Written by davethetreecenters • June 01 Growing Roses in Planters and Pots

Roses and summer go together perfectly, and the enduring beauty of these bushes makes them always desirable. They are mostly grown out in the garden, but they also make great container plants, to display on a terrace or to grow on a balcony. More and more of us live with smaller gardens and paved courtyards, so container growing has become more important than ever. You can expand the range of plants you grow and bring the gorgeous colors and scent of roses right up close by planting them in containers, so let’s see how to do it.

Quick Tips on Growing Roses in Planters and Pots

Types of Roses to Grow

You can grow any kind of rose at all in a container, although you will need a large one if you want to grow a climbing rose. Tree roses are an excellent choice for planters – you can put flowers around them for a fabulous display. For window boxes or wall planters, consider growing Drift roses or other Miniature varieties – these are also a gorgeous way to fill along planter box. It makes sense to choose a modern, re-blooming variety like the Knockout roses to give you the most blooms all summer.

Choice of Container

Almost anything can be used as a container, from wooden boxes to Chinese ceramics. Your rose bush needs just two things – enough room and drainage. For a full-size bush growing 3 or 4 feet tall, use a planter that is at least 18 inches across, either round or square. Remember that a square planter contains more soil than a round one of the same width across, so they can be preferable – more soil volume means your plant will live for more years in the pot. Smaller roses of course can be grown in smaller pots, a good rule might be to use a pot that is two-thirds of the width of the mature bush. Clay (terra-cotta) pots will give you the best root health, because they draw air down into the soil, but they do need more frequent watering.

Good drainage is essential, so make sure you have at least one good-sized drainage hole. Simply cover it with a stone, a piece of broken pot, or a piece of screening wire. Don’t put a layer of gravel in the bottom, it’s a myth that it ‘improves drainage’ – in fact it makes it worse, and it reduces the amount of soil available to your bush and its completely unnecessary. And no, some pieces of charcoal in the bottom won’t mean you don’t need drainage – removing excess water is essential. If you don’t need to, it is best not to use a saucer under the pot, as you bush shouldn’t be left standing in water.

The Soil Mix

Roses are what old-school gardeners call ‘heavy feeders’ – they need lots of nutrients, and they enjoy growing in rich clay soils when out in the garden. This means the soil you fill the pot with is important, for the very best results. Start with a good-quality potting soil, preferably one designed for outdoor planters and even better, one designed for trees outdoors in pots. If you have access to garden soil, mix some into the potting soil. a ratio of one-part soil to three or four parts potting soil is about right.

Planting Your Rose Bush

Your new plants will probably be already in a container. Soak it well the night before you are planning to plant – which can be at any time of year. Cover the drainage hole and put a layer of your blended soil in the bottom, so that if you stand the pot inside, the soil in the pot is one inch below the top of the container. Now slide the bush out of the pot or cut down the sides to make removing it easier. Place the root ball on the soil layer, and add more soil around it, pressing it down gently as you go, until it is full, leaving one to two inches of room at the top to make watering easier. Cover the root ball with no more than one inch of fresh soil. Water thoroughly and you are done.


Full sun is always best for roses, although a couple of hours of shade during the day will be tolerated well. Too much shade and you won’t see a lot of blooms.

Watering and Fertilizer

Water regularly, but only water when the top of the soil feels dry. Every time, water until some comes out of the drainage hole, then leave it alone until the next time. In hot weather you might need to water every day or two, at other times it could be a week or two. Use a liquid plant food every couple of weeks, from the time you see the buds swelling until the last buds are ready to open. Choose one blended for roses, although any balanced food for flowering plants will work well. If you don’t feed you won’t get the best results, and you can use organic or traditional fertilizers.

Caring for Roses in Planters and Pots

If you choose a modern, disease-resistant rose variety, then you won’t need to spray. If you do see some greenflies on the buds, wash then off with a squirt of water that has a drop of liquid soap in it. Keep an eye out for caterpillars that can eat the leaves, they can usually be removed by hand or shaken off into a bowl of hot water.

Once flowering starts you should remove the flowers as they begin to drop petals. Cut then back to the next rose, or the first full-sized leaf – more buds will soon develop. In late winter prune according to the type of rose you are growing.

If you are growing in zone 5 or colder you will need to provide some winter protection for your bush. Placing it in a shed or garage that is around freezing point is ideal, but not anywhere warm. Otherwise you can bury the whole container in the garden and protect is as you would a rose in the garden. Roses grow fast, so you can also just buy new bushes each spring – that way you get to try lots of different varieties.

***To check the availability of any of the plants mentioned here, go to our Home Page, click on the ‘Search’ button in the upper right, and type in your choice – both common names and botanical ones will work. If, sadly, you find the item already sold out, click on the ‘notify me’ box beside the size you want, and you will get an email the moment that plant is available again.