Can Roses Grow in the Shade?

Roses in shade

Roses can tolerate some partial shade but they need ideally at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive if not more. Some species are more shade tolerant than others such as zephirine drouhin but the less sunlight the rose receives the less the rose will bloom and the more leggy the rose will become.

How Much Sunlight Do Roses Need?

Nearly all varieties of roses prefer to be in a sunny position in your garden with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

Roses that do not receive enough sunlight display significantly fewer flowers and become leggy, which is where the rose canes may flop over or grow tall with a spindly appearance as the plant looks for more light.

In my personal experience even roses that are labeled as ‘shade tolerant’ still do best in 6 hours of sunlight but the rose variety Zephirine Drouhin will produce flowers and survive in partial shade.

Generally, Roses love the sun, and depriving them of direct light will lead to an unhealthy rose which is more susceptible to disease and pest damage.

Which Rose Grows Best in Partial Shade?

The variety Zephirine Drouhin produces beautiful pink flowers with a strong fragrance. Fortunately, Zephirine Drouhin is a thornless climber so you are far less lightly to be scratched during transporting, planting, and pruning the plant.

I have seen Zepirine Drouhin produce impressive blooms with 4-6 of morning sun, whilst shaded in the afternoon.

This is the only variety I have personally seen that can live in partial shade yet still produce a pleasing amount of flowers, which if you deadhead at the right time, (as soon as the flower begins to turn brown and looks spent) will carry on blooming throughout the season.

Alternatively, to find more light, you can remove any tree branches that cast shade over your garden and cut back any surrounding vegetation around your rose bed so your rises receive more light and air.

When planting roses you should be conscious that roses need a lot of space to grow. Many rose bushes will require the same amount of width as they do height. So if your rose bush grows to 3ft (0.9 m) in height then it will need 3ft in width.

Roses also like their space away from other plants. A well-spaced rose that allows the air to circulate will be less susceptible to common diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew. Space your rose at least 2 feet from other substantial plants that may restrict airflow or cast shade on the rose.

It’s also very important to leave enough space around the rose so that you prune it back in the winter without being scratched by its thorns.

Rose Growing Checklist

To grow roses in partial shade you need to optimize the other conditions for rose growth to give them the best possible chance. The conditions are:

  • The optimal soil pH for roses is slightly acidic to neutral at 6-7 pH.
  • Well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter.
  • A good rose-based fertilizer in the spring and summer.
  • 4 gallons of water, (for an established rose) once per week.

Roses prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil in order to grow healthy. A pH of 6.5 is perfect for all rose varieties. If you are unsure of the pH of your soil then you can buy an inexpensive soil testing kit from Amazon to check you are in the optimal range.

Soil pH meter.
Soil pH meter.

I would strongly recommend buying this inexpensive product before you plant any expensive roses that will die if the soil is either too acidic or alkaline.

If the soil is too acidic (a pH lower than 5) then you can amend the soil with wood ash which is alkaline and then retest the soil every month to see if you have made a consistent change to the pH or whether you need to add more wood ash accordingly.

If the soil is too alkaline then you need to add a deep layer of organic mulch to your rose bed to bring the pH back down into the appropriate range. Well-rotted compost, composed of grass clipping, leaves, and kitchen scraps will be in the correct pH range and help neutralize the soil

Roses benefit from organic mulch such as compost for many reasons:

  1. A generous layer of compost around your roses will keep the roots cool in the scorching summer sun and insulated from the frost in the winter.
  2. The organic material feeds the worms in your soil, which produce fertile worm castings that stimulate plant growth. Not to mention the worm’s activity will reduce soil compaction by aerating the earth. This in turn allows water to drain through the soil more easily which directly benefits your rose as the roots don’t like to sit in stagnant water.
  3. Organic mulch heaped onto your rose beds keeps down the growth of both perennial and annual weeds and the softer ground is easier to hoe and dig out the weeds if they appear.
  4. Consistently adding organic mulch all year round will change the soil structure and make it easier for the roots of your rose to work their way into the soil and access the water and nutrients that they need.
  5. Organic mulch tends to absorb and hold onto water far better than the surrounding soil, so the roots can access that water when they need to. The mulch also has a light enough structure, so that excess water can drain through so that the roots aren’t waterlogged.

Roses are thirsty during the growing season so make sure that they receive a good soak at least once a week in temperate climates. In hotter climates, or if there is a particularly arid summer you will need to water with a good soak 2 or 3 times a week.

This is assuming that your rose bed has good drainage with a decent layer of mulch. Water your roses at the base of the plant and water early in the morning to prevent common diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew.

Fertilizing roses is also a good way to ensure a healthy plant that is more disease and drought-resistant. I personally use fish emulsion once a week usually from spring when I’m confident we have had the last frost of the year to the end of summer.

I stop feeding the roses in the middle of August because if you give them a feed too late in the year this can promote new soft growth that will be killed in the first frost of winter.

(Read my article, on how to get more rose blooms).


All roses prefer to be in a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of direct light per day. If they receive less light or they are situated in partial shade then the rose will become leggy, flop over, and potentially die.

Consider cutting overhanging tree limbs or lower hedges in order to brighten up your garden for rose growing.

Zephirine Drouhin is the only variety of rose I have seen that produces significant blooms in partial shade, so if your garden is in dappled light or on the shady side, go for this variety.

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