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Growing roses in containers

Published on October 20th 2020
A close up of a flower
A pink flower pot

Outdoor Planters

One of the best ways to make a special feature of a rose is to grow it in a container. We generally think of growing roses in the garden but they also thrive in containers. There are a number of good reasons for this. There is no root competition from other plants, most potting soil drains well, which roses love and, provided they are watered every day, their water requirements are met. If there is not enough sun, it is easier to move the container than transplanting the rose!
A pink flower on a plant
If given the right care, roses in containers actually grow better than those planted in the soil. This is particularly true if the soil is too sandy or otherwise unsuitable for roses. It also solves the problem of growing roses on a slope where the water runs off too fast before it can get to the roots. The right kind of care means planting the rose in a large enough pot (minimum size 35 cm diameter), with good potting soil (not garden soil), watering it daily and feeding it regularly. There needs to be good air movement as well so the container shouldn’t be placed directly against a wall, especially one that catches hot noonday or afternoon sun.

Making an impact with container roses

A vase of flowers on a tree
  • Use a large rose filled container or two to link the garden and the house by placing the container where the two elements connect, such as the patio. This is especially effective when the same colours or the same varieties as those in the garden are used.
  • Roses in containers can provide colour in a predominantly green garden, can beautify a bare wall, a stark entrance or they can invite you into a garden because they hint at what lies within.
  • In a large rose bed, a beautiful urn containing a rose acts as a focal point for the eye to rest on before exploring the rest of the bed.
  • Roses in containers also camouflage drains, drainpipes, and manholes, or they act as garden room dividers.
  • Where there is a problem with root competition or unsuitable soil, plant the rose in a plastic pot and sink it into the ground so that the edge of the container is level with the surface of the bed. With mulch or as the rose grows, the edge disappears. Water the rose daily as you would for a container above ground and lift it every six months to check that other roots haven’t grown into the container.

Tips for knockout rose containers

  • Go for maximum flower power. Choose roses that flower profusely, especially those that produce clusters of blooms. Recommended roses are compact floribundas, cushion groundcover roses or small shrubs like the “My Granny” roses as well as the Sunsation roses.
  • Don’t skimp on the container. Buy the most beautiful one you can afford if you are planning to make it a main feature in the garden. The larger the pot the more water it can store, therefore the better the rose will be able to grow and flower.
  • Choose disease-resistant varieties, like the Eco Chic roses, because container roses need to be in peak condition all the time.
  • Incorporate a fragrant variety if a container is near the house or is passed by because the rose blooms tend to be at nose level, which adds to the enjoyment of them.

Caring for container roses

Use a commercial potting soil mixed with an organic material like palm peat that conditions the soil and retains water A layer of stones, bricks, pebbles or pot shards at the bottom of the pot helps with drainage. Do not apply any fertiliser to the newly planted rose. It needs to settle into its new home first. Bonemeal or Superphosphate can be used when planting.
Roses in pots need to be watered every day in summer and every two to three days in winter. To aid water retention mix water absorbent gel into the potting soil. If you don’t have the time to water every day, install an automatic or semi-automatic watering system with pipes leading into each pot. If you water by hand, use a hose with a fine nozzle as this will prevent the potting soil from becoming compacted.
To keep growth lush fertilise every two weeks by sprinkling a granular fertiliser (at half the recommended rate) over the bushes, don’t put it in a heap next to the stems. Use rose fertilisers like Ludwig’s Vigorosa 5-1-5 (25) or Wonder Rose 8-1-5 (25). Don’t fertilise when full sun is on the leaves.
Spray regularly to prevent black spot and downy mildew. Ludwig’s Insect Spray combined with Chronos, Dithane WG or Rose Protector should keep pests and diseases at bay.
A close up of a flower garden

When to repot?

If the initial potting soil has the right texture the roses can grow in it for many years. Just renew the soil each year after pruning by scooping out as much of the soil as possible and adding fresh potting soil. If the rose starts to lose its vigour it is an indication that you need to repot completely.

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