Preparing the ideal soil for your roses

A good handful of soil!
A good handful of soil!
Packaged compost is easy to buy and use
Packaged compost is easy to buy and use
Compost mixed with manure is common. Check the proportions of each component when building your soil
Compost mixed with manure is common. Check the proportions of each component when building your soil
Mushroom compost is excellent for soil preparation and a top dressing
Mushroom compost is excellent for soil preparation and a top dressing

After you've determined where to plant your new roses and dug the planting holes, it's time to prepare the soil. (If you haven't found the perfect spot for your roses yet, I recommend reading my Hub on that topic).

Soil is the foundation on which your roses will either stand or fall. This can not be understated. Preparation of the soil is 90% of the work. So any skimping here greatly reduces your future bouquets.

The ideal rose soil mixture consists of 50% organic material (rotted manure, humus, or compost) and 50% inorganic material (sand, silt, and clay). To get this mixture, I recommend buying a large wheelbarrow or garden cart and get ready to mix. When blended together in proper proportion, your soil should have the consistency that when wet is not too muddy and when dry, not too hard. This soil type is known as loam. And achieving the ideal loam soil is a goal all of us amateur rose gardeners strive to achieve.

For ease of reading and flow, this hub will be organized into short sections; each beginning with a question. Ready? Let's amend some dirt!

Time To Amend Your Soil

When is the best time to begin preparing (amending) your soil?

The ideal time to get going on your soil mixture is 3-4 weeks before planting your roses. Here in the Midwest, that time frame is the 2nd or 3rd week of March.

What products should I buy to obtain the proper soil mix?

Organic Material:

  • Rotted or decomposed compost
  • Rotted or decomposed animal manure (horse or cow is most plentiful)

NOTE: Don't skimp on the manure. Roses LOVE this stuff and quality manure is a MUST!

  • Organic humus
  • Non sphagnum peat moss or mushroom compost

Inorganic Material:

  • Indigenous soil obtained from digging your holes
  • Sand
  • Silt (can be purchased as river dirt or silt)
  • Clay (pelletized is best) if available

What is the proper proportion of these ingredients?

  • 1 shovel of compost
  • 2 ½ shovels of manure
  • 1 shovel of humus
  • ½ shovel of peat or mushroom compost
  • 2 shovels of indigenous dirt
  • 2 shovels of sand
  • ½ shovel of silt
  • ½ shovel of clay (if not available, substitute with indigenous dirt)

Mix these ingredients together in your wheelbarrow and after you think you're done, mix a little more. How much you'll need depends on how many plants you need to provide for. -- When properly mixed, this soil blend will provide the near perfect environment for ideal bacterial growth and nutrient absorption. And now you're ready to test your soil for pH.

Great Soil Produces Great Roses!
Great Soil Produces Great Roses!
Aahhhh! The Reward!
Aahhhh! The Reward!

Test Your Soil For pH

Why do I have to test the soil for pH?

Roses need a proper pH to thrive. This pH range is between 6.0 & 6.9, or slightly acidic. The desired pH for roses is 6.5.

How do I test for pH?

The simplest way to test the pH of your soil mixture is to take a fair sampling of the soil (enough to fill 50% of your 2' x 2' hole or approximately 4 square feet), add a small amount of water (enough to dampen but not saturate), wait a day, and then test. pH soil tests are available at almost every local garden center. I would purchase one that allows for multiple tests as needed.

Test your work and wait for good results. If the pH is slightly out of range, here are some tips to bring levels within tolerance.

If the soil is too alkaline, 7.0 or above, how do I lower the pH?

To lower the soil's pH, the quickest way is to add ammonium sulfate (a sulfur product). Ammonium sulfate is desired due to its ability to work immediately after watering in.

How much ammonium sulfate do I need to add?

Desired pH: 6.5

Current pH: 8.0 Add: ¾ ounce per 4 square feet

Current pH: 7.5 Add: ½ ounce per 4 square feet

Current pH: 7.0 Add: ¼ ounce per 4 square feet

If the soil is too acidic, 5.9 or below, how do I raise the pH?

The easiest way to raise the soil's pH is by adding crushed limestone.

How much crushed limestone do I need to add?

Desired pH: 6.5

Current pH: 5.0Add: 2 ¼ ounces per 4 square feet

Current pH: 5.5Add: 1 ½ ounces per 4 square feet

Current pH: 5.9Add: ¾ of an ounce per 4 square feet

Do I have to retest after adding the ammonium sulfate or limestone, and when?

Yes, but you'll need to wait 1 week to do so. If the soil is still out of tolerance after 1 week, amend accordingly and test again. This is one of the reasons you need to start this process 3-4 weeks before planting. If for some reason you're still baffled with out of range results, I suggest calling a local garden pro center for additional advice.

And that's about it on how to prepare and amend your soil, the foundation, of your future bouquets of rose's splendor. Any questions please feel free to comment. Good luck and get ready to smell the roses.

Next installment: Planting your roses!

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Comments 12 comments

RGraf profile image

RGraf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

Thanks for the info. We just moved to a new area and my husband is looking for to put in some roses - his favorite flower. I'll have him read this to get ready for the spring.

Katrina Ariel profile image

Katrina Ariel 6 years ago from The Highlands of British Columbia, Canada

Great info. Thanks for the detail and instructions. Blessings to your rose garden!

Rachael 6 years ago

This website has just the right information I need!!!

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA Author

Thanks Rachael, and good luck bringing up roses!

Buz 6 years ago

Didn't realize "Soil Prep" so important.Exactly info I needed. Thanks

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA Author


Thanks for your kind comment! Now is the time to get going. Spring was late in coming this season, but now it's game on! Enjoy the fruits of your labor!!

Linda Harlock 5 years ago

I'm new to growing roses and our soil is very clay, so the soil information is very helpful. Our garden is south facing should I put the roses on an east or west facing bed?

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 5 years ago from Midwest USA Author


I would plant your new roses to where they will receive roughly 6 hours of early morning to early afternoon sunlight. Typically, these spots face the the East. Hope this helps.


craftybegonia profile image

craftybegonia 5 years ago from Southwestern, United States

Gorgeous hub! I love roses. We have some that bloom all summer.

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 5 years ago from Midwest USA Author

Craftybegonia: That is a great moniker!

Thanks for stopping by! Roses are by far my favorite garden resident. They are, however, very finicky homers. Soil pH is a huge thing for roses so getting it right when planting is a major victory. Maintaining pH can also be tricky, especially if you mulch every year with oak or other hardwood mulches. I tend to check soil pH after my spring pruning and once again mid spring. Seems to work.

Have a rosy day!



mathira profile image

mathira 4 years ago from chennai

Good tips to grow roses Rob and I am going to try it.

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 4 years ago from Midwest USA Author


Glad you found the information helpful. Best wishes for roses galore.

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