How to Grow English Roses in Australia, a hot climate or anywhere

Mon 21st, Oct, 2013

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Hellooo, happy Monday and I’m here today, woman with roses in her ears to tell you how to grow English roses in Australia or in a climate where people tell you that you can’t, it worked for me, I’m growing roses for Australia peeps.

OK, so maybe this post won’t give you a head start on growing roses anywhere in the whole universe but if you are in Sydney Australia or in a climate where one is told one will never succeed in growing roses I am here to prove them oh so very wrong.   I have ten English roses growing in this little Australian cottage and counting.  Bring that right on.


When we first moved in to this cottage the garden was grim, diabolical in fact, not that the house was nay better, horrid overgrown green stuff also known as grass but more like weeds with a few blades in it, no shrubs bar one beautiful and lonely camelia, a huge and I mean mahusive beautiful old Moreton Bay fig tree, an even lonelier and very old orange tree and a pink frangipani and that was about it…luckily these few things were there and I believe, having got to know it, that someone at some stage in the life of this old cottage did love and plan the garden, it’s just that the next inhabitants neglected it for 50 odd years.

Soooooo fast forward to a couple of years ago when things were much better out there, but I was feeling the pains of not having flowers in abundance to go out and cut and bring in, there is something wonderful about doing that.


I was also very disappointed in the lack of roses here in Australia – the ones for sale at florists and markets around here are not what I would call a rose, more like those roses that jump at you from every petrol station on Valentine’s Day, you know the ones I mean, kinda not even right to call them roses and certainly without scent…I wanted beautifully coloured soft white peachy and pink roses, with bundles of layered petals, with huge floppy papery heads and with scent in abundance so you could pop your nose in and inhale.

So I decided I would take the bull by the horns and grown my own, I spoke to my very old neighbour with a very blossoming beautiful garden who had lived here since the early days and well into her eighties, she poo-pooed me and my silly English roses thoughts and told me she had never seen a rose growing in these parts.  I swiftly ignored her advice and took myself off and bought 3 bare roots…that was my first mistake…I then planted them in a part-shade bed in very barren sandy soil and hoped for the best….it was not good…she was right…but there was a tiny bit of hope and of the three plants in nearly 2 years I think I had about 3 blooms, they were white blooms but still.

Then one day I was reading an English magazine and it seemed the whole thing was about roses, delightful heady old tea roses and I nearly vomited in pleasure.  It was then I decided I would take the challenge and get a rose growing in Australia if it was the last thing I did.

And what ensued was lot and lots of looking up, finding out, preparing soil, digging holes, ordering plants, talking to rose people and saying prayers to the Gods of Roses.  Apparently they listened because rose-less woman on the beaches is now positively surrounded by the things.


How to Grow English Roses in Australia

7 Tips to Growing Roses

1 Reseach Research Research

I did a lot of research into growing roses in the area I live in, I found forums on-line and read other people’s experiences, I read articles on growing roses in Australia and I stalked websites specialising in roses to find out how to do it.

2 Phone a Friend

OK the best thing I did was phone someone who knows roses and in the area I live in, working in the same climate, duh, pretty old fashioned right, to pick up the phone, but it was the best thing I ever did, turns out my roses were in totally the wrong place no wonder they weren’t growing.  Guess what people who own specialist flower nurseries tend to know a heap about growing flowers.  Funny that.  So I phoned up and spoke to a real human being and a lot of my questions were answered in a few minutes.

3 Prepare your soil.

Boring but true.

Before the holes for the actual rose bushes were prepared I got decent soil going by mixing in lots of manure and all sorts of goodies into my soil, I also had some top quality soil delivered from a garden centre – most of the soil in this garden is sandy and water runs off it, not good in this climate when things need water.

4 Buy Ready to Plant Bushes

I have had success with these bushes because they were easy and ready to go in the ground and apart from the fact that they did what they said they would do, as in they grew beautifully full, heavily scented English roses, they also looked healthy and bush-like from the word go, whereas the bare rooted roses I have previously planted looked, well, ummm, sad and lonely (and totally stayed that way lol).

5 Prepare the hole and bush

I used well rotted manure in the soil before I planted the bushes.  I followed the advice I had seen and gave the bushes enough space to spread their roots and I made sure the plants were well watered before putting them in their new homes.

6 Watch and Water

My roses went into sunny and warm positions, in fact a couple of them (which also happen to be doing the best much to my surprise) went into what I would call hot positions (ie in Australia facing North and getting sun all day long)…I was advised that lots of sun would work but I was worried with the sandy soil where we live and the coastal breeze (not sure what that has got to do with it but something I think) that the roses would get thirsty….so I gave them deep deep watering twice to three times a week while they were establishing…and I am still deep watering, a bit less now but I am convinced this is the answer to my rose success (that’s not to say yours will be the same), I have seen again and again that lots of flowers and good roses comes from keeping them well watered, which can be a challenge in this climate.

7. Pray to the roses gods and feed.

I have been feeding my roses with a rose food, easy and simple to do and it seems like it’s working.


That’s it from me!  How about that then lovelies, oh yeah baby I am hoping for virtual rounds of applause from all over this lovely planet for my efforts for growing roses on the beaches of Sydney Australia.


I’ll be off


p.s. there has been much talk of husbands digging new beds for wives to fill with more roses, ain’t no stopping us now we’re on the move ;-)


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24 Responses to “How to Grow English Roses in Australia, a hot climate or anywhere”

  1. Sharon Nickel says:

    Hi Sarah
    That’s funny I was about to ask you about your roses. I also live in a similar climate being on the Sunshine Coast in Qld 2 mins from the beach. I have never had success with roses or most flowers except one season of Lisianthus were to die for. I need flowers in my life also. had given up and planted more tropical flowers but it’s really not me give me English cottage garden any day. My daughter is a florist but is not living close to home these days but she does come home she blesses me in abundance. I think their is great pleasure and satisfaction in growing your own. Well done to persevere and not give up

    • sarah says:

      I hear you, I have tropical flowers too some of which are thriving but I was always yearning after the prettier stuff – I think the key is soil and water – I really worked on the soil and mixing in manure etc to try and counteract the sand – the deep watering and mulching also helped a lot …also I don’t recommend the bigw type roses although some of those have worked I think speaking to a nursery who knows their stuff is a much better idea they can tell you what might work for you :-)

      • Sharon Nickel says:

        What are names of your roses?
        I don’t ever see these kinds of roses even when I go to the nurseries.
        Did you buy them from a nursery?

  2. Cizi says:

    Hi Sarah,
    How I love your posts, and your photos are so bloody brilliant! Did you guess I was an Aussie? Love your roses, really impressed you’ve managed to grow them in Sydney!!! In sandy soil!!! :) Enjoy those babies, and keep posting photos, sigh in envy when I see them. Cizi

    • sarah says:

      thanks so much! I am SOOOOOO pleased I persevered with this – I never thought I would have these roses in the garden to go out and just pick…and the scent by my bed with a little jam jar full of them makes me very very happy xx

  3. Meg says:

    Thank heavens my hubs is a horticulturist whose nursery sells heritage roses…one of the few perks I do get in life !!

    • sarah says:

      oooh gosh lucky you! I would love some more heritage roses, I am trying to persuade mr bc to dig me some new beds, right now he’s not having any of it…I’ll get there ;-)

  4. Loud clapping happening here, can you hear it??? My roses seem to enjoy a good spot in the hot hot sun too, though our soil is not sandy. May I also add…..LOVE the aqua bag!! xx

  5. merilyn says:

    they look superb sarah! … whenever you show us your back garden it looks so beautiful and lush. I have grown roses before [in s.a.] and they seem to like it hot and not much water or deep soaking once a week … they grow very well here! [I had 50 in an old large garden many years ago ... a big job pruning tho!] they were just mixed in with other shrubs! I don’t think they like frequent watering or humidity they seem to get mildew. happy days m:)x

  6. Erin says:

    Hi Sarah!

    Gorgeous roses! We have some plain, white icebergs and would love to replace them with roses like these! What are the names of the ones you have planted? And what month did you plant? I’m thinking southern victoria may be a good place for English roses!

  7. Sharon says:

    Are those your own blooms so gorgeously on display? I am so jealous! I planted a few David Austins when we first moved here (I’m in Brisbane) and they were very very sad things that were plagued with black spot and rarely produced a flower. I have had success with a rose called Duchess de Babrant which is a huge rose bush with open pink flowers that seems to thrive on neglect. I have two of them and they seem to be perpetually in flower.

    • sarah says:

      oh thanks for the info I will look out for that, I would love to plant some in the barren north and open spots at the front but I it needs something that will suit neglect!

  8. alison says:

    But can you grow a waratah??

    When you do, could you please put the instructions on the blog.


  9. Alice says:

    Oh Sarah you give me such wild hope!!! I would love to grow proper roses (the ones with proper scent). I think my front garden may actually get some roses once the renos are completed…. it will be a good spot for them… But I have to ask…. Knock on wood for the sake of your roses… Pests…How do you find the pests that seem to adore roses as much as I do? I was gifted a lovely rose bush but never really got flowers from it as it was consumed by pests (no matter the treatment) the moment buds started to show)…I have seen a lady (who has some very lovely and fragrant rose bushes…I walk past her house often and on purpose because of it..lol) put orange peels under the bushes… I never catch her in her garden to ask and so far my research has yielded no results so I am hoping you or other lovely readers may know something about it…

  10. Rukmini Roy says:

    Will it work for someone with not so green a thumb? Ive been wanting to grow roses ever since but its so hot here that they die…maybe… :( But if it grows in Sydney, it might grow here too.
    Btw, have you by any chance tried to grow lavender? A friend bought beautiful seeds from Gloucestershire but I think I ruined them… another batch is on its way but I don’t know how to grow them.

  11. Meris Robison says:

    Thank you Sarah, I love your A Beach Cottage. Formerly from England, I have a “too modern cottage” in Florence, Oregon, USA. Weather is very rainy, very good for British Garden except the WIND. Cottage is on the estuary of the Siuslaw River and we get 9mi. winds or more 20+ from 9am to middle of night. Having sandy soil and 75″rain per year, along with dry summers is tricky. I would love to try your type of Roses, and will look into Sharon’s Duchess de Babrant. My question to you is: how do you manage the wind? Here it both is drying and lowers the temperature. I have one rose bush that is sort of a climber, I think, it is doing well after a 3 year establishment from a purchased plant. Before planting, I augmented soil and put eps n salts once per year. But the true change came with fertilizer!! fancy that. I would love your English Roses and wonder if the wind would blow them to bits?

    • sarah says:

      hmmm, I’m sorry I can’t answer that b/c where I have planted my roses is sheltered from the wind – my best advice is to google it and see if you can find some answers in some gardening forums, I spent a lot of time reading up about roses and this climate in those forums. I hope you have luck. thanks for the blog love x

  12. Lisa Mckenzie says:

    I love your English roses ,I love roses full stop I don’t have any here but my Dad grows the most divine old fashioned roses that smell gorgeous ,I hope you get to plant more there is nothing better than picking your flowers from the garden and they look lovely in the house xx