Growing Roses in Containers

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Container Gardening with Roses

Roses are one of the most beloved garden flowers, and for good reason.

They're gorgeous! Some of them even smell wonderful. With just a little know how, you can enjoy a beautiful rose or two (or eight!) on your balcony, porch or patio. The great thing about container gardening, is that your garden is almost always close to your home, all the easier to enjoy it!

Roses That Are Happy in Containers
Not all roses will flourish in a container. You'll have the best success with roses categorized as polyantha, patio, miniature, or ground cover. I've also had success with smaller floribundas. Polyanthas look like smaller versions of floribundas, they both are covered in clusters of smaller flowers. Patio roses form neat 1-2 foot mounds that are covered in blooms. Miniature roses have small flowers and leaves on small plants, under 1 foot tall. If you like the idea of roses tumbling over the side of the pot, look for ground cover roses.

Some of my favorite varieties include 'Cecil Brunner' (light pink polyantha), 'Gourmet Popcorn' (white patio), 'Ralph Moore' (red mini), 'Minilights' (yellow ground cover), and 'Betty Boop' (red and white floribunda).

Choosing the Right Pot and Potting Soil
To prepare potting soil for use in a rose container, mix 2 parts good quality, fast draining potting soil, with 1 part well composted steer manure, and 1 cup rose fertilizer that contains bone meal. The easiest way to mix all the ingredients together is to do it right in the container you intend to use for your rose. Larger roses need a pot that is about 18 inches wide and 24 tall. Mini roses can get away with a pot that is at least 12 inches wide and 18 inches tall. You'll need to repot your roses and refresh the soil every two years or so.

Roses Are Heavy Drinkers and Feeders
In a regular garden, roses need plenty of water. In a container garden, keeping your roses hydrated is even more important. Water your rose whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. In the height of summer, this may mean that you water your roses every day.
Roses are heavy feeders too, they need fertile conditions to produce lots of flowers. Continue to fertilize your roses regularly, according to the fertilizer package instructions. You can also sprinkle epsom salts on the soil from time to time to give your roses the magnesium they need. Taper off your fertilizing as winter approaches, there's no point in encouraging new growth at the end of the season.

Pruning Roses
Don’t neglect your pruning duties! Your rose bush needs it to stay healthy and to maintain a nice shape. Death by over-zealous pruning is almost impossible to accomplish, so there’s no need to be tentative or to procrastinate! Rebecca Sweet wrote a great article on rose pruning that will help show you what to do. The idea is the same, regardless of whether your rose is growing in the ground or in a pot.

Companion Ideas for Container Grown Roses
• Lobelia is a wonderful "living mulch" to grow around the base of roses
• Blue love-in-a-mist is a great compliment to pink or apricot colored roses
• A dwarf variety of black new zealand flax is an excellent backdrop for mini roses (especially yellow minis!)
• Red roses look especially stunning when surrounded by white baby's breath