Roses Are Plants Too!

What Is The Proper Spacing When Planting Roses?

One view of the rose garden with red and pink blooms
A view from one side of my rose garden.  I plant the roses so they mingle on the fringes of their canopy.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Another view of the rose garden with red and pink blooms
A view from the other side.  Keep in mind I also do not use chemicals on my roses.  Instead I make sure to grow varieties that are disease resistant for my area.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
A bed of younger roses with mass planting of the same variety.  Planted 20 inches apart and then 36 inches between the mass of each variety.
A bed of younger roses that was planted just last summer.  This bed has mass planting of the same variety.  Planted 20 inches apart and then 36 inches between the mass of each variety.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

With spring in the air I figure a lot of you are planting new roses in your garden and are probably a bit puzzled over how far apart (or how close together) you should plant them. Most likely you consulted a few rose guides and the recommended advice is to space them far apart so they don’t touch each other giving them lots and lots of “air circulation”. The latter being “sold” as a magic disease preventative measure.

The end result of this kind of spacing is lots of bare ground to look at between the plants and in my opinion a pretty boring vista. The sight of rose bushes in regimentally spaced rows like soldiers on inspection doesn’t exactly take my breath away. In fact it usually puts me to sleep.

Frankly, I don’t know of any other plant in the garden where the recommendation is to plant them so far apart. So if Roses Are Plants, Too why can’t we plant them close together like other plants?

The reason given is that magic air circulation argument. Air circulation is supposed to prevent disease. To which my response always is, “why are you planting disease prone roses in the first place!”

Keep in mind this idea of spacing came about at the recommendation of folks who exhibit roses. You need to be able to get all around the plant to groom it and you don’t want the individual blooms brushing up against each other and potentially causing damage. This makes perfect sense if you exhibit roses.

But I don’t.

I like a mass riot of color and bloom. I don’t want to see the ground. In fact I want my rose garden to look like a carpet of blooms where you feel you could just step up onto the roses and walk across their canopy without your feet ever touching the ground. I want them to grow into each other so they can mingle their blooms on the fringes of their reach. I like to think my roses can actually shake hands with each other – or in their case blooms!

To this end I choose good Garden Roses and plant them anywhere from 20 inches to 30 inches apart depending on the ultimate size of the plant. If you live in warmer climates you may need to space them further apart. Cooler climates can go tighter all the while keeping in mind the ultimate size of the individual variety of rose.

So feel free to space your Garden Roses like you would any other shrub in the garden. As to air circulation if someone says they must have it for roses I suggest you tell them to go buy a couple of large fans!

Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. valleygardener 05/01/2011

    Great article about spacing roses. I appreciated all your thoughts on this particular subject. As a cottage gardener I have roses spaced every which way and you are absolutely right about using roses that are not disease prone.
    Your photos were terrific. Keep the articles coming.

  2. PFZimmerman 05/03/2011

    Glad you enjoy them and thank you for the kind words.

  3. marichee 07/26/2012

    Hi! I am Marissa, from Philippines. This is the first time I visited this site and I find it so interesting and useful to all rose gardeners especially to me as a beginner. I'm sure I'll be a regular reader of your articles.

  4. PFZimmerman 07/30/2012

    Thank you and welcome!

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  6. taraengle 04/01/2015

    I love this. I feel like you are in my head. Who wants roses spaced so far apart that the dirt between them draws your attention more than the flowers??!! No-sir-ee.

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