Roses require at least six hours of direct sunlight.

How to Repair a Broken Rose Root Ball

by Sarah Mason

Roses are a beautiful, sweet-smelling addition to any home garden. When transplanting roses, it isn't uncommon for the soil to break away from the roots, so do not despair. While the petals of roses are fragile, these hardy plants are routinely harvested for bareroot shipment, and yours will likely survive the incident, however, there are a few things you can do to repair a broken rose root ball and to prevent further damage.

Disinfect the blades of your bypass pruners with a household antiseptic. This reduces the risk of transmitting infectious diseases from previously pruned plants to the rose plant. Dry the pruners with a paper towel.

Place the root ball, or what's left of it, on newspaper or a tarp during repair to prevent further damage and keep the ball together.

Cut off any broken or rotten roots with your pruners. Place the pruners on a joint of the unwanted root that is flush with the intact root ball and snip firmly. Excessively long roots may also be pruned, but leave 8 to 12 inches of healthy root, if possible.

Clean the blades of your pruners again with a household antiseptic. Dry with a paper towel.

Prune back the top growth to three or four short, thick and healthy canes. Shorten these to approximately 12 inches; the top growth of the rose should not be longer than the remaining roots that support it. To prune top growth, place your pruners at a 45-degree angle above an outward-facing bud, if possible, and snip firmly.

Dig a hole in a prepared rose bed that is large enough to accommodate the root system, normally about 12 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter. If the subsoil in the bottom of the hole is heavy clay, dig out up to 6 inches of the clay and replace with a good grade of compost or peat moss. This provides a soft medium for fragile, developing new roots to move through.

Place the transplanted rose into the hole at the same depth that it originally grew. Backfill the hole halfway with a mix of organic compost, soil and a handful of superphosphate; this encourages stem development and root growth.

Fill the remaining depression with water. Wait for the water to drain before backfilling completely to the surrounding soil level.

Tamp down the soil gently with your hands and water once more.

Items you will need

  • Gloves
  • Bypass pruners
  • Household antiseptic
  • Paper towel
  • Newspaper or tarp
  • Shovel
  • Compost or peat moss
  • Organic compost
  • Superphosphate
  • 5-gallon bucket (optional)


  • Roses are of the genus Rosa, and different varieties of roses grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 11.
  • Keep the rose well watered during its first growing season after transplanting.
  • Transplant roses while they are dormant to reduce stress to the plant.
  • Always wear gloves when handling roses and garden tools.


  • Never allow the plant to dry out. Put it into a bucket of water while you prepare the hole or if you must leave at any time.
  • Take care while handling roses not to hurt their bud union, which is the swollen area where each rose is grafted to its rootstock.

About the Author

Based in Fort Worth, Sarah Mason has been writing articles since 2009 on topics including nutrition, fitness, women's health and gardening. Her work has appeared in "Flourish" and "Her Campus." Mason holds a Bachelors of Arts in economics from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images