Sentimental roses

Asked May 11, 2015, 10:44 PM EDT

This rose bush has been in our family over 80 years. I need to transplant it from my recently passed away Moms home (Tecumseh, Mi) to Waterford, Mi The new location has plenty of full sun but sandy soil at our lakefront home. Its a great reminder of our family history! Please help it to live on by providing your expertise. Thank you!

Oakland County Michigan

9 Responses

Transplanting roses


Roses, especially older varieities, are hardy plants that can transplant well when given a good location and good care. However, they tend to have deep roots so, be prepared to dig down at least 2 feet, and take as many roots as possible. You may also want to consider propagating the rose from cuttings, so that you have more than one rose from the original plant. You can take cuttings now( before transplanting it) if the rose has begun to grow for this year. Take multiple cuttings, more than you think you need, as this method can likely have a high failure rate. Then, transplant the remaining shrub. Here is some information to help you.

1. Your soil is unknown to this rose-- consider getting a soil test of your new location and indicate you want to grow roses there on the soil test form. It takes about two weeks from the time the lab receives the sample to get your results. They will show the nutrients and organic matter in your soil, and have a recommendation on what to amend the soil with for growing roses. MSU sells a soil test for $25.00 which includes postage to mail it to the lab. see

2. Tips for transplanting: Before you dig the rose out of its old location, water the plant well if the soil is dry; do this the day before if possible. Remove as many of the weeds and other plants around the base of the rose as you can. Trim the rose back by 1/3 to 1/2 of the top growth. Dig as large a root ball as you can and keep the soil around the roots. The root ball on a medium to large rose should be 18-24 inches across. Wrap the root ball in burlap, and secure it gently with twine or string. Be careful to not scrape, break or otherwise damage the branches. Lift the plant by picking up the root ball, not by the plant's branches. If you are transporting the rose in the back of an open truck or trailer, wrap the branches in burlap or an old sheet, too. Loosely tie the branches if the are long and flexible. (This prevents wind damage while transporting). Brace the plant by surrounding it with bags of mulch, or something similar, so that it doesn't tip over or roll around as you drive. If you have to stop and leave the rose in the vehicle, be sure the rose doesn't 'overheat' in a closed vehicle on a sunny day.

Transplant the rose into its new location as soon as possible- the same day is best. (Read the articles below about planting roses if you aren't familiar with planting). Keep the root ball moist until it is transplanted; and keep the rose out of the sun. When you transplant, dig a hole big enough for the root ball with a few inches to spare all the way around. Using sharp clean pruners, clip the tips off of any broken or torn root ends. ( A cleanly cut end will 'heal' over better than a torn or broken one). Mix in compost or composted manure into the soil from the new hole- about 1/4 to 1/3 volume compost to 3/4 -2/3 volume of sandy soil. If the soil in Tecumseh is heavy clay, shake off as much as you can from the roots, without breaking them. ( A sudden change from clay to sandy soil is not conducive to root growth).

Plant the rose in the new hole at the same depth as it was growing in its old location. Firm the soil around it and water the rose. Check the branches for any broken or diseased or dead ones and prune these off. Dead branches are brown, dry and brittle all the way through. Live branches are white to green in the middle.

3. Rose care: Water the planted rose. Place a ring of shredded mulch around the root zone 2-3 inches deep. Do not let the mulch touch the stems. Keep weeds down- they use up water and nutrients. Monitor it daily until it is growing well - check the soil by sticking your finger down near the roots - if dry, water the plant. (Don't give so much water that the roots are constantly soaking- roots need air, too). Follow your soil test results for fertilizing and soil amendments. If you didn't have a soil test, give a liquid fertilizer mixed at 1/2 the strength of the label instructions. Once the rose is actively growing, follow a fertilizing plan from one of the links on rose care, below.

Monitor the rose for any problems, and if you aren't familiar with caring for plants, please ask us again for help-- ask early! It's easier to deal with something as soon as it starts.

Transplant shock may cause the rose to drop some leaves the first couple weeks. This is normal.

4. Winter care: At least the first 2 winters, in about November when the soil is frozen, place a mound of shredded bark mulch around the base of the rose and mounded up over the stems about 6-12 inches.

Gently remove this mound from the branches in the spring, about mid-late April. This always is a safe way to give winter protection to roses. Some roses are so hardy that, once established, (about 2 years from transplanting) they don't need this protection anymore.

Other suggestions-

Consider joining a Rose Gardeners club or local garden club. They may have experienced rose growers who can be helpful on how to grow in your area. Waterford and surronding areas do have garden clubs.

Here are some links to rose information from university web sites-- these sites are research based and you can trust the information there. Note that some

information is regional (growing roses in Arizona isn't going to be exactly like growing in Michigan!) so choose sites from areas similar to Michigan.

Growing Roses

American Rose Society - helpful info, some videos, including info on how to propagate a rose from cuttings. This site also has a tab where you can ask a 'custom question' that will be answered by a Rosarian- that is a rose specialist:

More info on growing, diseases, pruning, propagation: (Propagation by taking cuttings) (this site has a video on 'Summer Rose Care')

I am sorry to hear of the loss of your Mother. I hope your family rose takes well to its new home. Please write again if you have any questions.

My soil test link is above. What do you recommend fof nutrients before and after planting?

Hello,--- Thank you for peoviding the soil test results. Here is one way to follow those results--- 1) remove about 1/4 to 1/5 of the soil you dug out of the hole that you will be planting the shrub with. Replace it with compost and mix it in well. --- 2) Next add 1-2 tablespoons of 5-0-20 dry fertilizer to the soil that is going back into the planting hole. --- 3) Add 1 tablespoon of garden potash 0-0-60 to your soil mixture. --- 4) Mix in 2 tablespoons garden sulfur to the soil mixture. Mix all these additives well and use them to plant your rose. --- 5) Plant the rose as per the instructions I gave you earlier. Use an organic mulch, such as shredded bark, so that organic matter continues to break down and go into the soil. --- --- Your soil test indicates your pH is a little higher than roses prefer, that is why you are adding the sulfur. Add sulfur each of the next two springs by sprinkling it around the root zone under the mulch. You can do this when you fertilize the shrub in the spring. Do not add any lime. Your soil test shows the soil is low in potassium; that is why you are adding potash as well as regular fertilizer. Retest the soil in 3 years or if things are going well just keep up your fertilizer/sulfur program. Please write again if you have more questions.

5-0-20 dry fertilizer is not available locally. Can another composition work?

Yes, you can mix your own equivalent of 5-0-20:--- take 1/4 cup urea (46-0-0) and mix with 1 1/2 cups potash (0-0-60). Use 2 Tablespoons of this as your 5-0-20. The rest can be used on your garden plants--- this mix is enough for 100sq ft of planting area. Your second option is to purchase a fertilizer with as close a ratio to the recommendation of N to K as you can. Then use the Fertilizer Calculator link, found at the bottom of your test results page. Plug in the N-P-K ratio there. It will give you the amount to apply for 100 sq ft based on your test results. You will have to divide that by 10 to get a small enough amount for your single rose bush (that is for 9-10 sq ft). I hope this is helpful. If you decide you would like to discuss this over the phone with an Extension gardener, please call the MSU garden hotline during business hours. Sometimes that is a little easier way to work through this. The hotline is a toll free call at 888-678-3464.

thank you Laura! I removed the rose and transplanted it to my waterford home yesterday and followed your instructions. I will send a photo in a few months! thank you!

You are very welcome. I hope your rose does well after all the effort you have put into it!


Last year the rose bloomed beautifully. I followed the instructions in fall of 2016 as described. But I did not follow instructions this spring of 2017.

The rose is in bad condition-see the current photo attached. I'd like some help and understand what I need to do. Is it dyeing? Or something else?

Thank you for your help.
Dan Rutherford, M: 248-623-9702


Oh, this looks like it has been in trouble for sometime. I suspect several things could have happened at the same time, especially this summer.: lack of water, insect damage, and fungal disease on leaves causing them to fall off. This summer in Oakland county I observed a large population of rose chafers which eat the leaves, and early spring when it was wet allowed fungal diseases, like black spot, take hold. I do see some black spot on the few leaves left on the stems.

Here is what you can do now:

Roses should be deeply, slowly watered during dry times like we have had all this summer. Only water at the base so as not to wet the stems and leaves. Keep the leaves as dry as you can- redirect sprinkler heads so they do not wet the shrub. Water at least twice per week. A shrub this size should have about one-two gallons at a time, applied slowly so that it all soaks in. Keep the soil around this shrub moist but not sopping wet, until the ground freezes this fall( sometime in early Nov.)

Remove all of last year's mulch and leaf debris. Remove as many weeds as you can, since these use up water the rose needs. Then mulch 3 inches deep around it with fresh mulch. Don't let the mulch touch any stems. Old mulch and fallen leaves have fungal spores that re-infect the new leaves in spring.

Clip off with a sharp, clean pruner all the brittle brown stems, down to the base of the plant. Leave the green ones on it, as these have dormant buds which may still produce leaves this year.

Do not fertilize it now. Apply a fertilizer next spring after leaves start to grow.

If it starts to put out leaves now and next spring, monitor it and watch for any discolored leaves , or holes in the leaves. If you see holes or other damage, spray with an All-in-one or 3-in-1 rose spray. There are several brands that can be found in any garden center section of a store.

When the ground is frozen this fall take a fresh bag of mulch, like shredded bark or pine needles, and make a mound over the top of the shrub. Pile it up so it is about 8-12 inches high in the center. This will help it survive winter, if it is going to. Pull this mound back next spring, about mid-April, when we start to warm up and plants buds are starting to swell. Be careful not to break stems or buds.

This is the best care you can give it. The green stems mean it is alive, and it is well worth the effort to bring it back. Unfortunately some years are very bad for insects and fungal disease like black spot. If you add an all-in-one rose spray to your routine, I think you will have a fine shrub again.