How to plant roses in pots

Growing roses in pots couldn’t be easier. Follow our guide to planting roses in containers and enjoy their splendidly ruffled show through summer into autumn.

Why plant roses in pots?

Roses have a reputation for being fussy prima donnas. But the reality couldn’t be more different. Truth is, these flouncy fancies are easy to grow. Yes, even if you’re a beginner gardener.

There are so many reasons we love roses. And one of those is that they’re great for container gardening. You don’t need a vast space to grow them. Stick ‘em in pots and they’ll thrive in the smallest places, from balconies to patios, terraces to front door steps. You can even grow some varieties in indoor pots.

And, in case you were interested: here are 5 more things you might not have guessed about roses…sumptuous, scruffy divas that they are.

Which roses can I plant in pots?

Not all roses will thrive in pots. Your best choice for container gardens are miniature roses or patio roses.

Dreaming of a bountiful-bloomed climber? Compact climbing roses will grow well in deep outdoor pots. And half standard rose trees, which will grow up to 1.5m in height, will also be at home in a roomy container.

Bare root vs potted roses

When you’re choosing the right rose for your pot, it’s worth considering whether you want a potted rose (a plant in a pot with some foliage already showing) or a bare root rose (basically a stick with roots, which comes in the nud without a pot). Given the description, it might seem like an easy decision, but there are pros and cons to each.

Potted roses can be bought all year round and planted whenever. They’re often already in flower in you buy them in the summer. That said, until they get their roots properly established, they’ll need a lot more watering and mollycoddling than bare root roses.

Bare root roses are available in a dormant state, from early winter through to spring. In terms of looks they’re nothing to write home about when they arrive, but…patience. If planted straight away, they’ll hit the ground running in summer and will need less watering and feeding overall.

Yellow roses in a yellow pot

When to plant roses in pots

Roses in pots can be planted at any time of the year.

Bareroot roses should be planted as soon as you get your hands on them, between November and March.

How to plant roses in containers

Planting up a pot is super easy. Roses generally need deep and spacious pots to grow in. Think 45cm x 45cm in size and up. When they’re filled with compost, the container can be pretty heavy, so unless you’re made of muscles, it’s a wise choice to move the pot into its final resting place *before* planting your rose. Pick a sunny spot if you can. Roses love the sun.

Planting potted roses

  1. Choose a deep pot with drainage holes in the bottom. Place a few stones or broken bits of pottery (crocks) over the holes to improve drainage.
  2. Mix up some good old John Innes No. 3 compost with multipurpose compost or well-rotted manure and half-fill your pot. Try your rose in there for size to make sure that, when it’s planted, the base of the plant will sit about 5cm below the rim.
  3. Squeeze your plant out of its nursery pot and place it in the middle of the pot. Gardening gloves are useful here, to save thorns from getting the upper hand.
  4. Fill the rest of the pot up with your compost mix, stopping a couple of centimetres below the rim. Firm your rose in and give it a good slurp of water to make it feel right at home.
A single reddish pink rose

Bedding in bare root roses

You can plant bare root roses in pots in more or less the same way as potted roses but, before introducing them to compost, you’ll need to soak the roots in a bucket of water for 2-3 hours to make sure they’re rehydrated.

Some people like to sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi on the roots (and into the pot) before planting to help their poor, twiggy-looking roses get to grips with life more quickly. It’s not essential, but feel free to go to town and give your naked baby the best start in life.

Pink rose bush

How to care for roses in pots

Plants in pots *always* need more water than plants in the ground. Keep an eye on your freshly planted roses and poke a finger into the compost now and then to check on moisture levels. If it’s dry 5cm down, give it a drink. Potted roses will need a bit more love than bare root roses, initially.

If you’re growing roses indoors, make sure they’re in a sunny spot - a south-facing window is ideal - and water them regularly

Don’t be fooled by roses’ demure looks. These girls are ravenous. Make sure you keep them well fed by sprinkling rose fertiliser on the surface of their pots in spring and piling on a 5cm layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost sometime between November and February. Every other year, dig out the top 5cm of compost and replace it with fresh stuff.

Lightly prune them in February or March to keep your roses looking and growing their best.

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