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assorted pink roses in garden bed with white 3 pce outdoor setting
Whether you’re a dedicated grower or more ‘rose-curious’, winter is the time to get active!

How to grow roses during winter

Winter is prime time for roses. It’s when newbies get planted and oldies get pruned to stimulate a cycle of growth and flowers. For gardeners, it’s the time when a fabulous selection of bare-root rose plants appear in nurseries, including new releases and old favourites. Whatever you choose, you’ll be richly rewarded in the months to come.

Growing essentials

Roses are tough, long-lived plants that grow in most climate zones. And growing them isn’t hard, says Wilma van de Laak-Verhaegh at Southern Roses, as long as their essential needs are met. “Anyone can grow roses,” she says. “It can be a fun and rewarding experience for any gardener.” Wilma’s top tips for flourishing roses are to choose strong performers and plant them in a sunny, well-draining spot, avoiding areas where there is competition from other trees and plants. “Water well after planting and feed with rose fertiliser to encourage flower growth in spring,” she advises. “Deadheading spent blooms regularly will help promote future flowering.” A steady supply of nutrients is also key. Whatever type of soil you have, Angie Thomas from Yates advises adding plenty of organic matter. “To help give the rose a great start, improve the soil in the planting hole with blood and bone or pelletised chicken manure,” says Angie. And for the best blooms, feed plants with rose food three times a year in spring, summer and autumn.

Planting bare-root roses

Most roses are planted in winter as bare-root plants. While they look a little uninspiring – a cluster of thorny sticks with plastic-wrapped roots – remember they’re just waiting for spring when they will burst into leaf and bloom. “If you plant roses in their dormant stage, they will have more time in a somewhat friendlier environment to get root establishment. This will result in more prolific growth in spring and summer,” explains Wilma. When you get your plant home, unwrap it and shake off the medium around the roots, put it straight into a bucket of water and let it soak for one to two days.

Step 1.  Dig a hole wide enough for the full spread of the roots, and deep enough so the bud union (the knobbly swelling on the stem) ends up a couple of centimetres above soil level – roughly 30cm wide and 20cm deep, at a minimum.

Tip: If you have not already prepared your soil, mix cow manure and compost through the excavated soil.

Step 2. Using the excavated soil, form a mound at the bottom of the planting hole. Untangle the roots and spread them over the mound, holding the plant upright. Adjust the mound as needed, so the bud union will sit just above the finished soil level.

Step 3. Backfill the hole halfway, then add water. When the puddle has drained, fill the rest of the hole, firming the soil down with your hands to remove any air pockets. Water again with a shower spray.

Tip: Don’t fertilise when planting. Instead, wait until spring for signs of leaf growth, then sprinkle on rose food, water in well and mulch. Check out Bunnings’ amazing range of roses.

a shovel planted in the dirt next to a metal bucket and some bare-root rose cuttings

Pruning basics

Roses have the handy habit of bearing their flowers on new growth. So, when they’re cut back in winter, they respond by pushing out vigorous new stems in spring, which quickly produce buds. If you live in a frost-prone area, delay pruning until all danger of frost has passed, so you won’t risk the new growth getting burnt off. It is all about rejuvenating the plant and – essentially – keeping it young. Here are the basics for pruning established bush and shrub roses. (Climbing, rambling and mini roses often have different pruning requirements for best results.)

1. Cut the whole bush back by about a third to a half, making each cut just above a nice, plump, outward-facing growth bud. Use clean, sharp secateurs to reduce the risk of disease and so you don’t tear the bark.

2. Remove any dead canes, cutting them at the base of the plant. Also remove crisscrossing canes, to open up the centre of the bush, and any sick or spindly growth.

3. Bin all pruning, in case they’re harbouring pests, then treat the bare plants with a spray of lime sulphur and/or pest oil to clean up any fungal spores or dormant bugs that might be hanging around.

team member cutting rose stems with secateurs

Keep in mind…

Wear gloves and a mask when handling potting mix/mulch/compost. When handling thorny plants or pruning, wear protective gear such as gloves and long sleeves. Store all garden chemicals and products out of reach of children and pets.

Some trees are best planted in winter, too

Check out our range of trees and get deciduous varieties in the ground now!


Photo Credit: GAP Photos

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.