The Garden Ninja's tips and tricks for growing English Roses

This month Lee aka The Garden Ninja is sharing his top tips and tricks for growing English Roses and he has a couple of fab videos on how to prune and dead head to help promote masses of gorgeous flowers...

The rose is a quintessential English Garden flower that has been adored throughout the ages for its romanticism, exoticism and brazen summer beauty. These highly scented flowers can add a touch of class to any garden whilst filling it with their hazy scents.

You may have thought that roses are a tricky plant to grow and fussy. However, that's not always the case, especially if you pick the right rose. This guide is going to show you the best roses for beginners and how to look after them - resulting in a garden that's coming up roses!

Picking the right type of rose

Picking the right type of rose

The first tip when growing roses is to pick the right type for your garden and pay attention to the growth habit. Roses can be split into different categories. For beginners, the best way to classify them is as follows:

  • Hybrid tea
    The Hybrid tea will usually flower on a single stem. The old classic rose shape that leaves horny twigs in the winter. It will require careful pruning before fleeting flowers appear in summer.
    High maintenance

  • Patio/Shrub roses
    These are smaller multi-flowered roses that don't require as much careful pruning.
    Low maintenance

  • Climbing roses
    These vertical growers are great for covering archways but require careful pruning.
    Medium maintenance

  • Rambling roses
    These rampant roses are less fussy than climbers with smaller flowers. Super easy to prune.
    Low maintenance

I will focus on the least fussy of the above, which gives you the greatest return with flowers and ease of maintenance. I've grown all of the suggested roses below during my career and know them well, which allows you to cut through the near-endless choices of roses when trying to find one.

Shrub roses for longevity

If you want a long flowering rose, then a shrub rose is your best bet, as these get smothered in flowers in the summer and can be easily pruned after flowering with some hedge sheers or secateurs. An excellent shrub rose which is super hardy and disease resistant is Rosa 'Grace' with its apricot flowers. Lightly scented, it sometimes provides a double flush of flowers if deadheaded regularly (deadheading is the act of cutting off spent flowers to prevent rose hips from tasking valuable rose flower energy). Give this a good feed each Spring, cut back after flowering and mulch in the Autumn, and that's pretty much it! Great for adding some mid-layer interest to a border or flower bed. Pair this rose with grasses, Verbena, Hardy Geraniums or Peonies for extra impact.

Rambling roses for height and coverage

If you have a pergola, archway or shed you want to be smothered in roses without all that awkward pruning, consider a rambling rose. They are far more vigorous than some climbers and don't require the patience to prune them like climbing roses. Rambling roses often have far smaller flowers and can repeat blooms throughout the summer. They usually flower from June onwards and are best cut back straight after flowering. Try Rosa 'Rambling Rector', which is covered in creamy white highly scented flowers in the middle of summer. This super vigorous rose will happily smother a shed or archway in a couple of years. Making the perfect scented entrance point for arbours or arches.

Gallica roses for scent

These are some of the oldest roses, originating from Turkey and Persia. They differ from our modern roses as they are usually shrubby with bristly stems and attractive ribbed, serrated or hairy leaves. Compared to the glossies of overly cultivated hybrid tea roses. Their scent and large, usually double flowers are out of this world. They are hardy, but the flowers don't last as long as the other heavily cultivated alternatives but worth it for the blast of scent and the fact the flowers look so otherworldly. Try Rosa Gallica 'Alain Blanchard' for a real show stopper with a few thorns that will grow in poor soil.

Top tips for pruning roses

Top tips for pruning roses

The technique can often feel overwhelming for new or beginner gardeners when it comes to rose pruning. Finding the outward-facing bud, working out the exact time in the dead of winter or tying in lateral growth can be off-putting! With the above roses, the pruning couldn't be more straightforward. Deadhead during the flowering season by cutting off any spent flowers (the ones whose petals have all fallen off) to encourage extra flowers. When the rose has completely stopped flowering, such as the 'Rambling Rector' takes some sheers or secateurs and gives the entire rose a haircut, cutting back 4-6 inches of this year's growth. Same with the patio roses and Gallicas. This will set them up ready for next year and means you don't need to venture out in January in the cold to prune them.

How to prune and dead head videos

Lee also has some great videos on his YouTube channel (below) on how to easily prune and dead head to help promote masses of gorgeous flowers! 

In the first video, he explains how to prune your roses even if you don't know what type of rose you have.

In the second, he has a great guide on how to best dead head roses to ensure a consistent number of roses throughout the growing season.

Tips for feeding roses

Roses are hungry plants, so the best feeds are those high in potassium for flowers (or fruits if feeding vegetables). Homemade comfrey tea is always an excellent organic and natural feed for roses, along with homemade compost or any form of well-rotted manure. Feed in Spring so that come the flowering season, the rose has enough energy to perform for you. With rambling roses, I always hold back on feed as they are so vigorous. See how they get on in years 1 and 2 before deciding if they need any more rocket fuel!


When it comes to starting your journey with growing roses, I think starting with these easy varieties sets you up for success. By opting for hardy rambling or shrub roses, you can get your confidence levels up with the Rosa family before moving to more needy or fussy varieties. With easy pruning and a simple once-yearly feed, these types of roses should have your garden looking a treat without taking hours of care and support.

About Lee

Lee Burkhill aka The Garden Ninja

Lee Burkhill aka the Garden Ninja is a multi-award-winning garden designer, horticulturist, garden blogger, vlogger, TV Presenter and YouTuber. Hailing from the North West of England, Lee has an infectious enthusiasm for helping gardeners all over the world. The Garden Ninja is his garden design business and online gardening blog, and he was recently voted one of the Top 10 Gardening Bloggers and Garden Vloggers in the UK. Lee is also part of the BBC Garden Rescue Team, which you can watch on weekdays at 3.45 pm on BBC One or on BBC iPlayer. Here at Lazy Susan, we’re looking forward to sharing his exclusive horticultural tips, tricks and advice on our blog.

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