Rose bushes are plants that do not respond well to transplanting. Yet sometimes moving a rose bush is required to keep the plant from dying. Yard work such as installing or moving water pipes, fence rows, drainage or electrical wires is an easier and faster job when workers don't have to avoid the sharp thorns of an established rose bush. Although a rose bush may not survive being moved temporarily, the attempt is worth the effort of starting from scratch with new roses if you have collectible varieties in your rose garden.
Move your roses in late fall, winter or early spring while the plants are dormant. Dormant roses are more likely to survive the transplant. Dormant roses are also easier to transplant because you do not have to move the top growth as well.
Root-prune the roses before transplanting them by inserting a spade into the ground in a circle 18 inches around the base of the rose cane. Angle the spade inward at a 45-degree angle so that it cuts toward the center of the plant. The more roots you are able to take with you, the better the rose's chance of survival.
Remove the rose canes so that they will be exactly the same size as the roots. If you are lifting 12 inches of root from the soil, prune the canes back to 12 inches as well. Pruning means having fewer canes to break as you move the rose. Pruning also reduces the weight of the rose as you move it. Pruned roses also have less foliage for pruned roots to support.
Water your roses 24 hours before moving them so that the soil is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Watering will help to keep the roots pliant and less brittle during the move.
Prepare a temporary planting bed for your roses by mounding peat moss into a pile deep enough to fully cover the roots of the roses and keep them moist during their temporary move. Open a planting pocket wide enough to hold the root ball in the center of the peat pile.
Lift your roses by sliding a shovel beneath the roots and tilting upward. Carry your roses by placing your hands beneath the root ball and supporting the weight. Place them in the planting pocket in the center of the peat pile and cover with peat moss. Water until the peat moss is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Re-amend the soil in the area that you plan to plant your roses once it is safe to move them back. Break up the soil to a depth of 12 inches over a large area with a rototiller and cover the area with a 4 inch layer of peat moss, compost and a fertilizer formulated for roses. Use amounts of fertilizer specified by the packaging. Fertilizer amounts vary among manufacturers. Mix the amendments into the soil with the tiller.
Dig a planting hole for your roses that is twice as wide as the rose's root ball. Mound soil up in the center of the pile to support the rose.
Place the rose in the center of the mound and spread the roots over the planting hole. Fill in with soil around the roots. Pat to release air pockets and firm up the soil.
Water your soil until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Cover the rose's soil with mulch to help hold in moisture.
Continue to check the soil throughout the winter and water any time the soil seems dry. Keep the soil as damp as a wrung-out sponge to encourage root development.