General gardening topics

Growing roses in pots and containers – Planting and care guide

Last updated on January 21st, 2020

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There are many rose varieties from which to choose, roses for every occasion and location whether it’s a small patio rose or a David Austin shrub rose. Some roses perform better in pots and containers than others so, no matter how small your garden might be, you can find a variety to fit your space.

Out of all the types of roses you can find, rambling roses do not thrive in pots. They are much more vigorous compared to other roses, and they need a significantly larger space to sustain their growth. However, if you are looking for a climbing type rose then there are plenty of miniatures climbers and even most other climbers which will grow well in a large pot too.

Aside from ramblers, all other varieties will respond well to deadheading too to prolong the flowering periods. As a rule of thumb, if your thinking of growing roses in containers, we recommend looking for patio roses which generally has much smaller flowers, patio climbers which tend to be less vigorous than normal climbers. Then, of course, there is the hybrid tea roses, floribundas and shrub / Old English roses all of which will grow well in a good-sized container.

Choosing the right size pot or container

The container size should be at a minimum 30cm by 30cm (1ft x 1ft) for anything that climbs, even miniature. If you have roses that spread and function as cover in the container, something that is 45cm by 45cm is better. This will vary, of course, based on the variety you choose and size requirements for said variety. You then, of course, want to move up into larger pots over the coming years into the largest pot your comfortable with.

In terms of material, you can get away just about anything. Plastic is the most lightweight of material, so if you plan on moving your roses around the garden, the lightweight material might be useful. However, many people prefer wood or ceramic planters which offer better aesthetics, but also contribute to a heavier weight if moving around. If you have a more permanent position in your garden where you want the rose bush to go, a more substantial container won’t matter as much. It’s worth noting that glazed pots are also much better suited as they are generally frost resistant and will not crack.

Recommended rose for containers

There are a few recommended varieties for pots. Miniature types are best, as they are specifically bred for compact growth and shallow root structures. Some of the best varieties include:

  • ‘Queen Mother’
  • ‘Flower Power’
  • ‘Anna Ford’
  • ‘Sweet Dream’
  • ‘Wild Fire’
  • ‘Peter Pan’
  • ‘Nice Day’
  • ‘Bianco’
  • ‘Bright Smile’
  • ‘Stamford’s Sanctuary’
  • ‘Open Arms’
  • ‘Kew Gardens’
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What to consider when planting patio roses

Compost

When planting, use a loam-based compost. You can add well-rotted manure to the compost for richness, but be sure to mix it thoroughly with the soil. We recommend using John Innes Potting compost but you can also but specialist rose and shrub compost. Don’t forget to add some crockery to the bottom of the containers to stop the holes getting clogged up.

Levington John Innes No.3 25 litres- Mature Plant Compost
  • Matched to the needs of mature plants
  • High nutrient level feeds for up to 6 weeks
  • Traditional mixture of loam, peat and grit.

Where to position your container-grown roses

Be sure to position your container where you want it to reside before you fill it or add the rose bush because it will be much heavier once it has all the soil. 

The position you choose needs to be one that receives ample sunlight, in general, the more the better, roses need sunshine for at least half of the day.

Watering

That said, container-grown plants are prone to powdery mildew if they become waterlogged. Conversely, they also dry out faster, so you should keep very good tabs on the watering schedule you keep and the moisture level of the soil. If at all possible, find an area where the physical pot and roots can be kept in the shade for part of the day, but the majority of the plant can be in the sun most of the day.

Bare root vs potted roses

Roses purchased between November and April often come in the form of a bare-root plant, so you won’t have to worry about removing them from a pot. They are often a little cheaper too so it’s worth considering bare-root plants but they can only be purchased when roses are dormant for the winter. Fill the pot two-thirds of the way, add the rose, and then backfill it the rest of the way and only plant to the dept it was previous which you can usually tell by looking at the rose carefully.

If you purchased your rose between May and November, your rose bush will come in a container and may even be in flower but it will certainly have fresh foliage on. Carefully hold it carefully, horizontally, and wiggle it loose from the base until it comes free from the container. Then gently tease the roots if there are compact and place it in the new container as the same depth it was in the container.

General rose care

Drainage

As mentioned, drainage is essential, so you can help the pot drain well with an extra layer of gravel at the bottom of the container. You can also keep the pot raised on feet so that the water can drain freely from the bottom, its also much less likely that the holes will become blocked. 

Mulch

Mulch will go a long way toward retention. You can add 5cm of mulch in the form of compost or well-rotted manure right after planting the rose bush. This will help keep moisture in the soil which is even more essential in containers and enrich the compost at the same time. This is something not everybody does as it can be a little more difficult to keep an eye on where the soil has become dry.

Feeding patio roses

In terms of food, rose bushes use their food reserves quickly, so they do better if you add rose fertiliser every spring. The only time you should avoid feeding is after August when the soft growth risks damage by cold weather and frost. 

Pruning patio roses

Pruning is best done on an as-needed basis, annually, after the flowering has ended. You should start by pruning any dead or diseased branches, and then any rubbing or crossing branches. We also recommend hard pruning roses in early spring and cutting back to as low as 30cm, this encourages a bushier rose and keeps it looking lush from the base and stops them getting too tall and promotes better flowering.

Repotting roses

Every three or four years, the rose bushes should be repotted in a slightly larger container. Use fresh soil-based compost when doing so. In all other years, you can do a top dressing by removing the top 5cm of compost and replacing it with fresh compost and giving it a base feed in spring. This will help replenish lost nutrients. 

Deadheading

One big part of regular maintenance is that of deadheading. By removing the dead flowers as they finish, you can encourage more flowers to bloom throughout the season. Many roses will even flower into November.

Pests and Diseases

rose bush diseases

Roses, even container grown roses, are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases but aphids and black spot as the most common problems. You can prevent most of them by carefully watering, never overwatering or underwatering, and keeping your eyes peeled for any signs of pests on the plants. Insecticides and fungicides go a long way to immediate treatment of any pests or diseases that crop up. We recommend spraying with a fungicide as soon the leaves shoot in spring to try and help prevent diseases like black spot, mildew and rust before they start. Prevention is much better than trying to deal with the problem afterwards. You can buy 2 in 1 spray for roses which will kill aphids but also help prevent and control diseases.

Miracle-Gro Roseclear Insecticide, Plant Protection, 1 Litre
  • Systemic insecticide and fungicide with 3-in-1 action
  • Kills systemically and on contact
  • Kills aphids
  • Controls blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Protects for up to 21 days to prevent further attacks
RoseClear Ultra, Concentrate Liquid, 3 in 1 Action, 200 ml
  • Systmic insecticide and fungicide with 3-in-1 action
  • Kills systemically and on contact
  • Kills aphids
  • Controls blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Protects for up to four weeks to prevent further attacks

By following these rules, keeping the right sized pot, and growing the right variety, you can keep roses blooming year after year no matter how small your space might be. 

Last update on 2021-07-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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