Instead of constantly cutting back a rosebush, move it.

How to Move Rosebushes Temporarily

by Patricia H. Reed

Gardeners don't always get it right the first time. A rose (Rosa spp.) might not thrive where you plant it, or it may far exceed its expected growth to become a thorny landscape obstacle. When a rosebush needs to be moved but an ideal spot is not available, you can transplant the rose to a temporary location. The best time to move a rose is when it's just coming out of dormancy in late winter to early spring; when that is not possible, you can still move the plant to a temporary site until you can give it a permanent home.

Dig a large hole, at least 2 feet wide and deep, with a shovel in a full-sun location. Fill the bottom of a hole with a loose mix of equal parts compost and native soil. This way, even if roots extend into the soil during their temporary tenancy, the plant can be removed easily without damage to the new roots.

Water your rosebush well every day for a week before you plan to transplant it, to make sure the plant is fully hydrated. This also ensures the soil is easy to dig and will cling to the root ball.

Cut out any dead, thin or crossing canes at their bases. Reduce the rest of the canes by one-third of their length -- whether the plant is dormant or not.

Wrap the remaining growth with twine, tying the canes so they are upright and out of the way to make the plant easy to move.

Dig in a 9-inch circle around the base of the rosebush with your shovel. Dig down about 15 inches, rocking the shovel to dislodge the root ball.

Clip any roots that extend past the 9-inch circle with bypass pruners if they weren't sliced by the shovel.

Lever the root ball out of the hole with the shovel and roll it onto a tarp to slide it over to its temporary planting site with as much of the dirt around the root ball intact as possible.

Place a dormant rose at an angle, so its top growth is against the ground, when it is early in the plant's dormant season and you don't expect the rose to have to remain in the temporary location for more than a few weeks past the start of spring. Fill in around the root ball with the compost-soil mix, mounding it over and around the root ball and the base of the plant. Ensure that any graft or bud union is covered. Keep the soil loose; don't pack it down. Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch over the mound of soil.

Set a rose that is actively growing upright and at the same level it was previously growing. Fill in under and around the root ball with the loose soil mix.

Water the plant in well and keep it moist until it is time to move the plant to its permanent location -- after it has gone dormant again in the case of an actively growing plant, or as it comes out of dormancy with a dormant rosebush.

Items you will need

  • Bypass pruners
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Tarp
  • Twine
  • Mulch


  • When the rose is smaller, you could temporarily transplant it into a large pot.
  • There are rose varieties suitable for every U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone from 2 through 10.

About the Author

Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.

Photo Credits

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