Roses are wonderful plants, and perhaps the most famous flower in the world.
Whether your knowledge of roses stops at the single deep red flower held between the teeth of thousands of silver-screen romantic heroes, or extends to the hundreds of cultivars available – an endless rainbow of colours, shapes, and sizes – there’s no denying that they’re something special.
If you don’t have the luxury of a large garden with beds for planting and tending flowers, then fear not: Growing your own roses is still a possibility. Thankfully, many rose varieties can be grown in pots, giving you the chance to grow roses for your patio, balcony, or even windowsill!
In this article we’ll introduce a few rose varieties suited to containers, and outline the care tips you’ll need to get them thriving.
What types of rose can I grow in a pot?
When choosing to grow roses in a container, you need to take special care. Certain varieties aren’t suited at all to container growth, and others require certain conditions to be able to thrive.
As a rule, avoid rambling roses. These are prone to quickly outgrow the confines of a pot, and prefer to be grown in the ground.
Below you’ll find a selection of rose cultivars suited for various pot sizes. Each of the suggestions below has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, indicating a plant that will grow particularly well in British gardens.
Cultivars in this category are bred specifically for pots, with smaller root systems, less enthusiastic growth, and a smaller overall size. Varieties like Rosa Anna Ford ‘Harpiccolo’ are great examples. The bright crimson flower with mottled orange colouration packs a bold punch for its size, and is a perfect showcase of the character and vitality roses can bring to your garden.
These roses lend themselves best to pots with a diameter and height of at least 30cm each.
The tumbling white-pink bloom of the Rosa Queen Mother ‘Korquemu’ variety will look charming in any container, and with a height of 0.5m, the overall height is not too imposing.
Standard roses align best with the general conception of what roses should look like, although there is still a large amount of variety within these cultivars.
Ground cover roses
Rosa Berkshire ‘Korpinka’ is a fine example of a ground cover rose that can be encouraged to grow in a pot. The attractive, deep pink flowers with their pretty white centres are an inviting addition to any garden.
This type of rose will be fairly low, reaching a height of about half a metre: Ideal for a container in a spot where you don’t want too much vertical obstruction.
When growing shorter climbing roses, use a pot with diameter and height of at least 45cm to give them ample space to grow.
Shorter climbing roses
Varieties like Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’ are suitable for growing in containers. Boasting pink and white flowers with bold streaks of yellow and even orange, these relatively thorn-free roses will make a beautiful addition to your outdoor space.
As with ground cover roses, shorter climbing roses will do best in pots with height and diameter of at least 45cm.
It’s possible to grow other types of roses in pots, but you’ll need to invest in a container with diameter and height of at least 60cm to give your plant a realistic chance at healthy growth.
Roses suitable to this type of growth include shrub, bush, and climbing varieties.
What type of compost should I use?
When growing roses in pots, go for something loam based. This will keep conditions moist and hold a good amount of nutrients, giving your roses a solid foundation for growth.
John Innes 2 or 3 are recommended. You can add multi-purpose compost or manure to make the soil richer, just ensure that manure is nicely rotted down first.
Before you plant your roses, mix some rose feed into the compost. This will give your roses the nutrients they need to grow strong from the outset.
Roses in containers: Care and growing tips
Once you’ve found the rose variety that suits your needs, the care tips in this section should help you to achieve strong and healthy growth.
Choosing a spot
Find somewhere sunny, where your roses will get sunlight for at least half of the daylight hours. Take a look at the specific growing requirements for the varieties you choose to see which aspect they prefer.
We recommend filling your container with compost after finding a suitable spot, as this will make it a whole lot easier to carry.
If you’re using bare-root plants, pot them up in November ahead of growing season. If you’re using container grown plants, you’ve got a longer window: October through to April should do the trick.
And if you’re unsure of the difference:
- Bare-root plants are grown in the ground then uprooted and prepared for sale. Soil is removed from the roots, making them fully visible – hence the name.
- Container grown plants are grown and sold in a container (shock!), leaving it up to the gardener to transplant them into a suitable container of their own.
Water your roses regularly, ensuring the soil stays moist. Avoid over-saturating them however, as this can hinder rather than help growth.
Where possible, raise your pots above the ground to let excess water drain out. You can use bricks, pot feet, or any other secure base to do this. Take a look underneath next time you water to check that the runoff escapes the soil.
Roses like a fortnightly glug of liquid fertiliser in spring or summer. This will help them to grow strong and sturdy, and will encourage vibrant colouration.
Add a dose of rose feed to the soil surface each spring for even more nutrition.
You can top-dress the soil every second year, too. To do this, remove the top few centimetres of soil and add a new, fresh layer in its place.
Keep in mind that roses are particularly hungry customers and will do best when fed frequently and adequately.
With the larger varieties of rose mentioned above, you may need to repot every few years to prevent their root systems from becoming cramped. When this is required, use a larger pot with all new compost.
Each rose type has different pruning requirements and attempting a whistle-stop tour risks omitting their specific needs. So instead, we’ll refer you to the instructions that accompany each variety you buy.
Taking care to prune as required will give you stronger, healthier, and prettier roses, so this is something we recommend spending time familiarising yourself with.
Pests and problems
Roses are prone to attract aphids, so keep a vigilant eye out for green visitors and, god forbid, their small white eggs. If you see either, remove them by hand and check to see whether they return. If so, seek a pesticide.
Powdery mildew is also a threat if your roses get too dry. Ensure frequent watering, and if possible keep soil in the shade while the plant is in the sun. Also, water the soil directly rather than the whole plant.
A rose by any other name…
Regardless of Shakespeare’s philosophising on the matter, roses are lovely flowers, whatever you want to call them. We hope this guide has demonstrated that roses are within your grasp whether you have an enormous garden, or just a small patio or balcony to work with.
With the right variety, the right pot, and the right care tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the endless beauty of roses whatever your outdoor space looks like.