How To Grow Roses in Containers

Friday, October 09, 2015

The first thing I bought for my patio when I was setting up my garden the first year was a red floribunda rosebush called Showbiz. That year my tomatoes and peppers were pitiful and barely produced, the rose and strawberries were the only plants that did well. I left the rosebush on the patio in its pot all winter hoping that, come spring, the rose would bloom again, and it has! So many websites I read said to plant it in the ground, or take it into a garage, but my patio is sheltered enough from wind, and it sits against the house, so it didn't freeze to death. My love of roses began from that moment. I bought two more bushes this year. A mini rose for $5.00 at Easter, and shrub rose with pale, lovely pink blooms. They have been more than easy to care for, and are the prettiest things on my patio. I am half tempted to just turn the patio into a rose garden with veggie plants in the middle!


Basics 

Scientific Name: Rosa
Hardiness Zone: Varies
Sun Exposure: Full Sun 
Soil Type: Loamy
Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall

Growing Roses in Containers

You don’t need a big yard, or perfect soil to grow roses. All you need is a sunny spot with room for a large pot. You can turn a patio or balcony into a gorgeous refuge with pots full of blooms. Container grown rosebushes live quite happy for years when cared for properly. Here are the basic steps to growing roses in pots or containers:

  • Choose the right kind of rose. Compact, disease-resistant types are best suited to pots. Avoid climbing roses or large shrub roses (oops!). Make sure the plant fits your hardiness zone. 
  • Choose the right kind of pot. There are really only two main points to picking a pot for your roses. Bigger pots are always going to be better. Choose a pot that fits your rose type the best, see this article for guidelines. Because roses have deep roots, deeper pots are always better than shallow ones. Also, the bigger the pot, the less you'll need to water the roses. Make sure it has drainage holes, it is vital for the rose's health. Half barrels are a great size choice and the wood exterior looks really nice against the rose's foliage. I chose large plastic pots because of my budget, and because I wanted the pot to be its home for several years. If this is the case for you, you may want to do what I did and pick something that won't rot.

  • Plant roses where they will receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Use quality potting mix enriched with compost to increase the soil's water holding capabilities.
  • Water regularly so that soil doesn't dry out, but don't keep it wet. If it's too swampy it could rot the roots. To help conserve water from evaporating, add a 2 to 4-inch layer of chopped and shredded leaves, grass clippings, or shredded bark around the base of your roses. Allow about an inch of space between the mulch and the base stem of the plant. This will help prevent rotting.
  • Fertilize with rose fertilizer often for more blooms. A general rule of thumb is in the Spring, once new growth shows up, and then after each flush of blooms – about every month to 6 weeks. In colder zones, stop fertilizing a couple months before the first frost of the Fall.
  • Deadhead spent blooms to keep the plant in bloom. To do this, just trim each spent bloom back to the first leaflet that has 5 leaves. Stop deadheading all your rose plants 3 to 4 weeks before the first hard frost to stop encouraging new growth. Do not prune the roses during the fall season. You can, however, cut off any dead or diseased canes.
  • Re-pot your roses every two or three years to give them fresh soil. You can even prune the roots if you want to keep the plant small. Transplant into a larger container if you notice the output of blooms decreasing.

How to Winterize your Container Roses

To protect your container roses in wintertime, there are a few ideas you can try. Place your potted rosebush on a wheeled platform and wheel the container into a garage, or shed, or even put it against the side of a building during the super cold days. For extra protection, mulch and wrap the pot and plant with burlap.  If you live in a zone where temperatures stay below freezing during the winter, you can enclose the plant with a sturdy mesh cylinder, and fill it with compost, mulch, dry wood chips, pine needles, or chopped leaves. (Special note: Don’t use heavy, wet, maple leaves for mulch. Use oak leaves, pine needles, compost, or straw.)

Since I don't have a garage, or a usable shelter for mine, I left it on the patio last year, and will leave all three out there this year. I like to cluster lots of my pots together with the dirt still in them to insulate the perennials. I also choose plants that are rated for my zone (zone 6b), so hopefully they'll survive out there again this winter!


Pests + Diseases of Container Roses

If you regularly clean the bushes by removing dead leaves, and dead canes, you will help reduce pests. You can reach out to your local nurseries to find out which pests are most common in your area. The most common pests or diseases include stem borers, japanese beetles, aphids, black spot/powdery mildew, spider mites, and deer. These are a delicious treat to the local deer. One website I read says to plant lavender near roses to deter the deer. You can also spread human or dog hair around the garden area (a little gross, if you ask me.)

I always thought roses would be difficult to grow. It turns out, for the most part, I can just leave them be with regular watering, and simple deadheading of spent blooms. They look lovely on my patio, don't you think?


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