- Advertisement -Meningitis Now is the UK's largest meningitis charity, offering support, funding research and raising awareness.

Rose-growing Q&A with Peter Beales Roses


Whether you’re a novice gardener or proud of your green fingers, we all have a few questions when it comes to getting the best from our roses. Here, you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked rose-growing questions – along with lots of expert tips and tricks from renowned rose grower, Peter Beales Roses. 

When is the best time to plant roses in the ground? 

Cooler, moist conditions make autumn a perfect season for planting roses, allowing plants to establish ahead of the flowering season. However, plants can be settled into their new home between autumn and spring if the weather is fair and soil is workable. 

November to March is ideal for getting bare-root roses into the ground, as long as soil isn’t frozen or saturated with water. 

Choose a site for your variety that benefits from sunlight for at least half of the day, because some roses won’t flower well when grown in shade. Plants thrive in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil – dig-in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost before planting, to give new roses the best start in life. 

How do I plant a potted rose, and at what depth? 

Water your rose an hour or so before planting, then dig well-rotted manure or garden compost into soil where the rose is to grow. Working a sprinkling of general-purpose fertiliser into the soil is worthwhile, too. 

Dig a planting hole that’s the depth of your spade’s blade – and the same width. Sit the rose in the hole, in its pot, to check that it’s at the correct level. Traditionally, gardeners have been taught that the graft union – the part where the stem joins the rootstock – should sit one to two inches below soil level, to reduce the risk of wind rock, frosting and drying out.  

Ease the rose out of its pot and gently tease out any circling roots, before adding a sprinkling of mycorrhizal fungi onto the root ball – it helps to boost root development. Place the root ball in the hole, adjusting soil levels if necessary, then backfill with excavated soil, gently firm the rose into position and water well. 

Can I grow roses in containers? 

Absolutely! Many smaller roses and patio types put on fabulous displays in containers, filling terraces and balconies with flowers and fragrance if grown in a sunny spot.  Climbers, ramblers and larger shrubs can also grow in containers if large enough. The planting mix must be 70% loam or John Innes No.3, plus organic matter and feed. 

Try Rosa ‘Macmillan Nurse’, a brilliant little shrub rose with clusters of old-fashioned, fragrant, white/cream flowers – it reaches a height and spread of no more than 90 x 90cm. 

Another summertime star that’s perfect for pots is the ‘Oxford Physic Rose’ which is adorned with light-pink, fragrant blooms on healthy plants, growing to a height and spread of 1.2m x 90cm. 

Choose a large, sturdy container that’s at least 30cm deep, ensuring it has plenty of drainage holes. Water roses an hour before planting, then settle into 70% John Innes No.3 and 30% compost – it’s high in nutrients and formulated for plants that will live in containers for many years.  

Potted roses should ideally be planted between October and April. If you’ve been gifted a rose during the warmer months, or have made an impulse purchase, avoid planting it into a container during hot weather or drought, which can put plants under stress. 

Once established, roses in containers will display glossier foliage and more abundant flowers if fed fortnightly from spring until August with a specialist liquid rose fertiliser, or tomato feed rich in potassium. Always feed container plants when the compost is moist. 

Roses in containers need regular watering, especially during summer. Try not to let the compost become parched, which can result in outbreaks of powdery mildew. 

I’ve replaced old roses with new bushes. Why are they struggling? 

Occasionally, new plants can put on sluggish growth or fail to establish in growing positions where old roses have been removed.  This is due to a condition called replant disease, caused by a build-up of soil-borne pathogens and depleted trade elements. Fortunately, there are steps that gardeners can take to prevent replant woes. 

Before planting, dig out soil where roses previously grew and replace it with soil from a different part of the garden that’s never been used for rose-growing. Alternatively, replace old soil with fresh topsoil, which is available in bags at garden centres. 

Another trick is to use a cardboard box and put it into the planting hole, to reduce the risk of roots coming into contact with old soil. The box will decompose naturally, allowing the rose to put down roots as it establishes. 

Do I need to mulch roses? 

Mulching – spreading a layer of material over the surface of the soil – offers a multitude of benefits, cutting down on watering and helping plants to survive periods of dry weather. Mulching reduces the growth of weeds that compete with plants for water and nutrients. 

A layer of mulch can give rose borders an attractive, neat appearance and, depending on the type of mulch used, can play its part in improving soil structure and nutrient levels. The best time to mulch is spring, when soil remains damp from winter rainfall, because mulch locks moisture into the ground by preventing it from evaporating. To work effectively, a layer of mulch should be two to three inches thick. 

Well-rotted manure or garden compost are two of the best border mulches, helping to improve the level of organic matter in soil. Decorative mulches such as composted bark will also help to conserve moisture and supress weed growth but won’t boost soil nutrients. 

Mulch mustn’t touch the stems of roses, to prevent the risk of rot. Leave a gap of several inches at the base of plants, which also allows water and nutrients to be taken up by the roots. 

Why does my rose produce more suckers every time I snip them off? 

Suckers are vigorous shoots that are often a lighter shade of green than the rest of the plant.  Pruning them off is one of the biggest mistakes that gardeners make. In fact, snipping suckers off at ground level using secateurs will simply spur the sucker back into growth. 

There’s a handy trick to get rid of a sucker for good. Using a trowel, carefully dig down to reveal where the sucker joins the rootstock. Then – wearing thick gardening gloves to protect your hands – pull the sucker cleanly from the plant. Cut all green remnants off with a knife to prevent regrowth. 

Roses can produce suckers if they’re damaged during planting, digging or weeding, so taking care not to strike the roots with gardening tools while working can help to reduce the risk of these annoying shoots appearing. 

Once the unwanted growth has been removed, the rose can channel its energy into producing gorgeous flowers and healthy foliage, instead of unsightly suckers. 

My rose has developed dark spots on its once glossy, green foliage. What’s wrong? 

This is black spot, one of the most common rose diseases. It’s caused by a fungus which causes dark patches to appear on leaves during the growing season. In severe cases, leaves turn yellow around dark spots, and fall from plants. 

At the first sign of trouble, gather leaves that have dropped to the ground, taking care to bin rather than compost infected foliage. 

Traditionally, gardeners have treated black spot using systemic fungicides, but nowadays there’s no need to reach for chemicals. Evergreen Garden Care, for example, says its RoseClear 3 in 1 Action is certified for use in organic gardening and controls black spot while tackling pests, too. It can be used to treat outbreaks from April until September. Uncle Tom’s Tonic is used by professionals and is effective too. 

Where roses are frequently infected, consider replacing them with modern varieties that offer better resistance to disease. 

How can I get rid of aphids on my roses? 

Pests such as blackfly and greenfly can make a beeline for roses during the warmer months but don’t worry: they’re easy to control organically. 

You’re most likely to see pesky, sap-sucking insects making themselves at home on the tips of shoots and on flower buds, although they can infest young foliage, too. Because infestations quickly multiply, roses can become smothered in aphids’ excretions, known as honeydew. 

If your garden has a rich, diverse ecosystem, you might notice that ladybirds descend to feast on the aphids. However, ladybirds are more active in late summer, so if aphids put in an appearance earlier in the season, you’ll need to keep populations under control. 

The easiest (and cheapest) way to control outbreaks is to simply blast the bugs from plants using a garden hose – although you’ll need to keep an eye open and squirt any further outbreaks. Organic pest sprays are available at garden centres, too. 

Will roses survive weather extremes resulting from climate change? 

Yes! If you’re looking for a plant that will shrug off winter cold without protection and relish the opportunity to bask in the heat of summer sun, you won’t go wrong with roses. 

They’re one of the toughest plants that gardeners can grow and can give decades of enjoyment if looked after, even if subjected to wild weather. 

Unlike summer bedding plants, which often need to be watered daily during heatwaves, mature roses offer superb resistance to heat and drought. Newly planted roses will need to be kept watered in dry conditions though, for the first couple of years of their life. 

Find out more 

Peter Beales Roses can be found on London Road, Attleborough, Norfolk, where you can view its two-acre rose garden, historic rose collection, garden centre, and an unrivalled programme of workshops and rose events. See more at www.classicroses.co.uk or call 01953 454707. 

Latest News

Emerge Events founder celebrates winning major gong

Emerge Events is delighted to announce that Julie Farr M.A., Creative Events Management has been honoured with the prestigious National award, Event Planner of the Year.
Skip to content