How to Plant Roses in Clay Soil

How to Plant Roses in Clay Soil – While roses can thrive in clay soil, if the clay soil is heavy and it’s very poor draining, there’s a problem: roses will not do well in soil that is persistently saturated with water. More on that in a bit. 

There’s a further problem with clay soil. When the weather is hot heavy clay soils can become extremely dehydrated fast. 

If your soil is not too heavy in terms of the clay content, roses can, and should, do well.

Because clay soils don’t drain quickly they retain a high level of minerals. Obviously, this, generally speaking, is good for any plants, including roses.



Planting roses in clay soil
Clay soils can become very dehydrated very quickly



Planting Roses in Clay Soil

You can ‘correct’ a clay soil. To do so, add copious amounts of composted leaf mold/ manure. Keep adding to your garden soil. Over time your soil will greatly improve.

If your clay soil is alkaline, which most clay soils are (unlike sandy soils which tend to be acidic) that’s not good for roses either. Roses like acidic soil with a pH of around 6 to 6.8.

If you have alkaline soil then you’ll need to make amendments. 

Among the simplest ways to amend an alkaline soil so that it’s acidic is to add sphagnum peat. You’ll want the peat to come from a renewable source. Add a couple of inches of sphagnum peat to your topsoil and dig it in. 

Another way to alter an alkaline soil so it becomes acidic is to water your roses with a blend of one gallon of water to two tablespoons of vinegar. Obviously, because the vinegar is high in acidity this will impact the soil, over time.

Some fertilizers are high in acidity. In this case, you’ll want a fertilizer that is high in ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, or perhaps a urea-based fertilizer that is sulfur-coated. Make sure you follow the instructions given on the label as ammonium-based fertilizers are strong.

In some instances, the addition of flowers of sulfur (elemental sulfur) is an effective proposition. Keep in mind that this method will take several months to work given that sulfur is slow-acting. Granular sulfur, for the home gardener, is cost-effective and safe. Apply at 2 lbs per square foot or less.



Will Roses Grow in Heavy Clay Soil?

Very likely not. Or, if they do, they’ll not perform particularly well. And that’s even when the soil is thoroughly amended.

See, the problem here is that a very heavy clay soil will not drain at all well. Roses do not like to sit in water for lengthy periods of time.

So, say you dig some nice, deep holes for your prize roses and your garden soil is heavy clay. You add topsoil to these holes in an effort to improve soil drainage and overall quality. Great! In effect, you’ve essentially created nothing more than a few small-sized bathtubs.

The clay soil will still retain water because there’s nowhere for the water to drain away. Roots that are persistently in water will soon root.

So you decide to make the holes even wider, much deeper. No good either! That’s just making wider, deeper bathtubs.

Planting in heavy clay is akin to planting in a container that has zero drainage holes. And you wouldn’t do that, would you.

What can you do if your soil is extremely heavy clay but you still want to plant roses?

You could create a raised bed. A raised bed for roses only needs to be around eight inches deep since the fibrous, non-tap roots remain in the first two to six inches of soil. The taproots, or anchor roots, will go deeper but that’s fine. Just make sure that the clay soil beneath your raised bed is nicely loosened so that the taproots can penetrate.

Large-sized pots can also do the trick if large-sized pots with rose bushes are to your liking. 


will roses grow in clay soil




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