A Beginner’s Guide to Roses: Planting, Pruning, and Care

Roses are the most iconic flower in our history. Their blooms and beauty are used for any occasion and in any arrangement. Rose care isn’t complicated, and growing them can transform any space into a magical place. Here are some tips for growing and caring for your roses.


How to decide what types of roses to plant:

When you’re pondering what roses you want in your garden, consider the 5 S’s: Space, Soil, Scent, Sun, and Sight.

roses and lavender by white fence summerwinds california

Space: Where will you be planting the roses? Are you hoping for a variety that will climb along a wall for a cottage vibe, or are you looking for a bush variety that will line a pathway? When selecting your roses, try to measure the space and compare it to the growing information about each plant. Be strategic about your blooms!

Soil: In dryer climates, the soil can sometimes be acidic. Your roses will need nutrient-rich soil to thrive. A well-draining soil is also critical so that your rose doesn’t get flooded and develop root rot. Adding mulch to your soil mix can help distribute moisture to your rose plant.

mother and daughter smelling roses summerwinds california

Scent: There’s nothing more disappointing in life than leaning into a bouquet of flowers and smelling...nothing. Or, if you have sensitive sinuses, maybe strong floral scents make you sneezy and miserable. Some rose varieties have little to no smell at all, so choose what fragrance suits you best. Some of the strongest-smelling versions are Mr. Lincoln, Bella Roma, or any English rose. 

Sun: Roses and beach bums have a lot in common; they both love getting lots of sunshine! Roses need 6-8 hours of that California sun to live their best lives. Plant them where they’ll get as much light as they need while enjoying some protection from the harshest elements.

bright backyard rose garden summerwinds california

Sight: When it comes to selecting your roses, it’s okay to be a little shallow. Beauty takes precedent when it comes to planting rose plants in your yard. Consider what color palette you want and whether you’re looking for a variety with multiple clusters or single blooms.

How to Care for Roses:

There are a few more elements of rose care to keep in mind.

When to plant: In California, it’s best to plant roses in the spring, about six weeks before the last frost. You can also plant in fall about six weeks before the first frost. Planting during the fall will give the plant time to put down roots, so it’s ready for the spring.

fertilizing rose bush summerwinds california

Fertilizing: Your roses will require regular fertilizing to keep them in tip-top shape. You can fertilize any time during its blooming cycle, but it’s most effective shortly before the spring thaw, as the plant revs up for a major growth spurt.

Watering: Roses are thirsty gals. Water them deeply, but not too often. If it’s a rainy season, you can likely get away with watering a few times a week. If it’s a dry season, don’t let your rose get parched! Every 2-3 days should do the trick. Avoid getting water all over the plant as that can harm it. You can set the hose down near the base of the plant and let it trickle in, but keep an eye on it.

Accompanying Plants: You’ll want to make sure your roses are not fighting for space, sunlight, or soil nutrients. What you plant near your roses makes a difference. If you’re hungry, garlic is a good partner and keeps many pests at bay. For a bit of beauty, you can plant lavender, baby’s breath, or catmint.

How do you prune roses in California?

As part of proper rose care, you’ll need to chop your beloved roses from time to time. Trust us; it will help them in the long run! Get a good pair of pruning shears and trim off the dead weight, kind of like your last breakup. You should also gently pluck off dead blooms so a new one can emerge.

magenta roses next to white patio bench summerwinds california

Because California has such hot summers, it’s best to avoid trimming the roses during those peak summer months. The dead and dying parts of the plant actually protect new growth from the hot sun. Pruning is also a great way to help you keep plants to a manageable size and prevent them from becoming overgrown. When you prune, cut a quarter-inch above a bud at a 45-degree angle.

Take a leafy leap and try planting your own roses this year! If you have questions about rose care in California, we’d love to help you out!


About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.