This garden looks perfect, but all gardens change over time. Trees grow and shade the roses, drainage may be poor, or there’s root competition from nearby shrubs and creepers. Sometimes the rose is just in the wrong place.
Moving roses in the heat of summer can be tricky, says rose grower Ludwig Taschner. But in June the roses are dormant and the plant, especially the roots, experience less stress when moved.
Before transplanting a rose that is not growing and flowering well, Ludwig suggests finding out first what the problem is.
Try this test
Dig a 30cm deep hole next to the rose. Here is what you may find:
Hard, compact soil:
Dry, compact soil prevents water and oxygen from reaching the roots of the roses. No need to transplant but rather dig in peanut shells or milled pine bark and compost to a depth of 30cm around the rose to loosen and aerate the soil, so that it is spongy and absorbs water easily.
Roots from nearby plants: many shrubs and perennials have aggressive root systems that take up the water and fertiliser faster than the rose roots. If the rose is in the right position, dig up the rose and replant it in a large container (with drainage holes) and sink that container into the soil. This protects the rose roots. Pull up the container every six months to cut away any other roots pushing their way in.
The water-logged soil and discoloured leaves indicate a drainage problem. If the water doesn’t drain away, especially as sub-soil level, the rose roots rot. Lift all the roses and raise the level of the bed by at least 30 cm through adding organic material (peanut shells, bark, compost) and topsoil if necessary. Replant the roses.
The most common reason for moving a rose is that it is not getting enough sun. A rose needs at least six hours of sunshine a day. That may be the reason why the rose is spindly, prone to disease and not flowering enough. The best position for roses is morning sun and some afternoon shade.
Ludwig’s step-by-step guide for transplanting roses:
Prepare the new position: Dig a hole to a depth of 50 cm. Combine compost and other soil conditioning material, like bark chips, peanut shells, leaves mixed with lawn clippings or pine needles, and mix into the soil that came out of the hole. Also mix in 30g Vigorosa 5:1:5 (25). Return the soil to the hole, fill it with water and check that it drains out within a few hours. If several roses are to be transplanted prepare a bed in the same fashion.
Tag the roses: Before digging up the bushes, label them either with their name or simply “tall pink”, “medium high yellow” and so on. It is easier to resettle them according to height and colour grouping.
Cut back the roses
Reduce the height of the rose by half before transplanting it. Cutting back the leaves reduces the stress on the roots and makes it easier for them to successfully re-establish themselves.
Dig out the roses|
Push the blade of the spade into the ground in a full circle around the bush, about 20cm from the centre of the bush. Once the ground is loosened and the roots have been cut, slide in the spade, push down and carefully prise the rose out of the ground.
This is easier with two people because two spades can be put into the ground opposite each other and simultaneously pushed down so that the bush is levered out of the soil.
If there is serious resistance it means some of the major roots have not been cut. Don’t pull the bush out; rather use the spade to cleanly cut the roots.
Re- plant in new position
The rose should be transplanted immediately. Before planting cut away broken roots or dead woody parts. The bud union should be planted just below soil level.
Once planted the rose should be well watered. Follow up with weekly watering. The rose will start growing but the leaves will not lead to new blooms and it will still need to be cut back a little more from mid-July.
Follow Ludwig’s live demo on YouTube: https://www.ludwigsroses.co.za/rose-growing-tips/how-to-grow-roses/transplanting-roses/