically rich soil.
Now you’re ready to transplant your rose bush. Dig a trench around the perimeter of the bush about 9 inches out. Slice any resistant roots cleanly with your pruners. Then continue to dig down about 15 inches or so, until you can comfortably slip your spade underneath the root ball. Lift the bush out of the ground, being careful to lose as little soil as possible. If you’ve got far to go, a wheelbarrow or container to set the plant it would be a good idea.
Before you set the bush into its new home, create a little mound of your mixed soil to rest the root ball on top off. The object here is to make sure your rose bush will be sitting at the same soil level it was originally – not lower down (making the bush shorter and burying good cane) or higher up (exposing tender root or graft). Make sure to spread out the roots as much as possible. Fill the hole about halfway with mixed soil, then flood with water. As soon as the water drains, fill the hole completely with soil and add a soil “ring” around the base (like a castle wall). Flood the area again – the soil ring will keep the water in the area of your freshly dug soil. Once that has drained, add a little more mixed soil to bring the ground level and compost on top of that.
Tip! Make sure there is enough moisture for the new rose plant to absorb.
Keep your transplanted roses well watered, mulched, and fertilized until they have recovered from the shock of moving. Done carefully (and especially when dormant), roses are hardy bushes that will withstand a little rough treatment and will soon thrive in their new location.
Transplanting Roses During the Summer
Sometimes gardeners find themselves having to transplant a plant such as a rose bush in the heat of the summer. Rose bushes don’t manage summer uprooting and transplants at all well, and more often than not will die in the process. There are however a few ways to “cheat” Mother Nature and have a successful summer transplant.
Tips For a Rose Bush Successful Transplant
When plants are uprooted for a transplant during very warm to hot temperatures, the feeder roots go into shock. While shocking the rocks can’t be avoided, there are some ways to lessen the severity:
- Transplant the rose bush into a pot instead of directly into the ground.
- Work early in the morning while the temperatures are cool.
- Transplant the rose bush as quickly as possible. The longer the roots are out of the ground, the higher the odds of killing the plant.
- Keep the roots well watered.
- Mulch the area around the trunk to reduce water evaporation.
- Prune back the bulk of the rose bush by 50%. This will force growth into the roots.
- Keep the pot stored in a cool, shady place. A garage or beneath a shade tree are good locations.
- Keep the soil moist and regularly watered.
Transplanting Roses Directly Into a Pot
If you must move a rose bush during the summer months, the above tips and these instructions will help increase the odds of a successful transplant.
- Partially fill the flower pot with a potting mix that has been prepared according to instructions.
- Prune back to rose bush down to the stalks, leaving about 18 inches of cane.
- Dig up the rose bush, bringing up as much soil as possible with the roots.
- Gently tap away from the soil from the outermost roots; just enough so that the roots fit into the planting pot. Water. Cover with additional potting mix, just enough to cover the crown. Water again. Cover the soil with mulch.
- Place the container in a cool, shady part of the yard that only receives morning sunlight. Keep the potting mix moistened to prevent the rose bush from drying out.
- The rose bush should remain in the pot until the late fall. Once the roots have recovered and the outside temperatures have cooled down considerably, it’s safe to transfer the rose bush out of its pot and into the ground.