The Container Rose Garden

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Posted by @Joannabanana on
Container gardening has become quite popular and is not limited to annuals alone. I started container gardening with a couple of hybrid tea roses about 10 years ago. Since then, my collection of container roses has expanded from a couple to about 20 pots. Hybrid tea roses, floribunda roses, small shrub roses, and miniatures are all fantastic in containers.

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/7dbafaRoses are gorgeous in containers and may be the perfect feature in an outdoor decor setting.  Limited in-ground planting space or the need to dress up a hardscape area are key reasons to consider container gardening.  One of the reasons that I grow many roses in containers is that I love roses and, unfortunately, my garden is in a really cold area, where many varieties simply are not winter hardy.  Roses planted in containers fill my garden with color, fragrance, and gorgeous floral focal points. Choose varieties with "continuous bloom" for container gardening.

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/323467Choose a pot shape, color, and size that will complement the rose you choose.  The featured planting should look balanced and the bloom color should be complemented by the pot color.  Hybrid teas and floribundas perform well in pots larger than 14” in diameter and at least 14” deep (the deeper the better).  Miniatures with a mature plant height of less than 18” are fine in a pot 10”-12” in diameter and 10”-12” deep.  Hot Cocoa, a floribunda, is perfectly suited to this brown round clay pot.

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/190cfdKeep in mind that I am gardening in  zone 3, where the growing season is short, and many of these container roses will not reach their mature plant size.  Expect the growth in a container to be about the same as the first-year growth of a rose you would plant in the ground.

The Location

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/74ea1aAll roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to develop and produce their flowers.  Shelter from the wind will prevent the blooms from dropping petals prematurely.  Be sure to choose companion plants that are compatible with the full sun conditions.  Alternatively, the surrounding plants or structures may provide shade to the under-planted companions, while the tall rose will have full sun exposure.  Your choice of companion plants will depend on these factors.

The Companions

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/21554bCombination container planting usually is approached with the design method of using a "thriller, filler, and spiller."  The thriller is the tall focal plant, the fillers are upright bushy plants, and the spillers hang over the pot edge. When you are working with roses, a different approach may be a better option.  Think of the rose as the thriller and filler.  The roses are quite bushy with beautiful foliage.  Adding additional upright bushy plants to a rose combination planter may create a scene in which the fillers engulf the rose (not the most attractive sight).  I like to use spillers that drape over the pot and hang down. This is especially true for hybrid tea and floribunda roses planted in pots that are less than 20” in diameter.  Sometimes simpler is better. 

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/0b5ad4Large, 22” diameter pots allow for a bit more room for additional plant material.  A tall hybrid tea planted with an assortment of low-growing herbs is a lovely combination. Roses with an upright growth habit are a better choice for a combination planting than mounding bush shapes.

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/9114c1The top choice in my garden of a single container combo is a dark red hybrid tea and green leaf Creeping Jenny in a large urn-shaped pot. Lysimachia nummularia, Creeping Jenny, is a hardy ground cover, and I transplant it from my flowerbeds each spring. The golden leaf variety of Creeping Jenny looks terrible with a rose.  I avoid using all plants with chartreuse foliage as planting companions in containers with roses. 

2014-02-01/Joannabanana/d5c545Planting within a color theme is fun and very eye catching.  I’ve done some “all pink” and “red & white” combos that were very pretty.


2014-02-01/Joannabanana/2d5dbdGrouping a number of different pots to create a container collection is one of my favorite garden projects.  I have two beds devoted to container collections.  One of the advantages is that roses are easier to maintain when they are in their own pots.  Using pots of assorted heights or elevating some of the pots will enhance the display.  These container beds have bark mulch under the pots to prevent weeds from growing in between the containers.2014-02-01/Joannabanana/a7570a

Container Planting Techniques

  • Ensure that your pot has drainage holes.
  • Cover the drainage holes with landscape fabric.
  • Pre-moisten potting soil and fill to a level where the transplant will sit about an inch below the top rim of the container. My favourite potting soil is Premier Pro-Mix BX.  Use new soil each year in the smaller containers and recycle half of the soil in large pots.
  • The soil moisture level at planting time should be similar to a damp sponge.  When you squeeze it, water will dribble out.
  • Loosen the roots to encourage them to spread with new growth.  Position the transplant in the pot.
  • Fill in the remaining space with pre-moistened soil, lightly compacting the soil to eliminate air pockets.
  • Add rose fertilizer.  My preference is a 4 -6 week granular fertilizer.
  • Cover the fertilizer with 1/4" of soil, finishing with a soil level 1" from the top rim. This will allow the water to soak in and not run off the pot when watering.
  • Mulch to help control moisture levels.  Bark mulch is my first choice for mulching containers.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of Epsom salts on top of the mulch.
  • Water until you see the water drain
    2014-02-04/Joannabanana/78afff 2014-02-04/Joannabanana/a94895 2014-02-04/Joannabanana/003d5d
     Trumpeter Floribunda Climbing Pinata Hybrid Tea  NOID

No picture available, but Jeanne Lajoie underplanted with miniature Sweet Fairy is very pretty.2014-02-01/Joannabanana/a865fe

Maintenance Tips

  • Elevate pots with "pot feet" to ensure good drainage.
  • Follow a consistent watering schedule.  Deep-watering until the water drains out the bottom is better for the rose than light watering every day. Allowing the soil to become parched or oversaturated will cause stress to the rose and the health of the plant will suffer.
  • Nutrients are depleted fairly quickly in container planting.  I add granular fertilizer every 6 weeks throughout the growing season.
  • Add Epsom salts monthly to maintain plant health.
  • Take appropriate action when there is any sign of disease or pest problems.2014-02-01/Joannabanana/f58daf

Roses in Zone 5 or lower are not likely to survive the winter in pots without special overwintering techniques.




Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Containers for Roses, great idea! by Newyorkrita Jul 10, 2018 6:15 PM 20
roses in containers by tantefrancine Apr 14, 2018 5:52 PM 0
I needed this info! by lovesblooms Feb 8, 2014 1:17 PM 1
Thanks Everyone by Joannabanana Feb 7, 2014 2:40 PM 0
Great Pictures! by TBGDN Feb 7, 2014 2:15 PM 1

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