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How to transplant and prune roses (graphic heavy)

Category: Roses | Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:07 pm

Ive titled it that way because when you transplant your rose, youll have to prune it back like you would when youre getting your rose ready for its winter nap. The pruning is the same on both sides. So just look through and take what you need. Ask any questions you have and Ill be more than happy to help you.

Note Some of you might disagree to how I do mine. Let me say here, to save future nasty post, this is how I do did. Ive done it this way MANY times and I havent lost a rose this way. Ive lost them in other ways, but Ive never lost a rose due to a transplant. I am a lazy gardner and will find the easiest way to do something. So, if it works for me, it will work for you IF you follow the steps as they are.

~~editted~~ I know I said I would do a step by step of bushes, trees, shrubs and climbers but with the move this weekend and it wont stop raining, I just dont see how Ill be able to get the pics.

Below is for the bush. If you follow those step by step, but keep the prune back inches in mind for each, youll be able to prune and transplant any kind of rose! The only thing different is the amount you prune back. YOU CAN DO IT...I KNOW YOU CAN!

~~edit done~~

Im starting with the bush.

What you need to know BEFORE you get started
No matter what kind of rose you are moving, there are basics to follow regardless.

1.You cant not just dig up the whole bush and replant it without taking the steps to insure its survival.

2.The root mass MUST be larger than the stem mass. You want more at the bottom than the top. If you have more stem mass than root mass, the rose doesnt have the roots to insure that it gets enough food and water, in turn ,energy, to recover from the shock of a transplant. This is VERY important to remember.

3.Regardless if you are transplanting from the ground to a pot, from the ground to the ground OR transplanting from a pot to the ground, you should follow these steps to insure a healty happy rose. There is one rose I didnt prune back when I moved it from the store pot to the ground and that is my shrub. She dropped all her leaves and in the 2 months Ive had her, she has yet to recover BECAUSE I didnt take the time to prune her back. Concider it a lesson learned. ;)

4.Never never NEVER, leave your rose roots exposed to the elements!!! When you start a transplant, follow through! Dont stop in the middle of a transplant, leaving the roots exposed! Your rose is having enough stress being transplanted, dont add undue stress to it.

5.When pruning back your roses, trying to figure out how far to prune it back can be confusing. Heres a simple way to do it...
Intervals of 9
-For ALL rose bushes, prune it back to 9 inches of the crown (the knot where all the stems are coming from at the base of the rose bush).
-For a small climber(up to 5ft), 9 inches from crown
-Large climbers and ramblers (anything over 5 ft)18 inches from the crown.
- small shrub, 9 inches from crown
-large shrub, 18 inches from crown

so on and so get the idea.

Below you will find a easy to use guide on transplanting a rose bush. There are pics and detailed instuctions so you should have no problems transplanting. Now I am transplanting from the ground into pots because Im moving but like I said before, take what you need to do whatever kind of transplant you are doing. I have 13 roses in the ground to move and dont want to just leave them to the next person.

What you need for a transplant

Sharp pruners
root hormone
wood glue
gravel (if your potting)
pots (if your potting)
extra pots (for gravel, debris and soil)

Tip about pots
If you are making a move and you will be planting your roses into the ground or in my case, keeping them potted and you dont have alot of money to spend at the moment on good pots, dont fret! There is an answer to your problem!

Grab your phone book and write down the names and addresses of local nurseries. DONT CALL!
Drive to each of them and ask them if they have any disposible pots. These are the black plastic pots that thier plants are shipped to them in. For roses you will want up to a 5 gallon.

The price is right esp if you are moving and dont have the money to spend on the more expensive pots.
For a used disposible pot (5 gallon)ran me $.96 per pot.
For a new one, it ran me $1.19 per pot.
I even got a 50 gallon tub (too big to be called a pot! HAH!) used, for $5.50!

Now my roses will fine in these for a few months. This isnt a pot to keep them in forever. Because they are black you will need to water your roses once to twice a day depending on the heat in your area.

This is something to think about for other gardening projects.

I had to 4 different nurseries before I found someone who had them. Summer to late summer is the best times. Their plants have either grown out of those pots, died or been transplanted into a decortive pot.

example of the pots I bought

I am using my New Years as the transplant suject here. Let me note here that this is NOT the ideal time to transplant because it during the summer blooming cycle for roses. I have waited until the last min to do this so I can enjoy my roses just a little longer. The idea time to transplant and/or prune a rose would be after the summer blooming cycle is over. In my area is about Sept. Check your area zoning to find out when you should prune. That would be the ideal time to transplant too.

Now lets begin the transplant!!! And try not to cry when you see my beautiful rose blooms! I teared up!

OK My New Years as it looked before I started.

pretty, huh?

Step 1
Before you start cutting away, find the inches above that it should pruned back to. In my case, as its a bush, 9 inches. Now, when you go to prune, you want to ALWAYS do it right above a leaf. Heres why. If you look closely at where the leaf and the stem come together, youll most likely see a bud. This bud will leaf or branch out after you transplant. Cutting it back to there will insure that the energy is directed to those areas and grow.
See below pic
If you look were my finger is, youll see where you should cut.

When you cut, you want to do it an angle, not straight across.
This is the perfect angle.

Now dont worry if your cuts arent clean. You can go back after the transplant and clean up the cuts.

Step 1- pruning away the larger stems (dont worry about the smaller stems and branches just now.)

Be sure to have a pot or container handy to put your debris in.

After cutting the larger stems off, this is how it should look

Now we will cut the smaller branches off. When you cut these, do so as close to the main stem as possible. Note here... you dont want branches coming off the main stems after a completed pruning. It goes back to the energy needed to recover. And yes I have branches on this one but Ill clean it up once its potted.

Now time for the leaves to come off. You dont need your pruners for this.
Grip the leaf stem close to where it comes off the stem. (during this step, youll start seeing the buds I was talking about before)

Now very gently pulled the leaf stem down and it will start coming off at the "seams". Repeat until all the leaves are off. Take care not to just jerl the leaf branches off as you might rip the main stem.

and its off

Now if some of the leaf stem is left behind, no worries mate! It will die and fall of on its own.

Once all the pruning is done, this is how it should look. You want to prune any stems that cross over another or is rubbing against another. You want only straight ,thick stems left.

Now its time to dig! A rule of thumb when digging your rose up. Dig as far as the farthest stem sticks out. And dig that far all the way around.
I start with the stem sticking out the farthest and level the shovel there

And yes, I garden barefooted...another reason for ..

Now when you start digging, dont just shovel dirt out. Pull the blade of the shovel in the ground as far it will go and gently pull the handle down. Youll see the rose are going to lever it out of the ground. The point is to NOT cut or break the roots.
Note the angle of the shovel where its in the ground. I placed it in the ground with the hadle straight up in the air. Once in the ground, gently angle it down until its almost even with the ground.

When you complete the circle around the rose,
You will find you have complete circle of loose soil.

Take your shovel and slid it under as far as it will go
And gently push the handle down.

Once you have it under, youll see the whole area you just cut into will lift up.

Now to get it out the ground.

Grabbing the rose UNDER the finger is on the crown

Grab it firmly (you dont want to drop it), and at the sametime pushing the handle of the shovel down, lifting the rose out of the ground

WAAA LAA! And I didnt cut or break a root!

Ok now to get the grass off the rose

The easiest way I have found is to grab a handful of grass and pull it straight to the left or right away from the crown. This will pull the shallow roots of grass away from the deeper roots of roses.

Now we must find the longest THICK root. That will determine the size pot or hole you will need. Try not to cut these larger roots. They dont bent will and will most likely break if you try.

Now its time to find the pot that fits!

This one is too small. You dont want to shove the roots into the pot..that means its too small. It needs room to grow.

Now this one is just right! Notice the space between the edge of the pot and the longest roots. They have room to move and grow.

Now set the rose to the side just for a min.

You can do the following BEFORE you start digging but I do this as I go along.
You want to put gravel into the bottom of the pot. If you put soil straight into the pot without gravel, you run a risk that the soil will clog up the holes and excess water cant run out, in turn rotting your roots.
Concider gravel in the bottom as preventive meatures.
You can buy bags of gravel at any home improvement store. Ive seen them at Lowes and Home Depot.
I have a ready source at hand!! The lane in front of my house!

Now you want enough gravel in the bottom to cover the holes..

Now once you have the gravel in place, you want to add soil over it. Fill it about 1/3 full. You want to able to set your rose at the right level in the pot. Depending on where you live (once again, look into your zoning), depends on where the crown of the rose goes. I live in a warm area so I leave my crowns above the ground about an inch. If it freezes in your area, you want to protect the crowns, so bury the crown no more than an inch underground. The stems grow out of the crown and if you bury it too deep, youll smother the stems.

Perfect height. Youll notice that the crown is almost even with the top of the pot.

Now its time to fill 'er up! I use another pot for this so as not to just dump soil onto the rose. You want about 2 inches of space between the soil and the top of the pot.

And this is how your bush should look once she is transplanted, either in the ground or pot.

Now if your crown is a little high, theres no reason to yank it out of the pot and start over. The next step, either potting or ground, is very important to the survival of your newly transplanted rose....... mulch! This will keep the moisture it needs in the soil and in turn the roots. I use dried grass clippings. Whenever I am potting a rose...or any plant for that matter, I will fill up the pot the rest of the way with mulch. Once its showing signs of recovering from the transplant, I will remove about an inch of the mulch.
When you mulch, you want to leave about a half inch to an inch space between the main stem of the rose (the one UNDER the crown) and the edge of the mulch. She needs room to breathe!

Now is the time to tidy up your transplanted rose.

Clean up your cuts.

Add wood glue to the tips of the cut stems to prevent borers.

Add a root hormone to help the roots recover from the shock of a transplant.
I use this on all my trasplanted plants and flowers.Use whatever brand you want.

Note about mulching your roses. If you are using organic mulch such as grass cutting, you need to change it out every so often. I change the grass out at the end of every season. And an extra thick layer for winter.
Ok thats it!!

easy, huh?!

If you have any questions, just ask. You wont know the answer unless you speak up!

Until next time!

Last edited: Fri Jul 28, 2006 2:56 am

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Gardenstew wrote on Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:24 pm:

Denee that was an amazing tutorial, so clear and simple. The photos really illustrate what you are saying. My only gripe is that you left it on a cliffhanger :) I can't wait for the next part.

What else do you recommend using as a mulch for transplanted roses?

Great stuff!


Pinkiered wrote on Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:57 am:

I use only organic stuff I find around my yard. Decomposing leaves work well. But they need be dry before you use them around the rose. If they are wet, then you run the risk of your newly transplanted rose getting a fungus. Whatever you use, if its organic, make sure its dried first for this reason.

Im sure you can use just about anything. My grandmother used only shredded newspaper on hers and only the black and white print never the colored because of the ink.

Wood chips are fine Im sure, tho I would think its a little hard for the moisture to stay in the ground and not swell the wood. Someone else might be about to answer that one better than me. I dont use wood clippings.

It rained all day today so I wasnt about to trasplant. If theres no rain tomorrow, Ill get out there and transplant a large climber.


heathermt75 wrote on Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:46 am:

I have a question for you... when is the best time to prune roses... in the fall/winter before it snows or in the spring when the limbs start turning green? I have been told a thousand different things and since you are really good with roses, I figured you would be the one to ask. Any help would be appreciated!! Thanks for posting all the pruning pictures.. I haven't been pruning them back enough. I'm going to try to print your pictures and save hem so I will have a guide to go by.. Thanks!


Pinkiered wrote on Wed Jul 26, 2006 5:19 pm:

To answer your question about the best time to prune, I would do in the fall, when the summer blooming cycle is over. Some ppl say spring but that has never made since to me. I mean, if they are starting sprout new growth and the new growth leads to budding, why cut them? You want the new growth becuase with new growth, you get blooms.Buds are formed in the mist of new leaf growth.

I would prune in the fall as soon as the blooms die off.

cobramustang wrote on Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:23 pm:

Great tutorial very detailed. I have a question? I moved my rose and it finally is blooming again and growing fine, I am in MO, and I have one side that my rose is pushing up a straight bloom. I was wondering how would I go about removing and regrowing this bloom. It is about 12 inches or more and is very straight and it has a rose blooming soon off of it. thanks


Pinkiered wrote on Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:34 am:

Im not real sure I understand what you are asking? Do you want to grow your rose from a cutting? Or are you trying to get the rest of the bush to catch up with the one straight side?

valerierae23 wrote on Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:02 pm:

Any suggestions for rose care in sandy soils of Virginia Beach, VA?


gardengater wrote on Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:14 pm:

Thanks for your valuable info on transplanting roses. I am rather new to raising roses and need all the advice I can get.


davispv wrote on Tue Jul 15, 2008 3:16 pm:

Hats off to you...very grateful for the effort and great job! I now have a plan to transplant my rose. Thank so much!!!

bmoyer wrote on Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:55 pm:

thank you for your information. I recently transplanted a very large rambler climber. Now it is in shock. The leaves are all brown. I live in SE KS. Should I go ahead and prune it to try and save it?

margie12u wrote on Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:37 pm:

Hi Denee, This is Margie I saw your transplanting tutiral it was great, But my question is all the leaves are falling of my beautiful roses because of the black spots they are still blooming and have green branches, I have tried everything . My next step was going to be moving it and cutting back all the branches. What do you think? This is Aug. so I don't know what to do.

Thank you so much Margie

ml26sladybug wrote on Sat Sep 26, 2009 2:30 am:

I have a question...i just recieved about 20+ roses diffrent types from aJob I did in someones house...they were just goingto send them to the dump...I know about the whole process pruning transplantingand all...I had to do that partfor thejob andto save them, MY QUESTION IS: I am going to put themin the ground but it is September almost Oct. And they are pruned back(I live in virginia) It will start getting cold after amonth or so will they have any growth at all or just look like ugly nubs until next year? The reason I ask is I am digging a large ground portion to plant them to have a huge rose garden...and I don't feel excited about having a huge area of with nothing but "nubs" for 7-8months....?

peppa wrote on Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:09 pm:

Hi, thank you so much for this. It is so helpful. I have a rose tree that belonged to my mother and as I am moving I want to take it with me. At the moment it is in bloom. Will this make a difference. Thanks

EB wrote on Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:11 pm:

loved your directions but I have unusual transplant situation-moved so had to transplant in May and June- 2 big rose bushes already blooming-tried to get w/o cutting root-1 was cut-other bush was not-leaves on both died w/in few days but still some green stalks-put root growth starter on them and gets lots of water-still no response-1 we pruned down later, other we left w stalks-should I prune other down b4 winter or wait til spring-still very hot here in ID in August. Other was small mini rose stalk-i didnt do anything to it and it is recovering nicely. Please help One is family heirloom bush-large climber

mgeorge28 wrote on Sun Sep 21, 2014 6:51 pm:

Question, I'm about to transplant three roses from my dad's house to mine. I'm taking them out of a flower garden and I'm not sure what all to do to the soil at my house to prepare to plant them. I have hard clay filled dirt at my house. Help please:)

Heatherkodiak wrote on Tue Jul 28, 2020 3:34 am:

I’m bummed I can’t see the picture. I need to emergency transplant roses for moving. They are blooming right now. I’m hoping I can do what his blog says, trim stems to 9 inches, roots same, pot up, then replant at my new house

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