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Soil Preparation

Give your roses the best possible start by preparing their new position well in advance of planting, at least two months prior. The position should be in a sunny spot with little competition, have good drainage and plenty of nutrients.


Choosing where to plant your roses:
  • All roses require an open, sunny and well drained position.
  • Roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, preferably more. Although shaded areas will allow roses to do well, the quantity of the flowers will diminish with the percentage of shade.
  • Protection from wind is essential for good blooms but remember to allow for movement of air.
  • Avoid planting too close to established shrubs and trees as they will compete for water and nutrients with your roses.
  • Consider the type and variety of rose that you are planting as roses grow in all shapes and sizes. Make sure to allow enough room for the rose to grow without becoming over crowded, including the root systems. Remember whatever grows above the soil is mirrored below the soil in the root growth (just like a tree).
  • If planting roses in groups, take note of the recommended distance that they should be planted. Most roses need to be planted a minimum of 1m apart, however some smaller roses, such as miniatures, can be planted closer together.


Roses are very adaptable and can be grown in almost any soil type given it is well drained, deep and full of humus (decayed organic matter). However, the best soils are those of a medium to heavy loam to a minimum of 35cm, over a good clay sub-soil. This type of soil is ideal as it has the natural advantage of retaining moisture and nutrients and requires little preparation.


Your first step into preparing your soil is to ensure it is well drained. To ensure the soil is well drained, dig a test hole and fill with water to see how long it takes to drain away. Wait approximately 15 minutes, if the water is not significantly draining away or has not completely drained within an hour there is a drainage problem. If so, you now have two options, select a better location to plant your rose or improve the drainage in this location.

There are many options in improving the drainage, the method you select will depend on the severity of your issue. If the issue is not servere you can work in organic matter and/or lighter soils to break up your existing soil; or, raise the garden bed and add in fresh garden soil. In more severe cases adding drainage channels with agricultural piping will be the most successful alternative.


Soil pH:

Before adding anything to the soil, perform a soil pH test. Testing kits can be purchased from hardware stores / garden centres and are easy to use. The soil pH for roses should sit between 6.5 and 7. Variations of this can result in the nutrients binding with the soil and becoming unavailable to the plant. This can result in many health issues from nutrient deficiencies and in some cases, death.

To increase the pH add agircultural lime to the soil. To decrease the pH add organic matter, iron chelates or powdered sulphur. The quantity you add will depend on your soil type, pH level and product. We suggest you do some of your own research regarding the quantities and various types of products.

Changing the pH of your soil is a gradual process and can take several months, depending on your application it can take as long as six months. Be patient and retest the soil after a couple of months.

Soil Preparation:

Once you have checked the drainage and soil pH is adequate it is time to prepare the soil.

Soil should be prepared at least a couple of months ahead of planting and given 4 to 6 weeks to settle in. Soil preparation involves the addition of organic matter, a small amount of blood and bone to the soil and moisture. The soil type will determine the proportions.

Build up the soil with organic matter, water in, turn it over a few times and let it sit. Dig over and water the rose bed multiple times during the next few months, the soil should come to a fine tilth.

Roses can adapt to almost any soil type except light, sandy soils. One of the biggest problems with this soil type is water retention, with water and nutrients quickly draining through it before the rose has a chance to absorb what is needed. Sandy soils require more preparation for this reason. To prepare the soil introduce copious amounts of organic matter, digging it through thoroughly. Applying a good layer of mulch will also help retain moisture. It is important to remember that light, sandy soils require lighter, more frequent fertilizing and watering. Be careful as very sandy soils can become Hydrophobic and will not allow water to penetrate the ground but rather let it run off to lower areas of the garden.

DO NOT replant into old soil where roses have been removed. If a rose has recently been removed, you have two choices. Either allow the soil to rest for an extended period of time or replace the soil in this position with fresh soil (at least a large wheel barrow load). Ensure you test the pH and prepare the soil as normal before planting.

DO NOT FERTILISE AT TIME OF PLANTING.  Wait until the rose has formed significant growth and blooms before applying the first application. Generally this is late Spring for most newly planted roses, depending on the climate, variety and planting time. If you have sufficiently prepared the soil there will be no need to fertilise prior to this.  Fertilizing at the time of planting will not only change the soil pH and burn the new roots but may encourage them to grow during the dormancy period. This is not ideal as the new growth will easily become damaged by frosts and extreme Winter weather.


Organic Matter:

Organic matter is added to the soil during the preparation of a garden bed, before planting roses and can consist of a combination of any of the following:
  • Well rotted compost
  • Worm castings
  • Mushroom compost
  • Old manure - it is important that it is well rotted. Avoid chicken manure and any manure from animals that eat meat, as these are too acidic for roses.
A handful of blood and bone added to the soil during prepartion will also be benefical.