Orange Rose Bush
(Image credit: LARISA DUKA)

The general rule of thumb says that fall is an excellent time to plant new flowers in your garden, but when it comes to the delicate nature of roses, this may not be the ideal time to plant roses. Whether you should be planting rose bushes in the fall depends on several factors. Let's take a look at these factors.

Bare Root Roses or Container Roses

The first thing to consider is what kind of packaging your roses are in. If your roses come as bare-root plants, you should not be planting your rose bushes in the fall. Bare-root plants take longer to establish themselves and will most likely not survive the winter if planted in the fall. Container packaged roses establish themselves much more quickly and can be planted in the fall.

Winter Temperatures Affect When to Plant Roses

Another factor in deciding when to plant roses is what your lowest average winter temperature is. If the winter temperature in your area drops down to -10 degrees F. (-23 C.) or lower on average, then wait until spring for planting rose bushes. The rose plants will not have enough time to establish themselves before the ground freezes.

Leave Enough Time to Time to First Frost When Planting Roses

Make sure that there is at least one month before your first frost date if you will be planting rose bushes. This will ensure that there is enough time for the roses to establish themselves. While it does take longer than a month for a rose bush to become established, the roots of a rose bush will continue to grow after the first frost. What you are really looking for is the time when the ground freezes. This normally occurs a few months after your first frost (in areas where the ground freezes). The first frost date is just the easiest way to calculate when to plant roses with the ground freeze in mind.

How to Plant Roses in the Fall

If you have determined that fall is a good time for you to be planting rose bushes, there are a few things you should keep in mind about how to plant roses in the fall.

  • Do not fertilize - Fertilizing may weaken a rose plant and it needs to be as strong as possible to survive the coming winter.
  • Mulch heavily - Add an extra thick layer of mulch over the roots of your newly planted rose. This will help keep the ground from freezing just a little bit longer and give your rose just a little bit more time to establish.
  • Do not prune - A fall planted rose bush has enough to contend with without having to deal with open wounds. Do not prune roses after you have planted them in the fall. Wait until spring.
  • Plant only dormant - One of the top things to remember when considering how to plant roses in the fall is that you should only be planting dormant roses (without leaves). Transplanting active roses or planting rose bushes that come from the nursery in active growth will not work as well when planting in the fall.
Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.