How Much Space Do Roses Need?
By Kitty Belendez
Master Rosarian

Many rose growers want to know how far apart they should plant their roses. This is a question that cannot be answered without thorough consideration. I believe there are at least eight factors in determining the space required to grow a rose.

Class
There are all types of roses. Some roses, like miniatures, don't take up a lot of space. Meanwhile, some of the climbers and ramblers can literally eat a house. Most miniatures can be grown in containers as well as in the ground. However, some of the more modern "miniatures" and mini-floras may be much bigger than you planned. When growing roses in containers, you have the option of moving them to a larger container when you see they need it.

Variety
Within each class of rose, some varieties will grow bigger than other roses in the same class. For example, shrubs, that catchall class of roses, includes a wide variety of sizes. 'Fair Bianca', a David Austin English shrub, is quite petite and rarely exceeds 2 or 3 feet in all dimensions. Comparatively, 'Golden Celebration' which is another Austin shrub, can grow 5 to 8 feet tall and wide.

Rootstock or Own-Root
Generally speaking, most roses grow bigger and produce more blooms when on some type of rootstock. Fortuniana seems to produce the most blooms, but Rosa multiflora is no slouch either. Hybrid teas and floribundas usually grow larger when budded onto some type of rootstock. Even some of the miniature roses can grow taller and fuller when budded onto a rootstock.

Yolande d'Aragon is so gigantic own-root that I don't even want to think about putting it on rootstock. On the other hand, some old garden roses such as Rose de Rescht are so much better on rootstock. I now have put Rose de Rescht and Francis Dubreuil on Fortuniana. I'm waiting to see how much space is needed.

Growing Zone
Southern climates have much longer growing seasons than northern climates. In Southern California, our roses begin blooming by mid-April, and often a week earlier in San Diego. Arizona gardens often have rose blooms by the first week in April and enjoy blooms through November. Our friends up north usually don't see their first blooms until June, and they are finished blooming by September. Some regions of the country have winters so severe that their roses are damaged to the point where the canes are only several inches tall when spring begins, if they make it through winter at all. For this reason, roses grown in southern regions with long growing seasons will mature into a much larger bush than their counterparts in the north.

Feeding Practices
A well-fed and nourished rose will simply grow taller and fuller than those that are not fertilized. Malnourished roses don't have the strength to produce many thick new canes. The more you feed, the bigger they will grow.

Soil Type
Loose, pliable soil that is filled with organic material encourages massive root growth and consequently a rose growing in good soil often becomes much fuller and taller than one in compacted clay soil.

Age of Plant
A new rose plant is rarely more than a foot tall when you first purchase it. But after several years it grows much taller. Once a rose becomes mature and well-established, around 5 years of age, some can become quite large.

Pruning Practice
Roses that are only lightly pruned can become tall and leggy after several years. Roses that are meticulously pruned can be confined into a much smaller space. Educated pruning can encourage thick canes, especially when the twiggy growth is regularly removed.

Some of My Biggest Hybrid Teas
'Hot Princess' on Fortuniana (my oldest bush of Hot Princess is 5 years old, 7 ft tall x 5 ft wide).
'Elizabeth Taylor' on Multiflora, 6 ft tall x 6 ft wide (15 years old).
'Cajun Sunrise' on Dr. Huey, 7 ft tall  x 4 ft wide after about 5 years, huge tree trunk canes (I'd hate to see how it grows on Fortuniana).
'Andrea Stelzer' on Multiflora (at least 7 years old) 5 ft wide x 8 ft tall).
'Let Freedom Ring', 7 ft tall x 6 ft wide after 3 years, on Fortuniana.

Space Matters
Providing sufficient space between roses will give your roses breathing room. The roots can spread out and the rose can grow to its fullest potential. Widely-spaced plants won't have to compete for nutrients. With good spacing, you'll be able to pamper each rose and they should have fewer diseases such as mildew, blackspot, and rust.

How Much Space?
I believe that it's difficult to give a general spacing guide, because there are too many factors involved. And the longer you keep a rose, the bigger it usually gets, especially if you prune high like I do. I also feed my roses very heavily because my soil is sandy, so I have to water and fertilize often. By fall, many of my hybrid teas can grow to heights of 6 or 7 feet tall.

It's usually best to err on the side of allowing too much space for your roses. Better yet is to do some research, and find out how big certain rose varieties grow in your neighborhood so that you can provide sufficient space for each rose in your garden.

Here's a general guideline for spacing roses in Southern California
Miniatures        1.5 feet (or 7-gal pot)
Mini-Floras       2-3 feet (or 10-gal pot)
Floribundas      3-4 feet (or 15-gal pot)
Shrubs             3-5 feet (or 15-20 gal pot)
Hybrid Teas     4-5 feet (or 20-25 gal pot)
Climbers          6-8 feet (or 25-gal pot)

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Rose Society

Updated January 18, 2016

Roses growing in the front yard of Bob & Kitty Belendez
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