A Guide to Growing Roses

Double Red Knock Out Roses
Double Red Knock Out®

A rose is a rose is a rose. For decades, roses have been used to convey love, beauty, grace and sweetness. If you’re anything like us, we like having our gardening roses around more than just a week and not only in a vase. Although they are beautiful to have around the house, they’re even more beautiful flattering your yard with flowering shrubs. Learn how to plant a rose bush today with these planting tips!


There are so many different varieties of roses, it’s hard to keep track. You could, for example, create a miniature rose garden with fancy Hybrid Tea roses or old timey Antiques. There are also climbing roses, floribunda roses, modern roses, and english roses. However, if you want to add some low growing roses to your existing landscape, Drift® roses and Knock Out® roses might be for you.

At a mature height between 1-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide, Drift® roses are low growing landscape roses that have been bred to be disease resistant, low maintenance, and to bloom repeatedly. Drift rose bushes are meant to be massed as ground cover roses or in mixed low borders or flower carpets, beds and low hedges, and even in containers. The continuous blooms will enchant you all season long!

A little larger than the Drift roses, with a full size between 3-5 feet, the Knock Out roses are best as specimens, either alone or in masses, and in hedges, borders and mixed beds. Both of these rose varieties have dark green foliage that contrasts the flowering buds nicely. Any of the drift roses or knock out roses are sure to bring joy to your landscape or even as cut flowers! You could pick different rose bushes by color if you like… we have a few with gorgeous pink blooms or buttered yellow popcorn flowers. These rose bushes are hardy for cold climates.


Rose Bush Care

Drift roses and Knock Out rose plants have similar requirements. Follow this care guide for the best rose bush maintenance information on the internet.

They should be planted where there is good drainage, avoiding low, wet areas. The soil should be rich with organic matter (compost!), and with a slightly acidic pH (6.0-6.5).

Full sun is a must for any type of rose to grow and prosper. Drift roses should be spaced at least two feet apart and three to four feet apart will insure they have enough room in the long term. Knock Outs should be spaced a little farther apart.

Like any other ornamental shrub, your roses should be well mulched for the best air circulation. The mulch helps hold in soil moisture, smother weeds, and provide winter protection. We recommend an organic mulch that will enrich the soil as it decomposes (but will need to be replenished from time to time). Purchase our Rose Soil Mix for the best soil for roses.

Double Knock out Roses landscape
Double Red Knock Out® Landscape

Fertilize roses each spring with a slow release fertilizer, following label directions. If you fertilize again in mid-summer or fall you’ll get a better bloom in the fall.

Pruning Roses

For best flowering and to maintain an attractive shape, we recommend pruning back Drift® roses and Knock Out® roses each year in early spring, just as growth resumes. Never prune in fall or winter as that could encourage new growth that would then be vulnerable to a damaging freeze. Early spring or late spring is the best time to prune.

Use lopping shears to shape the whole shrub and maintain the size you desire. Remove dead branches or crossed branches with dead wood. You can even prune your rose into a rose bush tree if desired. Use pruning shears for detailed work and for removing unwanted shoots near the base. Make clean cuts and stay near the center of the plant for best results.

During the flowering season, deadheading (pinching off spent blooms) will encourage even more flowering. For an excellent tutorial on pruning Drift® roses from the folks who introduced them, see the video below.

Many kinds of roses require frequent spraying to prevent fungal diseases such as black spot and insect damage. Not so with the modern Drift® roses and Knock Out® roses! If your roses are healthy, in full sun, and properly watered they should not need any of the various …cides. Disease resistance is one of our favorite features!

Planting Your New Roses

planting guide: dig hole roses

These are not bare root roses, they are rooted in their nursery container with soil. Thoroughly water the growing medium soil in the plant’s pot before starting. Dig a planting hole larger than the pot; we recommend twice as wide. Place the pot on its side and slide the plant out. If the plant is stuck, you can slip a long-bladed knife around the inside edge to loosen it.

Gently loosen some of the roots along the sides and bottom, and pull them outward so they are not encircling the root mass. It shouldn’t be necessary to prune any of the roots. The exception is if one or more large roots are wound around the circumference of the pot. In this case the offending root should be shortened so that when it is in the ground it will grow outward and not continue growing in a circle.

planting guide: place Roses

Build up a rounded mound of soil in the middle of the planting hole. Place the plant’s root crown on top of the mounded soil so that the long  stem will be at the same depth as it was in the pot. at ground level. Spread the side roots out over the mounded soil while backfilling the hole. Work the soil in and around the roots.

When the hole is half filled, give it and the roots a good soaking of water with a soaker hose at the base of the plant. When the water has drained, readjust the depth of the stem if necessary and finish filling the hole. Gently tamp the soil down with your hands. Water thoroughly. Spread three inches of an organic mulch or matter over the root zone to help hold in soil moisture. You can use hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings.

See our How to Plant a Rose Bush post for more information. Keep the young rose well watered during its first growing seasons. If planted in the fall or winter, you can water once a week. Planted during the growing season, your rose should get watered every 2 or 3 days for 3 or 4 months. If you’re having a dry spell, or your soil is sandy, you should water every day for the first 3 or 4 months. The most common reason for a newly planted shrub to die is lack of enough water.

Once established (after a year of growth), your rose can tolerate dry spells and should not need any supplemental watering in climates that average at least 20 inches of rain per year (which is all of the eastern US and much of the West).

Roses benefit from an annual application of slow release fertilizer, such as Nutricote Total Controlled Release Type 360 Fertilizer 18-6-8. Follow label directions and don’t over-fertilize, as this can result in excessive vegetative growth and fewer flowers.

Why go to the garden center when you can have your new rose bushes shipped directly to your house. With the simplicity of care for the Drift® and Knock Out® roses, you’ll have more time to stop and smell the actual roses! Happy planting!