What Types of Roses Grow Best in Containers?

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Posted on 01/29/2022

How to Grow Roses in Containers

You can grow beautiful roses on your patio and in containers in sunny spots throughout your landscape. But there are some special considerations to keep in mind like which type of rose is best, container size, caring for your container rose, and soil.

What Types of Roses Grow Best in Containers?

Let’s begin with a bit about roses classes. Rose are grouped into classifications like hybrid tea, floribunda, and shrub, which you are likely familiar with. Part of a rose’s classification is based on its size at maturity. This is important for containers because very large roses (and most climbers) will simply not grow well over many seasons in containers.

red rose in patio container

Best Types of Roses for Containers

FLORIBUNDA The rounded, well foliated growth habit of floribunda makes them attractive for containers from both a size and aesthetic perspective.

GROUNDCOVERS Groundcover roses are an excellent choice due to their low growth and quick spreading habit.

MINIATURE ROSES The smaller size and nice growth habit make miniature roses ideal for containers. Plant them in smaller containers in front of larger ones for a beautiful tiered garden effect.

HYBRID TEA Smaller hybrid teas can do well in containers. No larger than 4’- to 5’ if your pot is quite large.

SHRUB ROSES Shrubs can be happy in containers, but you will need to be picky. Shrubs grow from 2’ to 10’ so be aware of the plants mature size. Stick to the hybrid tea rule of thumb, no more than 5’ tall and that’s for a large container.

Shop for container roses.

The Container

Selecting the right container is very important. Roses need two things from the soil environment they are grown in. They like to send their roots deep and they need good drainage. Roses hate wet feet which is essentially soil that does not drain well. Note the word “wet” as opposed to “damp”. Damp is fine, but wet is when the water stands and does not drain. So, a well-draining container is a must.

Select a container with a minimum of 20” in diameter and just as deep if not deeper. Rose roots like to spread out and down so width and depth are both important. Reserve smaller pots for miniature roses. Use different sized containers to give your garden additional interest.

Container Materials

The container can be made of most anything from ceramic to wood to plastic. In fact, if you live in a hot climate, plastic will hold moisture better and you won’t need to water as often. TIP FOR CONTAINER ROSES IN HOT CLIMATES: Put the container that the rose is planted in into a larger container to create a barrier, so the sun doesn’t directly hit the sides of the rose’s container, essentially creating a double wall. This will help prevent the soil from heating up as much.

The Soil

Once you have your container selected it’s time to add soil. Choose a good premium potting soil that is suitable for your area. Ask for a recommendation of soil type at your local garden center and let them know you are planting roses in containers. Avoid soil with lots of fertilizer. Young roses don’t like a lot of fertilizer so it’s best to add that over the season. A little starter fertilizer in the soil is okay.

Planting

Plant the roses as you would when planting a rose directly in the ground. Whether purchased potted or bareroot, the methods are the same as if planting in the ground.

Caring for Your Container Rose

Now that you’ve chosen your rose, its container, and how to plant it, let’s cover some care tips.

Feeding: Just as with roses in the ground, use a time released granular coupled with liquid fertilizers. If you live in an area with lots of rain those fertilizers may leach out more quickly than for a rose in the ground, particularly the liquid-based fertilizers. So, you may need to increase the application frequency slightly. But err on the side of caution so you don’t get fertilizer burn.

Pruning: Roses in pots require the same grooming as for roses in the ground.

Overwintering: If you live in a colder growing area where you get hard freezes during the winter, you will need to offer your container roses some winter protection. The simplest thing to do is put the containers in an unheated building like a garage or shed. This will send them into dormancy but keep them away from cold winter winds which can desiccate their canes. Much like cold, dry winds dry out our skin, the same can happen to roses.

If an enclosed space isn’t available, place them in a sheltered position on south side of a building and put them right up against it. Since the winter sun is lower in the southern sky and most winds come from the west or north during the winter, this will offer your rose warmth and protection. Have a blanket handy that you can throw over them if a particular hard freeze is coming, don’t use plastic as that will artificially heat up the rose’s environment causing them to prematurely come out of dormancy. If you are expecting a heavy snow, let the snow be the insulator. No need to cover them. Be mindful of hardiness zones for the rose and your garden.

Soil Exhaustion

Every 3 years or so you will need to repot the rose. Over time the soil in the pot gets exhausted and/or leaches out which drops the soil level. Every few years when you prune the rose pull it out of the pot. Brush away loose soil from the roots and even feel free to give the roots a light trim if the rose appears root bound which happens when the roots overwhelm the growing space. Trimming at the same time as you prune minimizes shock. When you replant the rose use fresh potting soil. This helps replenish the growing environment for your rose.

Underplanting

Roses can be underplanted in pots with other plants. Shallow rooted plants like annuals, many herbs, and some small perennials work well. Think of plants that spill over the side of the pot like creeping thyme. They look great with roses and really set them off nicely.

Refer to this complete Guide to Rose Companion Plants for more ideas.

In the end, growing roses in containers is not much different from growing them in the ground. Just choose an adequately sized container, appropriate soil, and most importantly, the right rose. You can have a multi-year, thriving garden on any patio, deck or even a sunny balcony.