Growing Roses In Containers

Maybe you don’t have a garden with lots of room, or any soil at all in your outside space. Perhaps you’ve only got a balcony or a concrete yard, but you want to grow roses.

Possibly you have all of the above, and when you’ve tried growing roses in the ground, you haven’t had much success. 

The good news is that you don’t need a large cottage-style garden with a suitably large wall to grow a sea of roses up the side of your house. It’s one way to do it, but it’s not the only way.

Roses do just fine in containers even on a balcony or another small space, but there are a few things to consider.

Here’s everything you need to know. 

The Importance Of Choosing The Right Rose

It’s no good running out and buying the first rose you see, putting it into any old pot, and expect it to survive there for a good long while. 

You might get lucky and pick the right type of rose, cultivar, soil, and container by chance, but more likely you’ll have just wasted some money. 

Different types of roses have different requirements, and while that can sound daunting to begin with, once you know the basics, it’s easy to choose one to suit your space.

Rose Types To Avoid When Planting Roses In Containers

Rambling roses, for example, aren’t a great choice for pots. Ramblers love plenty of space to scramble over, including neighboring plants, fences, walls, and sides of houses, famously.

Their roots need a lot of room to spread too, as they need to be able to anchor the plant, as ramblers can reach up to 40 feet tall! 

Climbing roses will do slightly better, as they have a less vigorous habit than ramblers, but they will prove difficult to keep in a small pot (see also How To Choose The Right Climbing Rose), as again, climbing roses like plenty of room, and they also require vertical support to grow upwards.

Grandiflora roses aren’t a great choice, either. These upright roses get quite tall, and if you combine that with growing them in a container, they will tip over when it gets windy, which is not only annoying, but it could damage the rose, the pot, or both.

Wild roses are used to lots of room, and as they haven’t been bred by humans in the way that cultivated roses have, they haven’t adapted to smaller spaces.

Heirloom roses and shrub roses, as a rule, aren’t perfect for containers, either. They grow much bigger than most containers will be able to provide for.

Roses Suitable For Growing In Pots

While the list for those roses you shouldn’t grow in containers is long, there are a few options when it comes to the ones you can grow in pots without any problems.

Ground Cover Roses

Ground cover roses are a great type to start with when growing roses in containers. They tend to be cheaper than their larger relatives, and they also stay compact and more manageable. 

It helps that they look particularly beautiful ‘spilling over’ the edges of containers, with cascading color.

Just make sure that you get a pot with a big width, as these roses love to spread outwards.

Miniature

You know those tiny roses you often see for sale in the grocery store, that claim to be able to survive indoors? Well, nine times out of ten these beauties will die if you keep them indoors, but they are perfect for container gardens.

Miniature roses have been bred not only for their compact roses, but also for their smaller size, making them suitable for small beds or containers without a lot of fuss.

As they are so compact, these roses will live happily in pots, even their original pots for a good while before you’ll need to transplant them. 

It helps that the blooms stay small, so everything looks in proportion.

Polyantha Roses

Polyantha roses (see also Fairy Rose Polyantha Care Guide) are compact shrub roses, smaller than grandiflora, standard, and floribunda types, and what the roses lack in size, they make up for in number, producing many roses per plant.

This makes them perfect for containers, without having to compromise on the amount of roses you want to grace your garden with.

Patio Roses

If you are a little disappointed by the above choices and want something bigger, patio roses are perfect. They’re not as big as standard roses, but they are much bigger than the types lifted above.

These roses are floribunda roses, meaning that you’ll get plenty of blooms, usually in a very long flowering period, lasting from spring into fall.

These particular floribunda roses have been bred so that they stay more compact than normal floribundas, making them suitable for pots. 

Get The Right Container For Your Rose

Now that you’ve decided on the type of rose you’d like to grow in your own space, it’s time to choose the right container.

Don’t be tempted to start with a very large pot if the rose type you’ve selected is on the small side. It’s no good pairing a ground cover rose with a tall, narrow pot, as it will die.

Most plants hate pots that are too big for them, and the general rule is to select a pot that’s one size larger than the one they’re in, and wait for it to outgrow that one, and then repeat.

With roses, pick a container that is plenty big enough for the root ball, allowing for at least some new growth.

Preferably pick a container that will give the roots room to grow, anchoring the plant into the pot, but also keeping the roots cool, which helps the roses in drier weather.

Don’t forget to consider the material. While plastic pots are lightweight, this can be a downside in high winds, and your plant may keel over, and there’s the environmental aspect to consider, too. 

Terracotta pots are great all round, as they allow the soil to dry out, and help the root growth by keeping the roots in contact with clay (yes, even fired clay can make a difference), but they are much heavier, and more expensive than plastic.

Ceramic, concrete, or terracotta pots are great, but if you live somewhere that gets freezing temperatures, you must go for a pot that has a frost protection label.

Plants which are potted up are very susceptible to frost, and this can kill the plant if you don’t give it any winter protection. Just something to keep in mind. 

Whatever type you pick, another thing to note is that the pot needs adequate drainage, otherwise the roots of the rose may rot.

Getting Your Container Ready

Put some crocks – bits of broken clay pot – over the drainage hole. You’re not blocking up the hole, so make sure they are curved or have holes in, but the idea here is to stop the soil from washing out through the bottom of the pot.

You can also use something like polystyrene if you prefer. 

Now grab some multipurpose compost, and preferably some well-rotted manure (do not use fresh, as this will burn the roots of your plant!), and fill your pot to the halfway point. 

As you do this, press down on the soil lightly, and this will help stop any air pockets forming, which could lead to problems.

Check The Rose Fits 

Don’t skip this step! Pop your rose into the pot, (its original container and all) on top of the soil, and look at where it sits. You want the bare stems to sit about 2 inches below the rim of the container.

Using gloves, take the rose out of its original pot, keeping as much of its original compost as possible, and put it into the new container.

If the soil comes out as a mirror image of the pot’s shape, run your fingers over it gently to loosen it. Sit the rose into its new pot.

Fill In The Rest Of The Compost

With one hand gently supporting the rose just where it comes out of the soil, use your other hand to fill in the rest of the pot with compost, making sure to press on the soil lightly every few scoops.

Again, this helps to stop any air pockets from forming in the soil. Stop adding more compost when you get to about an inch under the rim of the pot, and this will stop the soil from flooding out every time you water your rose.

Water In Your Rose

This is a vital step, as it allows the soil to settle, giving the plant a good drink, while encouraging the plant to send its roots out into the new soil.

Don’t flood the pot with water, and always water at the base of the plant rather than overhead, which helps reduce the risk of fungal infection.

Now’s the hard part, waiting until your rose blooms!

Final Thoughts

Roses are beautiful, but growing them doesn’t have to be complicated. If you follow these steps, you’ll end up with a healthy, happy rose plant which will bloom for years to come.

One more thing to consider: choose where you put your rose carefully. There needs to be plenty of air circulation around the plant, which will help stop powdery mildew and other diseases.

Most roses like a sunny position for as long as possible, but this is also dictated by the type of rose you pick. 

Select a sheltered spot so that the wind can’t take off the beautiful roses before the petals are ready to fall, in which case, it’s time to get your shears out and deadhead the spent blooms.

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