Rachel and I had every intention of downsizing our rose garden this year. In fact, we didn’t winterize our roses last fall. Nothing at all. We were going to let the process of natural selection do our dirty work. Survival of the fittest rose. Any rose tough enough to survive would be a keeper. Well, guess what? We didn’t lose a single rose. Even at our best, we usually lose five or six. Out of 150 roses that’s really not bad. Looks like we’ll put off downsizing until next year.

Sometimes you need to move a rose bush from one place in the garden to another. There are many good reasons to do so. Maybe it needs more sun. Maybe it snags your clothes every time you pass by. Maybe it would just look better somewhere else.

The best time to transplant a rose bush is late winter or early spring while it’s still dormant. However, if done properly, you can transplant a rose bush any time. We have successfully moved roses in the middle of summer that were full of blooms. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of doing so.   

Water is the key to successfully transplanting a rose bush. Water the rose thoroughly the day before the move. The aim is to hydrate all of the cells completely. This will lessen the demand on the roots, allowing them to heal more quickly and become established in the new location.

Dig the new hole before you dig up the rose bush. Getting the rose out of the ground and into the new hole quickly helps to reduce transplant shock. Dig 12 inches around the rose bush using a sharp, pointed shovel. Try to keep as much of the rootball intact as possible by sliding the shovel under the bush, rocking gently, until the rose pops free. Quickly transfer the rose to the new hole, keeping as much soil on the rootball as possible. Place the rose in the new hole and backfill half way using composted cow manure. Water deeply. Fill in the hole completely and water again. 

Keeping the plant adequately hydrated is the most important goal if the plant is actively growing. In the heat of summer you may need to water twice a day. We’ve never cut back any top growth. It isn’t necessary to remove any healthy part of the plant at all. We simply move the whole bush as it is. Over the next week or two there’ll be some wilting or dieback. Just trim it away. Don’t fertilize or spray until you see significant new growth. Fertilizers can easily burn the already traumatized roots. This recovery period is critical and requires close observation. Continue to water daily until the plant perks up. The difference will be obvious. 

Transplanting a dormant rose is much easier and less traumatic. First, remove any dead, dying or diseased canes. Then remove any canes that are rubbing or growing toward the center of the bush. We like to prune hard each spring, so remove one-third of the top growth. Dig up the rose and place it in a bucket of water. At no time can the roots be allowed to dry. Most of the soil will wash away from the roots. Spread the bare roots over a small mound in the center of the new hole.  Backfill the hole and water deeply. Again, don’t fertilize until the rose breaks dormancy. Roses are tough and resilient. Feel free to move them around until you find the perfect location.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com