How to Grow Rose Plant in Containers

There are several reasons why one should grow rose plants in containers. One of the main reasons may be lack of space. Or the gardener may want to take benefit of space on stairways or patio or deck. Next, the local garden soil of the grower may be poor and unsuitable to grow good roses.

Another reason may also be that the gardener may want more control over exposure to sunlight and moisture levels.

Whatever may be the reason, growing roses in containers is always a good option to grow this most beautiful flower of the world.

Published: February 25, 2020.

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What will You Need?

Growing roses in containers doesn't require much space or equipment, but certain things is nice to have, including: rose plants, suitable containers, commercial potting soil, garden compost, rose fertilizer, composted manure, bone meal or blood meal, gravel, perlite, epsom salts and similar.

Are these items all required? No, of course not - but roses and containers are must have ...

How to Choose the Right Roses?

Not all roses grow well in containers. For example, grandiflora roses tend to be taller with large blooms, and thus, can be prone to blowing or tipping over when planted in containers. Similarly, a climbing rose can be a wrong choice if not provided a trellis or other type of support to it as it will sprawl around.

Also species roses, shrub roses and older rose cultivars attain dimensions that make them challenging to grown in a limited space like that in containers. Another unsuitable variety for containers is hybrid tea roses.

Note: these roses may be grown in the containers of sufficient size, but they require extra care, especially when watering them in warmer months.

However, four types of roses are particularly suitable to grow in containers:

Miniature: This variety of roses tends to grow to only a small size; so, they are well-suited for containers.

Ground Cover: This variety stays low and looks beautiful when the plants and flowers roll over the borders of a container. As per the variety of ground-cover rose and the size of the pot, it’s possible to use it to surround a larger plant as a border.

Polyantha: This type of rose plant is short and bears clusters of small roses. However, the grower should check the tag to make sure they are not buying a climbing variety of polyantha.

Patio: This variety is suitable for those who want a rose that is larger than a miniature rose, but not as large as a standard rose. This is a kind of floribunda, produced to a smaller scale.

How to Choose the Right Container?

The grower should choose a container that is big enough to accommodate the variety and number of roses they’ll be growing with some room left over. Large varieties of roses will require at least 18 inches (46cm) depth of the container so as to let their roots spread out comfortably, whereas miniature roses that grow only up to the height of 6 to 18 inches (15–46cm) may require a container that’s only 6-8 inches (15–20cm) deep.

roses in containers pot

Some great options for containers are wooden barrels, box planters or washtubs. If a grower is in doubt, they should choose too big than too small. As a rule, roses planted in spacious containers tend to grow larger and healthier in general, and also survive better during the harsh winter season.

Lightweight Containers: If the grower plans to move their roses around frequently, they should choose lightweight containers. E.g. containers made from fiberglass, plastic or recycled composites are lightweight and so, easy to relocate. This can also be advantageous if the grower wants to grow or display their roses indoors as well as outdoors.

Planting in Grow Bags: Grow bags are not only useful for easy relocation of the plants but also if the grower decides to plant the roses permanently in the garden because the grow bags can be planted in the ground.

Container Should have Sufficient Drainage: Growers should choose containers with holes or slits in the bottom. They will let the water flow out of the container once it passes through the soil. This will reduce the chances of plant damage due to overwatering, such as stunted growth, root rot or wilting.

If the container doesn’t have such openings at the bottom, the grower can make them with an electric drill.

How to Prepare Containers and Potting Soil?

While planting roses in containers, the grower should maintain a delicate balance. The potting medium should drain well enough to eliminate any chances of root rot but at the same time it should be heavy enough to hold moisture. If it drains too quickly, it will dry out before the roots could absorb the moisture. On the other hand, a soil that it too heavy with organic material can become damp, causing rot.

While growing a rose bush, a relatively tall and large pot should be chosen. As per several experts, the pot should be no less than 15 inches in diameter. Roots of rose plants go deep; therefore, the taller the container, the better. The soil in containers heats up quicker than garden soil. Hence clay containers are usually better than plastic as clay transfers heat at a slow rate from the sun to the soil.

If the grower has to use plastic pots, they should choose lighter colors for the pots because light-colored pots won’t heat up as quickly as dark-colored plastic pots. As mentioned earlier, there should be enough drainage holes in the bottom. Then a layer of gravel or medium-sized rock of thickness of around an inch should be placed on the bottom. This layer will help cause proper drainage and prevent the soil at the bottom of the pot from becoming too compact.

roses in containers soil prep

Preparing the Potting Soil Mixture: The potting soil mixture should consist of one-third garden compost, one-third composted manure and one-third quality commercial potting soil. Then a cup of perlite should be added to this to improve drainage. A cup of bone meal should also be added. Also fishmeal or blood meal can be added for additional nutrients.

Commercial slow-release fertilizers produced particularly for roses can also be used as needed or as per the instructions on the packaging.

Potting soil can also be made at home by the grower by mixing one part of soil from their garden, one part of cow, horse or mushroom manure and one part of organic compost.

Planting Rose Plants

The container should be filled about two-thirds full with the prepared soil mix. If the grower is planting a bare root rose, the soil should be mounded up in the center and then the rose plant should be placed over the mound with its roots spread out over the mound.

If a potted rose is to be planted, a slight hollow should be made and the rose plant should be removed from the nursery container and placed into the hollow. It should be remembered that full-sized bushes and plants should be planted 18 inches (46 cm) deep and miniature roses should be planted minimum 6 inches (15 cm) deep to get comfortably rooted. The surrounding space of the plant should be filled with the left over potting soil which should be pressed firmly around the lower canes.

The soil surface should be in level with the bud union i.e. the point where a nursery grafts a bud onto the rootstock and from where new canes emerge.

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Providing a Stake for Support: If the grower is cultivating a full-sized variety, they should add a gardening stake to the soil on one side of the plant and tie it to the lower canes with a piece of twine or a looped rubber band. It will serve as a support for the rose while growing.

The stake should be sunken deep enough to reach the bottom of the container. If an entire bush is being grown in a washtub, barrel or grow bag, multiple stakes should be erected, with a distance of 10-12 inches (25–30 cm) between them. If larger varieties are grown without a separate stake for support, they will ultimately sag and fall out over the sides of the container.

Location: The location of the potted roses should be such that it should get at least 7 hours of direct sun every day. On decks and patios, the pots can be moved around all through the day to keep them in the sun. If the grower is growing potted roses in groups, a space of at least 2 feet should be maintained between them to ensure sufficient air circulation.

The fungal diseases can also be prevented by this by preventing affected foliage touching healthy plants.

Spacing the containers strategically also allows growers to display them over a much longer distance.

Taking Care of Rose Plants in Containers

Watering

Right after planting, the plant/s should be watered carefully just enough to saturate the soil well. The plants should be observed keenly, so as to understand when to water. A rule of thumb is to water when the soil surface looks dry.

However, the soil should be moist and not wet.

Planting can be more successful if plants are not watered between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. because this is often the hottest part of the day and evaporation takes place maximum and with the highest speed during this time.

Other thing to remember is to keep water away from leaves as long as possible. Wet leaves can result in powdery mildew and other fungi and plant diseases. A great solution for this is drip irrigation because it delivers water directly to the root zone rather than spraying the foliage.
In between two waterings, the soil should be touched with fingers. If it feels too dry, it’s perhaps time to water again.

The plants may also need to be watered more often if the area is particularly warm or the plants receive direct sunlight for most of the day.

roses in containers drain

Again, it is very important that containers have sufficient number of drain holes to allow the excess water to drain away. Also, having a thin layer of gravel on the bottom of the container helps the drainage.

Fertilizing the Rose Plants

When a rose is planted in a limited amount of soil, it can fast consume all the nutrients available. As such, roses are heavy feeders and if they are planted in containers, they require more frequent feeding than when planted in a garden.

A balanced slow-release or liquid fertilizer formulated for roses, such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 should be applied every other week to make sure the plants are getting all the food they need for proper growth and hearty blooming. As such, any balanced fertilizer is good for roses. But those sold as “rose fertilizers” may have extra ingredients meant for prevention of fungal diseases or pests. Some growers prefer spreading a tablespoon of Epsom salts in spring around the base of the plant which supplies magnesium for healthy foliage.

To be on the safer side, fertilizer should be applied right after watering and only in half the quantity suggested on the packaging. Over-fertilizing can burn the delicate roots, particularly when they’re dry.

The directions on the fertilizer package should be carefully followed because over-fertilizing can be as or more detrimental than not feeding at all. Fertilizer should be applied to the soil and not to leaves (unless it’s specified so) because the salts in fertilizers may burn the foliage.

Fertilizing should be stopped around eight weeks before the estimated first winter frost. This will prevent tender young shoots from growing as they can be destroyed by the frost.

Removing Dead Blooms

The roses should be examined regularly to check for fading or dead blooms. If they are found, the stems should be clipped down up to the first set of five leaflets with a pair of sharp pruning shears. Removing dead blooms will promote healthy flowers to take their place.

It’s also recommended to prune the roses back in the spring prior to blooming. Pruning should always be done above an outward-facing bud to stop inward growth.

Repotting

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Besides miniature roses, most roses in containers should be repotted every 2-3 years, because they are heavy feeders and soon exhaust potting soils.

Also, they outgrow small containers and become rootbound, i.e. they don’t get enough room for their roots to spread further. Therefore, they should be repotted. Plus, if the roses are seen sick or with their growth stalling despite having their requirements met, they should be repotted.

Each time while repotting, freshly prepared potting soil should be used to keep the nutrient levels up to the mark. Salts and minerals from fertilizers can also build up over time in the soil and can damage the rose. Changing the soil regularly will prevent the damage. Exhausted potting soil can be added to the compost bin.

Protection from Freezing Temperature

Gardeners based in cooler regions need to prepare their roses in containers every fall for protecting them from the upcoming winter. Plants in containers get much colder than those in the ground.

Hence it’s important to protect them. In order to make their roses in pots survive in the winter, the roses chosen should be at least two USDA hardiness zones colder than the one the grower is living in. thus, if the grower is living in zone 6, the roses chosen should be rated for zone 4.

For protecting potted roses, several things can be done:

Mulching the Base: If the winter is only a little colder than the rose is rated for, some mulch can be added to the top of the container and mounded around the pot to add insulation. However, the mulch should be kept away from the plants because if wet materials are constantly in contact with the trunk or branches, there are high chances that plants will be affected by diseases and insects.

Burying: If space allows, a hole can be dug in the landscape and the entire container can be placed inside it. The soil at the top of the container should be covered with garden soil. But it should not touch the crown (the point where the plant meets roots). Sometimes insulating structures made of chicken wire and dried leaves or straw are built by gardeners living in very cold regions to insulate the above-ground canes of roses throughout the winter. Although this is not a very attractive method, it can help roses survive through the most severe winter climates.

Cold Frame: Although they are unheated, structures like a cold frame or strong hoop house can increase winter temperatures enough to stop winter from damaging potted roses. This technique usually works in moderately cold climates, but not in the harshest winters.

Bringing Plants Indoors: If the grower has space and windows to let in enough sun, the potted roses can enjoy spending winters inside their home or garage. While switching locations, the plants can be hardened off to help them slowly acclimate to the new environment.

roses in containers rain

Pests and Diseases

Roses in containers are vulnerable to many of the same pests and diseases that can affect roses planted in the ground.

A major insect found on roses is aphid. Aphids typically affect buds and leaves from where they suck juices due to which these parts wither. When aphids are spotted for the first time, they should be sprayed off the plant with a hose. This should be done in the morning so that the plants can get time to dry off before temperatures reduce as fungal diseases or rot can be promoted on wet leaves. Aphids can also be picked off by hand, but this can be tiresome if they are many because they are quite tiny.

Another danger to potted roses is of fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew. Although fungicides can be used to treat them, it’s best to apply preventive strategy. It should be made sure that there is good air circulation around the plants which reduces the risk of fungal diseases.


roses in containers bloom

Long Story Short: Growing roses in containers is sometimes the best option not only for people wanting them on their balconies and similar confined and restricted areas, but also for gardeners with large open spaces.

Provided with most basic elements like water, nutrients and sun, and protect from wind, freezing cold and summer heat, roses will grow strong and bloom entire season.

Want to grow a roses in containers, but not sure how to start? Get ONE container and get ONE rose plant ... it's a start, right? :)