Transplanting Knockout Roses

transplanting knockout roses

I received a query about transplanting knockout roses this week from Carrie. She asks: I have three knockouts growing nicely over the past years.  I’m redesigning and I want to relocate them within my garden.  What is the best way to move them – and, living in Virginia, when is the best time?

Hi Carrie, I have been asked a few times when to transplant knockout roses along with how to transplant roses in general, so I have written this article to cover the basics. Transplanting roses is not as difficult as people assume, and you should get good results by following the instructions below.


Best Time For Transplanting Knockout Roses

The ideal time for transplanting knockout rose bushes is when they are dormant (winter in warm zones/early spring in cold zones) after any frost or freeze dates have passed. In Virginia that would be early spring/late May after your last frost date.

You can still transplant knockout roses during the growing season as long as you keep the water up to them before and after transplanting. This is very important as the root mass has been reduced considerably.

I’m presuming you’ve already done the necessary soil preparation of the new planting area as discussed in this article.  

The Day Before Transplanting Knockout Roses

Water the knock out roses well the day before you are going to transplant them; give them a good deep soak and a dose of liquid seaweed (made up according to directions).

Water the area that the knockout roses are going to be transplanted to with a good deep soak the day before also, so the soil has enough time to drain yet remain damp.


The Day Of Transplanting Your Knock Out Roses

  1. First thing is to dig the holes where they are going to be relocated and make these holes wide enough and deep enough to put a good sized root ball in. The root ball is the amount of roots and intact soil you dig around the base of each rose. You want to have these planting holes ready to transplant the knockout roses into straight after lifting them from their old position.
  2. Reduce the size of each knock out rose to about 12-18 inches. The reason this is important is because you’re reducing the root mass of the knockout rose and you can’t expect this smaller root mass to be able to support a 3+ foot rose bush.  You also want new root growth to establish first over a lot of new top growth.
  3. Get your spade and mark a section about 8 or 9 inches out from the trunk all around the knockout rose bush so you have a circle around 16-18 inches in diameter. Now dig down to at least a spades depth and jiggle the spade back and forth to loosen the root ball from the surrounding soil. Take as much of the root ball as you can; the larger the better.
  4. Place the rose bush into a wheelbarrow onto a wet piece of hessian or old sheet that you can wrap around the root ball (so it doesn’t dry out) and transport it to the new planting position. It’s important that the root ball doesn’t dry out. If it does, you’re basically giving the rose bush the kiss of death so be sure to keep the root ball moist.
  5. Plant the knockout rose straight away into the prepared hole to the same depth as it was in its original position and give it a deep soak followed by a drink of liquid seaweed made up to half the recommended strength.
  6. Keep the water up to it (this is especially important if you transplant during the warmer growing season months) and use ½ strength liquid seaweed on it once a week after a good soak of water. Don’t use any fertilizer on it until you see signs of new growth, and then only use at half the recommended dosage rate.

Follow these instructions and you should have success transplanting knockout roses from one section of your garden to another.

2 Comments so far

  1. mary on April 6th, 2012

    I live in mid mo and want to transplant 4 of my knockout rose bushes that are approx 4.5 feet tall and have been in my garden about 3 years. Do I need to trim the bushes back to 18” before transplanting???

  2. admin on April 6th, 2012

    Hi Mary
    Early spring after the last frosts is the time to be giving your knockout roses their annual prune in MO, so yes you can cut them back to 18 inches before transplanting them. The breeders of this rose suggest the annual prune can be between 12-18 inches in height.

    The reason to prune back the knockout roses is because you’ve reduced the root mass and you can’t expect this smaller root mass to be able to support all the top growth of a four and a half foot rose bush, it simply won’t have enough roots to be able to do that successfully.

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