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Roses IN Pots

Steve Grass - Charleston, WV Rose Society


Have you run out of room to plant more roses?  No room to begin with?  Try growing roses in pots.  You can move them to anywhere you have a place to set them.


There are many kinds of pots available--clay, wood, plastic, etc.  I prefer plastic because they are light and durable.  For miniatures, 2-5 gallon size are good.  They should be wider rather than deep as their roots go out instead of down.  Hybrid teas need a large pot, so I get 18-gallon utility tubs on sale at K-Mart for $4.  They last 3-4 years before they disintegrate from sun exposure.  Make certain that whatever you use is clean, because dirty pots can harbor diseases.  You can clean them with a solution of bleach and water and a good brush.  


Make sure you have lots of drainage holes so that the roots won’t drown.  I usually drill 9 quarter-inch holes in the bottom of the tubs, which provides plenty of drainage.  Do not use rocks or pebbles in the bottom of the pots; they will make your pot too heavy to move, and aren’t necessary when you have enough drainage holes. Use a light soil that will drain well but has plenty of organic matter to retain water for the roots.  Plant your roses just as you would in the ground, and make sure to cover the surface with mulch to help retain moisture.


Avoid shallow watering; water should come out of the drainage hole each time the plant is watered.  Thorough watering is beneficial to the plant and helps carry away salts.  During the hottest days of summer you may have to water daily.  Use of a watering wand will help clean dust from the leaves and also discourage spider mites.


In fertilizing your potted roses, use the fertilizer at one-half strength twice as often as roses in the ground.  Regular watering flushes the fertilizer from the soil more quickly.  The use of a time-release fertilizer mixed into the soil will help since they are now controlled by temperature rather than moisture.  Maintain the same spray program for potted roses as for those planted in the ground.


You will need to repot every 3-4 years.  By that time, the rose will have filled the pot with roots and they will be coming out of the drainage holes.  You can move the bush to a larger pot, or you can root prune it.  To root prune, pull the rose from the pot and use a sharp knife to shave about 2 inches of material from all sides, including the bottom.  Put fresh soil in the bottom of the pot, place the rose back into the pot and refill with fresh soil around the entire root ball.


To protect your potted roses in the winter, put the tubs in an unheated garage, or dig a hole for the pot in the ground and mulch around it.


We have had good success growing roses in pots.  Some, like Rosie O’Donnell or Betty Boop, seem to thrive in the confines of a pot.  Try it; you may find that you enjoy the many benefits of container growing.