Roses will not grow in soil that is consistently wet and boggy. Wet soil will rot the roots of roses. Roses need the soil to absorb and hold moisture yet have a porous structure that allows excess water to drain away from the roots.
Roses will not do well in soils that are low lying, boggy or soil that retains too much water (such as clay). Nor do they like sandy or rocky soils soil that drains too quickly.
Roses need a happy medium of soil with a high organic content that has the capacity to hold onto water so that the roots can draw upon the moisture when the need to, yet it should have a loose friable texture that allows water to drain away so that ground does not become saturated.
Options for Rose Growing in Gardens with Wet Soil
Growing roses in soil that stays consistently wet is out of the question so if you want to grow roses you will have to:
- Plant Roses in pots
- Plant Roses in raised beds
- If the soil is slow to drain you can dig out and remove some of the soil to be replaced with amendments that encourage better drainage.
Planting roses in pots is a great way to get round the problem of boggy low lying gardens that are naturally wet as there is very little you can do about this apart from lift and plant the roses out of the damp soil with a mounded area of soil or a rockery.
Roses can grow very well in pots and raised beds as you can control a lot of the essential factors for growing roses such as the soil medium, drainage, the amount of water and sunlight (roses prefer full sun) very easily.
Another way to prevent wet soil from killing roses is to amend the soil significantly with organic matter and perhaps some sand or grit.
Organic materials such as compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure all are perfect for growing roses and improving the drainage of boggy areas as they have the ideal porous soil structure that promotes good drainage and does not trap water and allow it to pool around the roses roots which leads to root rot.
However this can be a very labour intensive as you will have to remove as much of the offending soil and material as possible and you will need to know exactly what is causing poor drainage…
Identifying Why the Soil is wet:
If the soil has been compacted then it is possible to that you can amend this soil to drastically improve the drainage to make it more suitable for roses.
Compacted soil can happen for a variety of reasons but in my experience the most common reason is that there has been heavy vehicles driven over the ground, usually during the construction of the house.
The weight of the vehicles will push all the air out the soil and make it impossible to for water to infiltrate and likely reduce worm activity in the soil. Worms naturally create channels in the soil as they work so that water and air can reach the roots of roses so having a deficit of worms it will be to the detriment of the soil health.
Water then naturally pools in these areas and takes a long time to drain, thus making it difficult to grow roses.
In order to remedy this you will need to amend as large of the planting area as possible with organic matter.
- Dig out the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches (as this will comfortably accommodate the roses root system at full maturity) and redistribute the soil elsewhere in your garden if you cannot dispose of it. The deeper the hole you can dig the better.
- At the bottom of the hole lay down gravel to create some air pockets to encourage the water to drain away.
- Replace the soil with organic matter such as compost, leaf mould or manure or a combination of all three.
Manure is a great material to incorporate as it is packed with energy and really stimulates the ecology of the soil. Worms in particular love to feed on manure.
The channels worms create as they move through the soil will help to improve drainage of compacted soil in the long term and they also concentrate nutrients into a chelated form which makes it easier for roses to uptake nutrients, resulting in healthier roses.
To be on the safe side I would recommend that you refill the entire hole loosely with organic matter and monitor how well the soil drains over a period of a few weeks.
Only plant a (quite possibly expensive) rose into the planting area once you are sure the soil drainage has improved and is not longer wet.
You can do this by watering the intended planting area with a hose or observe the planting area after heavy rainfall. If the soil drainage appears to have improve, make sure by digging to a depth of 18 inches to see if you can find any standing water.
If water is still pooling then I would recommend planting roses in pots or raised beds.
If there is no standing water, just moist composted material then as long as there is enough sun (roses need at least 6 hours of sun per, but preferably more) then the area should now be suitable for planting your rose.
The process for amending heavy clay soil is very similar. Roses can grow very well in clay soil as clay retains nutrients very well which is great for roses as they are heavy feeders. For the full explanation of how to amend clay soil for roses growing check out my article: Will Roses Grow in Clay Soil?
Should I add Sand to Soil to Improve drainage?
You should only add course builders sand to the ground if the reason for wet soil is because of compaction. Do not add sand to clay soil as the slick nature of clay can combine with the sand to form a cement like structure in baking hot weather, that makes it impossible to deal with.
Sand and grit also do not contribute any nutrients to the soil. Roses are very heavy feeders, requiring good soil fertility to grow to their full potential, so adding too much sand will not be favourable in terms of the health and blooms of roses.
For clay soils gravel is a much better substitute as it is larger, creating greater sized air pockets and it can hold its structural integrity better then sand in slick soils.
Put down a 2 inch layer of gravel or grit at the bottom of the planting area for better drainage.
- Roses will not grow in soil that is persistently wet. If water pools around the roots of the rose this will lead to root rot and the plant will die.
- Boggy or low lying areas will be completely unsuitable for rose growing, however you can grow roses in pots or raised beds instead.
- Wet soils can also be cause by clay or compacted soils. Compacted and clay soils can be amended with plenty of organic matter to improve their drainage and suitability for rose growing.
- Lay down a layer of gravel at the bottom of the planting area to encourage better soil drainage.
- Once you have your adjustments to the wet soil, test the drainage in the planting area by soaking it with a hose. If the area drains well down to 18 inches then the ground is suitable for rose planting. If not then I would recommend growing roses in raised beds or pots.