Roses in Containers

Roses in Containers
A rose by any other name indeed may smell as sweet (remember Romeo and Juliette) so why not choose one which has a name that means something to you? How about 'My Granny' planted for your Granny? Or 'Marie Louise' planted for someone you know with those names? What about a patriotic name such as Stars n Stripes or Fourth of July to celebrate Independence day? Or you can go for an orange beauty for Halloween?

There are as many ideas as your imagination will allow and not just centered around the name. There are looks and styles and sizes and growing patterns ... lots more here to think about. It is just such a treat to have a rose nearby. Whatever – grow a rose for sheer beauty and growing one in a container is very rewarding. It can be a touch challenging but oh so beautiful!

I have a friend who now only grows roses on her balcony. It is more of a patio because of the size I would say, but she calls it her balcony so of course I let it be. She says "My roses give me so much so that that's it! Roses, roses and more roses, a bit of spinach and a few herbs!"

Well there is a point to be made for a rose only container garden especially if you see her spread. And at pruning time when the rose containers look sparse? Well she makes you lift your eyes up where she has a colourful leaves display and spillover ivy pots on shelves. She loves them anyway and if she gets visitors, she lines them up behind moveable concertina style low screens with the centre panels decorated with floral wallpaper. Sound kitsch? Believe me it is not – I am just not able to describe it well enough. But back to roses!

Let's look at the elements you want to have, and they all tie for first place!

The CONTAINERS you choose would be big enough and I like square ones but wide whiskey barrel size is good as well. The style you choose is personal and colour is important too. Container colour must enhance the colour of the rose bush you choose not detract from it, and you want to keep your pots light colours. Dark colours like bottle green, navy and black draw in heat (much like dark coloured cars) and the soil may get too warm and affect the roots of your plant. Last word for the moment here is that you should not use a clear container for your rose. It may look different but you may hurt the plant irreparably by exposing the roots to the sun and sunburn and frosty nights during the winters. Plastic pots are better for cooler and frosty areas where ceramic pots might crack even though you are protecting your roses.

DRAINAGE is very important as roses love water but hate wet feet. Water has to drain out of the container fairly easily and fast otherwise you will be sorry as soggy soil kills. If your container needs holes, drill them, at least three for easy water outflow; and if you use a pot in a pot presentation (which you might if you have your rose in a plain plastic pot within and nice ceramic holder without drainage holes) then place gravel or stones or something into the bottom of the container so that the first pot sits above any water that gathers... and of course weekly you must empty the holding pot of any extra water. Use that same water again as it will have some of the washed out compost and nutrients.

The SOIL you choose must be quick draining potting soil (worth repeating) to avoid root rot, fungal diseases and mould. This obviously weakens the plant and opens it up to other specific diseases like black spot. Add a good handful of bone meal and compost into the mix and a general fertiliser to start (you can get more specific later). Of course deep watering after planting and a bark mulch will be just the right finishing touch. Remember feeding and watering must be consistent.

The POSITION you choose must have full sun at least 6 hours or so a day. Now where can you place your pots? Around the swimming pool if you have one is good, they will enhance this living space just so; or if you have wide steps leading up to the front of your home? Step by step-up containers with roses would be great. Looking for a focal plant? Use a rose. Want a dramatic entrance alongside some trellis or need a privacy screen, use a rose. Need a climber to hide an ugly bit of wall? Use a rose. And there is more! You need the air to circulate too, the rose should not be crowded out by other plants and creepers, it needs its own space.

The ROSES you choose … well there is flexibility here too and a type of rose to suit every purpose. Use a rambler or a climber or a miniature or a standard or a hybrid tea or a bush. Do you want them to climb over an archway/pergola effect at the entrance to your deck or patio? What about a backdrop with standards at the back to bushy mid-sized growers to carpet ground covers to one or two miniatures in the front? Maybe you just want one colour? Multi-colours? Maybe you have one favourite rose plant and that is all you want, one beautiful plant, well placed, fragrant and a beautiful focal point. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions! It's never ending with container gardening and how nice that is too. Choice is really what life is about I say.

Of course some rose types are better suited to containers and these will include smaller ones that grow to a height of between 3 and 5 feet if you are going for the standard bush rose, but as always scale is what is important. In your mind's eye see the container and roots section as a third in balance with about two thirds above ground. And this rule of thumb will suit your miniature roses as well. In future articles I can tell about pruning and repotting and pests and uses so much more so no worries.

* Position your container with full sun, air flow and its own space. Make sure your supports are strong if you are using a climber. Use pot feet to lift the pot off the ground and protect the deck floor. Use a drip tray as extra protection but never leave water in this for longer than an hour, roses hate wet feet. I know, I said it before didn't I?
* Use gravel or any medium at the bottom of the pot to ensure that the soil does not become compacted thus stopping drainage.
* Fill halfway up with a good friable healthy potting soil and compost mix. Add a nice handful of bone meal. Add some more soil to cover this. If you are planting around about now (and every spring) you can also add a third cup of Epsom salts to your first water.
* Plant the rose without disturbing the roots and with as much of its soil as you can.
* Settle it in nicely; surround it with more soil patting down. Fill with your good soil to the top but do not allow the rose to drown in soil as it were. Planting the rose in the top third of the pot and watering properly will encourage good root growth so be sure to water fully.

Now BE CAREFUL to make sure that your rose is level with the rim of the pot and that the bud union is not covered with soil. Bud union? The point where the stem starts up and the roots go down – soil level, 'horizon' level. Just use a ruler or any straight stick across the top of the pot to guide you.
* Remember too that your potted roses need watering more often and feeding and liquid fertilisers are best I think) at least every 10 days if not weekly – they need nutrients for blooming and healthy growth and dealing with pests.
* Add an earthworm or two or three - nature's gift to the garden and to healthy soils. You don't have to to ensure success - but I always do and it serves my containers well to do so. Any container, not only the roses.
* A pretty label with date of planting and her name will not go amiss. It's not always easy to remember the names and you may want to repeat the order some day. But then you have your gardening notebook not so?

Now. Stand back and smile. Doesn't she look good? I bet she does!

What do you want your container garden to do?

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