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There are a few things to keep in mind to grow roses successfully in a container.
1. Choose the right pot.
Roses need room to grow so choose a pot that is larger than the nursery pot they come in at the garden center. Pots are measured by inside diameter and depth or height so take a tape measure with you or ask the sales associate to help you with the dimensions. There are a variety of finishes and colors to choose from such as Terra Cotta Clay, Glazed Ceramic, Fiberglass and Polyethylene. Have fun and find something that will complement your garden or patio. Recommended sizes are listed below.
2. Potting soil is important.
There are a lot of different potting soils and the choices can be confusing. Don't try to save money by purchasing a poor quality soil; your roses will be growing in the pot for a long time so this is an investment that will pay off. Bags of compost or composted cow manure alone are too heavy and do not drain well enough in containers. Choose a soil that is light and preferably contains a wetting agent or moisture saving crystals. You can amend your potting soil by adding some composted cow manure; we recommend a ratio of 3 parts potting soil to 1 part composted cow manure.
3. It is not necessary to add a layer of rocks to the bottom of the container.
Adding rocks decreases the growing space for your rose and isn't necessary for good drainage. Cover the drainage holes with a small piece of screen, a coffee filter or a broken piece of pottery to help prevent soil from washing out. At this point you are ready to start filling the pot and planting your rose in its new home.
4. Time to plant!
Fill the pot about halfway or more (depending on the depth of the container) with potting mix. Set the rose in its nursery pot on the soil to check the depth, add more mix if it is sitting too low. Be sure to plant the rose at least a couple of inches deeper than the rim of the container. Remove the rose from the nursery pot either by pulling gently or cutting the pot away from the root ball. Set it on the soil in the center of the container. Fill in around the roots with the remaining potting mix keeping the graft above the soil line. Water to settle the soil, adding more potting mix if needed.
5. The finishing touches make a difference.
To finish it off add a 1-2" layer of mulch, not only does this look good but it will help keep the soil from drying as quickly and diffuses water from the hose or watering can over the surface of the pot.
Some potting soils have a starter fertilizer but roses are heavy feeders so you will need to add fertilizer. Time release fertilizers may be added for all season feeding or low numbered fertilizers like Rose Tone (4-3-2) may be applied about every 8 weeks up to the middle of August. Use half the recommended amount. Water soluble fertilizers also work, reapply every 2 weeks.
The larger the pot the more slowly it will dry out, but containers do dry out more quickly than a garden bed. Water at least twice a week or more if it is hot and dry (no rain), and make sure the water drains to the bottom of the pot.
In the Southeast,or zones 7 and higher, cover the graft or center of the rose with 6-8 inches of mulch. Ground contact causes more freeze/thaw damage so try to place the container on concrete, patios or stepping stones and avoid areas with cold, drying winter winds. Colder zones can add mulch and protect by covering with burlap or specially designed wraps for shrubbery.
Minimum Recommended Container Sizes:
Miniature Roses 14 - 16" diameter, 14 - 16" depth
Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora or Floribunda 20-25" diameter, 18-20" depth
Shrubs or Knock Outs 20-25" diameter, 18-20" depth
Climbers 20-25" diameter, 18-20" depth
Trees 20-25" diameter, 18-20" depth