Alan Titchmarsh shares ‘essential’ step when planting a potted rose

Alan Titchmarsh explains how to correctly prune roses

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Roses are such rewarding plants, many bloom from early summer through to autumn bringing colour and fragrance to your garden. They fit into so many situations with other shrubs and perennials, in pots on the patio or alongside other roses in beds and borders. Traditionally they are planted in autumn and winter as bare-root plants lifted from the fields where they are grown. Today they are also sold as container-grown plants, enabling you to buy and plant them at any time of the year. Gardening expert, Alan Titchmarsh has shared with Waitrose & Partners how to go about planting a potted rose.

Alan shared his love of roses and noted that they can be a great fit for any garden. He said: “Whatever your colour preference, there’s a rose to suit, and something for every spot in the garden, brightening up borders, spreading over low banks, clambering up walls and fences or scrambling over pergolas. 

“To make choosing easier, they’re categorised according to growing and flowering habits: climbers and ramblers; hedging plants; bush, groundcover, shrub and smaller patio roses. 

“Speed of growth and ultimate size vary hugely, so think about where you want your rose to go – and bear in mind that, although there are some shade-tolerant roses, most prefer a sunny spot.”

So why should roses be planted during autumn? Planting roses during their dormant phase (when they’re not in leaf or flower) is the best way to give the roots a chance to establish. 

You can also plant roses in the late winter or early spring, providing the ground isn’t frozen, but doing so in the autumn while there’s some residual warmth in the soil helps to give the roots a head start.

1. Water the plant

Alan shared that the first step to planting a potted rose is to water it “really well”. He urged: “If it’s bone dry, plunge the pot into a bucket of water, hold it down until bubbles appear.”

Water the plant in its pot thoroughly before you start, this helps to keep the root ball intact when you plant. Roses have a wiry root system that does not produce a stable root ball. If the compost is dry it may be best to soak it in a bucket of water. 

If you plant your rose when the compost is dry, water may fail to penetrate the root ball and the plant will suffer. 

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2. Prepare the soil and dig a hole 

The gardening pro then instructed: “Dig a hole at least double the size of the pot, removing weeds and large stones. 

“Break up the bottom of the hole with a fork and it is essential to add plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.” This will help to encourage the roots to move out from the root ball and establish themselves in the ground.

Using well-rotted manure or compost is beneficial as it will add vital nutrients to the soil helping the rose to establish more effectively.

3. Position the rose in the hole

The next step is to carefully remove the rose from its pot and position in the hole. 

Alan said: “Tap the rose gently from its pot and plant with the surface of the compost level with or slightly below the surrounding soil. If you like, treat with Empathy Rose Rootgrow when planting to help it establish.”

If some of the growing medium falls away, do not panic. The surface of the compost should be a little below soil level.

4. Backfill soil around the rose

Once the plant is in the ground it is then time to backfill around the rose carefully mixing in the manure or compost as you go.

The expert said: “Backfill with soil and firm in with your boot.” Try to push the soil into the roots from the sides and avoid pushing down from the top of the rootball. 

Alan added: “Water thoroughly and keep watered until growing strongly.” This is essential whatever the weather because it settles the soil particles around the roots. Never make the mistake of leaving out the watering just because it is raining, or because the soil is moist.

You will need to water regularly for the rest of the first season if the weather is dry. In fact roses really respond to watering in dry weather however long they have been in the ground.

5. Mulch 

The final step of planting a potted rose is to mulch. The gardening guru said: “Mulch with a six to eight centimetre layer of garden compost or Strulch to effectively lock in moisture and suppress weeds.”

Mulching is the addition of a protective layer around the base of your roses. This process helps your roses to retain moisture, suppresses weeds and provides valuable nutrients for your roses as they grow.

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