The Pros and Cons of Container Grown Roses
Why Grow Roses in Containers?

By Kitty Belendez
​Master Rosarian, Santa Clarita CA

Okay, so you ask, "Why grow roses in containers when you can easily dig a hole and stick it in the  ground? No muss, no fuss. Right?" Wrong! If I had a 5-acre ranch, and on that ranch I had perfect soil,  and there were no gophers, nor any trees to invade the roses, and I never moved the roses, then perhaps I would much prefer to plant my roses directly into the ground. But, that's not reality, at least not in my yard. We started growing roses in containers because at the time we had a severe gropher problem, plus the roots from a neighor's tree were also wreaking havoc on the roses. So, we bought some 25-gallon oak whiskey barrels into which were planted various hybrid teas. Planting the roses in containers solved those problems. In fact, they worked so well that after a few years we ended up with around 30 whiskey barrels in our garden. Many of our roses are now grown in containers. Most of my 150 miniature roses are grown in 15-inch terra cotta colored plastic pots. There are many benefits of growing roses in containers. However, roses grown in containers do take a bit more care. I would also like to point out that large roses, such as climbers, hybrid teas, and big old garden roses will never reach their fullest potential in pots, so it's much better to grow them in the ground.

I've tried all types of pots over the last 20 years: wood, ceramic, plastic, and clay. However, the price of those oak whiskey barrels have now skyrocketed from $8.00 to $50.00, so we recently had to find an alternative. Anyway, I've determined that the wood pots just do not last as long as the plastic pots, and they dry out very quickly. So, the cost of the wooden pots is not really worth it. Plastic pots are the most economical, they last the longest, and they hold water the best. We now buy inexpensive plastic pots from McConkey's. The plastic 7-gallon squat pot costs around $4.00, as does the 15-gallon pot. And, they also have a 25-gallon pot that costs around $12 each

The top layer of our soil is very sandy, and the lower level is clay. So, all the soil in our planters have been completely reworked, and the soil in the pots is a mixture of commercial potting soil, nitrohumus, super-phosphate, and soil polymer.

Container grown-roses do take a lot more water, simply because the water drains right through the containers. This is where polymers like Broadleaf P4 come in handy. I add a teaspoon of dry P4 to every 5 gallon container, and 1 tablespoon dry P4 to a large 25 gallon barrel. All of our containers are hooked up to an automatic drip system, but we do not depend totally on the drip system. We also do a lot of hand watering with a Water Wand. We have the "soft shower" version which is great for general watering. And, we have the "super-duper" high pressure version which is a must for keeping spider mites under control. 

Container-grown roses take more feeding. Not stronger, but more often. I feed my roses every week during show season, and then twice a month the rest of the year. I rotate with feedings of Grow More or Peter's or Miracle-Gro, Fish Emulsion, Alfalfa Pellets, Epsom Salts, plus I add Iron Chelate and Zinc once a month. Also, I feed them Bandini Rose Food twice a year (2 tablespoons per plant, half as much for minis). Always make sure that you have watered your roses well the day before feeding. If you feed a dry plant, especially one in a pot, you could very well burn the roots, or even kill the plant. I must confess, that I killed ten minis by feeding them dry when I first started growing roses.

Container-grown roses might need to be repotted about every 3 years (depending on variety), because they can become rootbound. It's real easy to repot miniatures. Simply loosen the soil at the sides of the pot, then pull the entire plant out. The best time to repot is during the cool months, as it can be a bit risky during the summer. You can move them up to a larger size pot at this time, or if they are already in at least a 5-gallon pot, simply saw off some of the roots and fill in the sides with potting soil.

Pruning container-grown roses is done the same as for ground-grown roses. However, when miniature roses are grown in containers you don't have to kneel down on the ground to prune them. So, there is much less strain on your back and knees. Felco and Corona Clippers are the best pruning cutters.

One of the benefits of roses grown in containers is that they can easily be moved around. If a rose isn't doing too well in a particular spot, simply slide the container onto a dolly, tilt it back and roll it away to a different location. If you want to give a rose away, it is not necessary to dig it up. Simply give away the rose, pot and all.

Some of our favorite miniature tree roses growing in containers were: Heartbreaker, Loving Touch, Snow Bride, and June Laver. All my miniature tree roses used to be planted in redwood pots, but have now been repotted to the 7-gallon plastic squat pots. I do not recommend planting the larger floribundas and hybrid tea tree roses in pots, unless the pots are really large, because tree roses tend to be top-heavy and can topple over.

On our patio we have baskets filled with the miniature roses Sweet Chariot hanging from the patio pillars. Hanging baskets tend to dry out quickly, so soil polymers and spaghnum peat moss are a must.

We have constructed a living wall of miniature roses. It's a 35-foot long stair-step shelf containing 30 pots of the best exhibition miniature roses such as Fairhope, Miss Flippins, Irresistible, and Behold. It's such a pleasure to work with minis raised up to this height.

The red hybrid tea rose Olympiad, the apricot-colored Brandy rose, and the delicate light pink single Dainty Bess grow very well in large 20-gallon pots. Barrels can be placed in the parkway, which will make a striking sight when the roses are in full bloom. Many of our neighbors like to stroll down the sidewalk and enjoy smelling the roses, like Purple Tiger, French Lace, Escapade, Golden Wings, and Playboy.

Whiskey barrels containing the extremely fragrant, red Mister Lincoln and the lovely, pure white Crystalline are placed at each side of a natural rock waterfall. We have used the HTs Color Magic, Royal Highness, and Silverado in containers to hide our swimming pool equipment, instead of the standard, and boring, block wall 

There is a circular brick planter near our jacuzzi which doubles as a firepit and as a holder for three potted miniatures, Kristin, Irresistible, and Miss Flippins. The three pots easily lift out of the planter, and then the planter can be used as a firepit in the evening, while lounging in the jacuzzi under the stars.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez


Updated April 28, 2016

Miniature Rose 'Michel Cholet' in a pot.
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