Ideally rose shrubs need to be spaced so there is at least 2 ft of distance between the outer foliage. Roses need to be spaced far enough apart so that you can prune them without being scratched by thorns and so there is enough air circulation to keep down diseases. The closer the roses are the more they have to compete for resources and the less they will bloom.
There are literally thousands of varieties of roses so you will need to research the specific height and width of your rose when it is at full maturity so you can space it accordingly. Generally speaking the bigger the rose, the more resources (sunlight, water, access to nutrients) it will need.
What about Spacing Container and Miniature Roses?
There is less of a need to place miniature and container potted roses so far apart because they are not competing for the same resources in terms of nutrients and water (as they are confined to a pot).
However you will need to make sure each individual rose receives enough sunlight (6 hours per day, preferably more) without shading one another with their foliage.
Another important perquisite is to ensure there is enough room for air to circulate freely around the leaves. If roses are too close together they can create their own micro-climate of still air and slight higher humidity which can increase the likelihood of fungal diseases.
If there is sufficient air flow and your container roses are not casting shade on one another then you can place the roses so that the outer foliage is around 6 inches apart without any problems.
Be mindful to factor in the extra growth that roses put on in the summer and adjust the spacing of your containers if you need to.
Considerations when Spacing Roses
Pruning and Deadheading
Perhaps the most important consideration when spacing roses is whether you can move around the bush freely. Every year you need to prune your rose in early spring and then deadhead the spent flowers throughout the summer to get the best floral display from your rose.
You will need room to access the rose at different angles to be able to cut away dead wood and make precise cuts above the bud without being scratched and attacked by thorns!
In summer, deadheading the spent blooms can become a regular job in order to redirect the rose’s energy from producing rose hips (seeds) into producing more blooms so make sure you can move around your roses easily.
It is also good practice to space roses so you have room to inspect leaves for insects and fungal disease out breaks and to treat them with sprays or clip them off and dispose of them accordingly.
If you clip off diseased leaves make sure you throw them away or burn them. Do not place them in the compost heap as fungal diseases can lie dormant and launch another attack when you eventually spread the compost around your garden.
Mulching and Fertilizing
Roses love an application of mulch around the base of the plant to improve soil texture, retain more moisture, add fertility and cool the roots in summer.
Some rose growers like to add compost mulch around their roses at the start of the season and again at just before winter to insulate the roots from the worst of the winter cold and give your rose a head start next season.
You need to leave enough room so you can distribute mulch around the rose bed so that the layer is two inches thick and crucially, not in contact with the rose wood that is above ground as the exposure to moisture from the mulch can cause rot.
Make sure that you leave enough room to throw down some mulch around your rose canes but ensure that you can arrange the mulch so that there is at least a 3 inch radius of bare ground around the rose canes.
Fertilizing also is a regular job in the spring and summer with some rosarians adding fertilizer in the form of granules or fish emulsion up to once per month.
Keeping your roses a good distance apart means each of their individual root systems are not competing with one another for nutrients from the soil and from additional fertilizers.
The more space you can afford to give your rose the more it will be able to obtain all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, disease resistant and produce the best possible floral display.
You also need to bear in mind how close your roses are to other plants and even trees as roses are very heavy feeders requiring lots of nitrogen, phosphates and potash to produce flowers and thrive which is why fertilizing and spacing your roses generously is so important.
Roses like a happy medium when it comes to air flow. If your garden is too open and windy then it will sap the rose of moisture from both the leaves and the soil, potentially leaving the rose dehydrated.
However if the roses are placed too close together and the air is consistently too still because of an enclosed garden then this can increase the likely hood of common fungal diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew.
Black spot and powdery mildew are more prevalent in warm, wet and confined areas and will spread from rose to rose if they are placed to close together.
By giving your roses a good amount of space and keeping a close eye on rose leaves in the summer you can catch fungal disease early, clip the affected leaves off and burn them or throw them away.
I must reemphasize to not add diseased leaves to compost as the fungus can remain dormant and launch another attack when you distribute the compost around your garden.
Keeping your roses a good distance from each other (and from other plants in your garden) will help breezes flow through the leaves and make the conditions less favourable for disease.
Sun Light and Watering Between Roses
The obvious problem is that roses that are closer then 1 ft away from each other can potentially deny one another of sunlight as the sun moves from East to West.
Roses need to be in a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of direct sun.
Take into consideration the movement of the sun throughout the day when planting roses in one area to make sure that each rose will receive enough sun without shading one another at different times.
The best thing to do is to sit in your garden reading a long novel on a summer’s day and assess how much light your roses will get!
Or if you can’t spare the time there is a device on amazon that measures not only the amount of sunlight a spot in your garden receives, but also the soil pH and the moisture content of the soil. Best of all it is available for a great price!
In terms of watering roses that are close together, the main concern is that the root system of each plant will be competing to draw up water.
As long as you apply a mulch at the start of the season composed of organic matter such as leaf mould or compost (which helps retain water) and water your rose with a good soak (approximately 4 gallons per rose) once per week in the growing season, then there will be enough water to go around.
The bigger problem with roses in close proximity will be the roots competing for nutrients as roses are heavy feeders and require good fertile soil to be at their healthiest and display the best blooms so make sure you stay on top of your fertilizing regiment.
Space to Appreciate your Rose
There is also the fact that roses are grown to be admired! So give them their space and they will reward your with a gorgeous floral display.
Leaving a generous amount of space between roses means that you can get up close and personal to, well…stop and smell the roses!
There is nothing more pleasing on a summers day to sit back and appreciate all the hard work you have done in the garden to keep your roses looking their best.
By giving your roses around 2 feet of space to the nearest plant you will ensure the rose has enough access to nutrients, water, sunlight, fresh air and enough room for you to prune back and deadhead the flowers.
Spacing your roses accordingly is an important and overlooked part of rose care. If you are planting new roses, remember to research your variety of rose and find out exactly how tall and wide it grows so you can allow approximately 2 feet between each rose at maturity.
If you have establishes roses that are perhaps too close together bare in mind that you can give them a harsh early spring pruning so they don’t compete with each other for sunlight and air circulation to the same extent.