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How to Move a Rose Bush Without Killing It

How to Move a Rose Bush Without Killing It

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Do you think your rose bush will look better in another place in your garden? You may know that rose bushes are sensitive to being moved, so you need to take specific measures to ensure their health and safety.

You’re in luck because I’ve written this guide to educate you on how to move a rose bush without killing it and help it thrive in its new location.

Below, I dive deeper into two approaches to transplanting your rose bush, depending on whether the bush is dormant or not. 

How to Transplant Dormant Rose Bushes

Planting A Rose Bush

Without further ado, here are my tried-and-true instructions for a mistake-free transplanting process:

Step 1: Choose the Right Timing

Since rose bushes are sensitive to shock, they handle moving better during their dormancy in late winter or early spring. Transplanting the rose bush while dormant causes less stress to the plant, which can boost its chances of survival. 

If you’ll be transplanting it in the spring, wait until after the last frost or freezing weather

Step 2: Get Your Rose Bush Ready for the Move

Start prepping your bush by cutting the rose canes to ten to twelve inches and removing the foliage. Pruning allows your plant to focus all its energy on developing roots, which is crucial for healthy growth in the new location.

After that, dig up the rose bush, ensuring you dig away from the root ball to avoid damaging the roots. In this step, I try to take as much of the root system as possible to the new location so the plant will settle in faster.

Finally, if your rose bush is large, consider laying it on a tarp to drag it over to the other spot.

Step 3: Prepare the New Location for Transplanting

Before moving your plant, choose a location in your garden with plenty of sun and water. 

Next, dig a new hole, ensuring that water drains well there. If you aren’t sure about drainage in this area, fill it with water. If the water takes longer than an hour to drain, the drainage won’t be good enough for your rose bush.

Place the rose bush in the hole and fill it halfway, but don’t add the soil to the hole yet. Instead, allow the water to settle in and then adjust the rose bush’s height to your liking.

Remember that rose bushes do well in fertile soil enriched with organic matter. You’ll also want the soil to be warm and somewhat loose.

In this step, I suggest you mix equal parts of mulch, potting soil, and peat moss. Then, add half of this mixture around the roots of the rose bush. 

This will help protect it, allow it to settle in, and offer it the nutrients it needs. 

Once you’ve adjusted your plant, you can add the rest of the potting soil mixture into the hole and water the rose bush again. 

Avoid using pesticides or fertilizer on the rose bush until you see new growth.

How to Transplant Non-Dormant Rose Bush

Digging Up A Rose Bush

Worried about risking transplanting your bush during the non-dormant season? The following instructions detail how to complete the transplanting task smoothly, backed by frequent trial and error from my experience!

Step 1: Water Your Rose Bush Thoroughly Before Moving

If you want to transplant your rose bush when it isn’t dormant, you should do so during the growing season. While it’s more difficult to move at this time, using the right amount of water could minimize the risks.

Start by applying a liquid B1 transplanting fertilizer to help prepare your rose bush before you move it.

After that, you need to fully hydrate the plant so that all of its cells have as much water as possible. This will lower the strain on the roots as rose bushes need a lot of water to survive. 

Step 2: Prune Your Bush

The next thing you should do is prune your rose bush to reduce its size as much as possible. Start by cleaning out any dead or dried-out parts from the plant. 

I often choose to cut the tall canes as well to match the size of the root ball.

Step 3: Transplant the Rose Bush

This step is the same as the one I mentioned in the previous section where you choose a good location and ensure the water drains well there. Always remember that roses don’t like having wet roots. So you’ll have to find that sweet spot where there’s just enough moisture in the soil.

Once you’ve chosen the right area for transplanting, dig your new hole.

Afterward, you can easily dig up the rose bush like earlier, keeping the root system intact. Don’t forget to improve the soil quality in the new location by placing the mulch and peat moss mixture around the roots.

Finally, put the rose bush in the dug-up hole, fill in half the hole with soil, and water the rose bush as you normally would. Once your plant settles, you can adjust its height and add the remaining soil mixture to the hole.

My last piece of advice is to water the rose bush every day for one to two weeks. This washes away any insecticides and fertilizer until after you see new growth on the bush.

Can I Temporarily Relocate a Rose Bush?

Small Rose Bushes In Plastic Pots

To avoid any problems related to shock, I try not to transplant a rose bush more than once in a short period. Yet, if you need to move your rose bush to a temporary location, it’s not impossible.

My recommendation is to try potting it during its temporary stay. But how to do it without jeopardizing your plant’s health?

Step 1: Prepare the Pot for Your Rose Bush

Start by making sure that you have a pot big enough for the rose bush to survive. Smaller pots may get in the way of healthy root growth, and no one wants that in this sensitive phase.

The pots should also have drainage holes without any trays on the bottom of the pots.

Next, use high-quality potting soil in the pots. Regular dirt is too heavy and won’t drain properly in a pot.

After filling the pot with the potting soil, dig a hole that is sufficient for the rose bush. You can then fill the hole with water and leave it for an hour to make sure it drains well.

Step 2: Prune and Dig out the Plant

This preparation step will vary whether your rose bush is dormant or not.

If it’s the dormant season, you can prune it by removing any dead foliage and then cut it back. Dig it out, making sure that you stay away from the roots, then move it to the pot.

Alternatively, the rose bush will require more work to prepare during the growing season. Use liquid B1 transplanting fertilizer and water the bush well. 

Now you can cover the root in a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and mulch. Place the rose bush in the pot and fill the hole halfway, then water it and let it settle.

Keep in mind that moving the rose bush to a pot doesn’t allow it to settle as much as it does in the ground because there’s a limited depth. Either way, once it settles, you can fill the hole with the rest of your mixture and water the plant again.

Step 3: Care for Your Rose Bush Until You’re Ready to Move It to Its Final Location

To boost its chances of survival, ensure your rose bush gets an adequate amount of water and sunlight every day. Avoid giving it fertilizer or treating it with any pesticides until you see growth.

You can keep the rose bush in the pot until you’re ready to move it back to its location or a new spot. Hopefully, it’ll thrive as long as you take proper care of it.

How Long Does It Take for a Rose Bush to Recover from Transplanting?

Even if you follow all the right instructions when transplanting your rose bush, it might still take some time to recover after the move. 

This duration can last anywhere from two to four weeks until the roots are once again established in the soil. A proper care routine of sunlight exposure and watering (without soaking your plant) should help your rose bush through this tough time.

Why Did My Rose Bush Die After Transplanting?

Some reasons why a rose bush may not make it after moving include:

  • Too much or too little water
  • Not enough planting depth that support the volume of the root system
  • Exposure to pests or plant diseases
  • Low amount of sunlight

Final Thoughts

After years of experience in gardening, I realized that rose bushes are sensitive, which is why moving them can be tricky. However, if you take measures to move them correctly, you can do so without shocking them.

They’re much easier to move when dormant. But you can still transplant them in the growth season if you follow the guidelines in this article.

Choose the right location, focus on soil quality, ensure there’s good drainage, and provide access to water and sunlight. This way, you can help your plant stay happy and healthy!

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Kathy Gleason

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Hi Lisa,

You were the only source I was able to find to help me about my serious problem with my newly acquired Julia Child potted rosebush. I was given this plant because a friend of mine was moving away and wanted the plant in good hands. I've had her just two weeks (I have plant experience but not rose experience). I had no idea rosebushes were so sensitive but I can certainly see this now. To make the story short what I didn't know was Julia was moved twice before she came to me and to make matters worse she is just about ready to bloom. Through my research these are two of the worst things you can do to a rosebush. Today I noticed white spots on the leaves and when I flip over the leaves I see tiny caterpillars. In addition, some of the leaves have turned brown and when you touch them the leaves are falling off. This poor plant is in shock and melting down before my very eyes. I don't even know how or what to do to help it. The beautiful buds that were ready to open are turning brown. It's so sad. I know the caterpillars need to be treated before they eat all the leaves but as I attend to this is there anything else I can do to help? Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

Lisa Bridenstine

Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Hi Kathy, Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that! I would keep it watered well as it recovers, just make sure that the soil is draining good so that the roots aren't sitting in water. You may also want to prune it a good amount so that it can focus its energy and water supply to the roots. Cut back any unhealthy areas (with sanitized pruning shears) and you can do some shaping at this time as well. I had a tree I planted this year suffer from transplant shock too, but with some patience and care it did recover. I hope the same will happen with your rose bush!



Friday 26th of May 2023

I have to move my rosebush from one pot to another ; but one root is out of the original pot . Will the rosebush be ok if I cut as little as possible of that root & transplant it ? Thank you .


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

I have to move my drift rose bush because of a new room addition. It is already starting to have lots of buds and a handful are open. If I prune it before I move it will I get new buds later this spring or summer? Or should I just move it as is? Thanks.