What tips can you provide to our members about successfully growing roses in containers?

Wed, June 01, 2016 8:22 AM | San Diego Horticultural Society (Administrator)

Bea Ericksen: I would prefer roses be planted in the ground, they just do not get enough water in a container. (I have 95 roses.)

Stephen A. Zolezzi: Roses do just fine in a container so long as they are watered 2 to 3 times a week, depending on the weather. Use a rich planting mix (A-1 soil, Queen of Show mix), re-pot every 2 to 3 years and trim roots, apply top dressing yearly, fertilize every 4 to 6 weeks during growing season, deadhead as needed, and check for bugs, much like any other potted plant. Right?  

Catherine Tylka: Roses in big containers are a piece of cake. They love being in big, red clay planters with drip pans. Water to your heart’s content, but stop when the drip pan is full. They can live with only a once a week watering, and I put them on the back porch, under the lattice and they are thriving! (zip code 92026)

Dwyn Daniels Robbie: One of the key elements to growing good roses in pots is the ability to change out the soil every three years, at least. Using the best quality soil is also important. I use Queen of Show mix from Hanson’s and add more perlite, worm castings, powdered kelp and essential minerals. If you don’t replace the soil, my observation is that the rose bush refuses to put out basal breaks. It is also more difficult to gauge watering needs in a pot. At least two times a week, I water until I see leakage coming from the base of the pot. I also water the surface once a week, as the feeder roots of a rose are in the top 3-4 inches. I always have a 2-inch layer of mulch covering the top of the pot and gently push it aside when I fertilize. I try to collect rain water from my gutters and this pure water is poured into the pots at a rate of 3 gallons for a 30 gallon pot at least twice a year. Also important is utilizing a large enough container to allow the roots to expand and grow. Some of my large climbing roses are in 40-gallon pots and the hybrid teas/floribundas are in 20- to 25-gallon pots. Miniatures are mainly confined to 5-7 gallon pots. If I had the ability, none of my roses would be potted… the reality is they perform better when placed directly into the soil (I have sandy, loamy soil). Nature has left a 100-year old Torrey Pine in my garden and it does rob anything it can from the soil. Make sure to water thoroughly prior to fertilizing and then just a bit after the rose is placed. Pots do not allow for the roots to escape the horrors of being burned by too much fertilizer, so also lessen the recommended dosage of fertilizer. My former mentor, Phil Ash, taught me that the best type of pot is a plastic one. The pottery and ceramic containers continually leach salt into the soil. If you want you may do as I have and place a plastic pot inside a ceramic pot for visual pleasure without the harmful mineral exposure. (Master Rosarian, Certified ARS Horticultural Rose Judge)    

Jim Bishop: Don’t! Unless you are in love with roses, absolutely have to grow them, and only have a small, sunny patio or balcony to grow things, you should consider growing something else in containers. Here’s why: Roses require regular water (even more in containers) and should never be allowed to fully dry out. They require regular maintenance and even so will be dormant or not in bloom several months of the year. They need to be cut back after each bloom cycle. They need regular feeding to continue growing and blooming. They also will likely need sprays or systemic pesticides to control disease or bugs. They will likely be short lived in pots or start performing poorly after a few years and need replacing with new plants or new soil after a few years. Instead, consider growing something that is easier to maintain and needs less water. First on the list would be succulents or one or more of the many colorful members of the bromeliad family. If you want year-round bloom, many of the Euphorbia milli hybrids or related cultivars can last decades in a pot, aren’t anymore thorny than many roses, and won’t mind if you miss a watering or two. Another option for the same amount of water and care: you can grow all your own salad greens in a few pots.   

Winnie Krushensky: I’m just learning myself!

Gay Sinclair: I have pretty good luck growing roses in big ceramic pots, about 22” in diameter by 23” in height. I put something in the bottom so there is good drainage. My patio is fairly sheltered and gets lots of sun. They are thirsty. Each January when I prune them and remove all the leaves and old mulch, I soak the plants and ground with a pre-emergent spray. Then I give them some new potting soil, ½ cup of Epsom salts, and new bark mulch. I have each container on a small trolley so they are moveable, and rotate them about once a month to distribute the sun evenly. I soak egg shells in water and as the jar fills up, pour the water on a few plants. This is sort of random, but an old lady friend when I was a kid did that and her roses were beautiful, so I do it. I also feed them every 4-6 weeks, starting in February, usually with Bayer’s weed and feed. I think about being organic, but this gets such good results, I just use it most months. I choose plants for their fragrance and then color. I live near the beach in La Jolla, so if mildew is a problem with a particular bush, no matter how fragrant it is, it has to go. I try to pick off yellow leaves as they appear. After a few months they get unshapely, as I like to cut them and am not always concerned with the overall shape. But they bloom from mid- to late February thru December, so they must be happy. (zip code 92037)

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