Growing roses in containers Now’s the time to start.
Most of all, think aboutcontainer size, soil mix, how you’ll feed and water Why bother growing roses in pots? Heavy, unworkable soil likeClaudia Brotherton has in her San Diego garden is one good reason.Containers allow her to grow roses that she couldn’t growotherwise. More than 150 plants–miniatures, polyanthas, floribundas,hybrid teas, and grandifloras –thrive in her containers; one has syayedin the same pot for four years. The photographs above show how Mrs. Brotherton prepares and plantsbare-root roses. If you’d like to try her method, this is the timeto plant.
Choose any favorite rose, or use the list at right to start.Smaller, more compact roses (miniatures, floribundas, polyanthas) areusually best if you’re a beginner; they can also stay longer incontainers. Pot size and type. Before buying a container, consider the size,shape, and habit of the rose you intend to plant. For most of herroses, Mrs. Brotherton uses 18- to 20-inch Mexican clay pots. A typical5-gallon plastic container (12 inches wide by 14 inches deep) issuitable for compact growers. Larger roses, such as tree roses, needbigger pots for proper proportion as well as for root space.
Wood has an advantage because it doesn’t heat up on warm days.Half-barrels (23-inch inside diameter) provide plenty of root space forlarge roses, but they are heavy and awkward to move. Plastic containerskeep moisture in longest. Soil. Unamended garden soil rarely works well for growing roses incontainers; roses prefer a faster-draining mix. You can buy packagedsoil mix ($3 to $4 a cubic foot) or make your own (equal parts finesand, peat moss, and fine fir bark make a good basic mix). Since thebasic ingredients have little nutrient value, you’ll need to addfertilizer right away if you make your own mix.
Most packaged mixesinclude starter fertilizer. Water. Mrs. Brotherton’s roses are all watered by anautomatic drip system. She uses spray-type emitters to wet the entirerootball.
On hot summer days, she sets her system to come on twice aday for about 5 minutes each time; otherwise she waters needed. How often you’ll need to water depends on the weather, thesize of the pot, the soil mix, and the size and condition of the plant.Feel the soil; water when it’s dry to the touch 1 inch below thesurface. Fertilizer. Watch and judge how well the rose grows. Healthygreen leaves, vigorous growth, and plenty of flowers mean fertilizer isadequate; slow or off-color growth usually indicates not enoughfertilizer. Most rose growers use either a granular slow-release fertilizerthree or four times a season or a dilute liquid fertilizer with eachwatering.
Repotting. Repotting is usually necessary every two to threeyears, though some roses grow well much longer in their containers. Mainsign of overgrowth is a plant failing to respond to fertilizer. Whenroses are dormant, knock them out of their containers; prune roots,discard old soil, and replant. Winter protection. In coldest climates (where temperatures dip to20| and hold for three or more days), roses growing in containers aresusceptible to damage.
If possible, move pots to a protected spot, suchas a garage or storage shed, for the coldest months. Don’t let soildry out; check frequently and water if necessary. Photo: 1.
Prune roots so all fit into pot without bending ortwisting. Cut away any broken portions Photo: 2. After filling pot halfway, build and then firm a cone ofsoid to fit under the pruned root system Photo: 3. Spread roots over cone. Check final height of plant inpot; set so bud union (swelling where rose was budded to its rootstock)is level with pot rim Photo: 4. Add remaining soil, firming it as you go, until pot isfilled to about 1 inch from rim Photo: 5.
Water until pot drains, then water again. Add more soilif necessary. Make sure soil is thoroughly wetted Photo: Roses thrive in low bowls, tapered pots, and straight-sidedpots in Claudia Brotherton’s San Diego garden.
To keep roots fromanchoring in soil below, pots rest on aggregate concrete pads; lava rockis spread between