How many have had to resort to containers

barb_roselover_inMarch 5, 2013

I would like to hear something from those of you that have had to resort to containers for your roses because of health, age, help or whatever. Would also like to hear how you are handling having to do this to still keep your love of roses.going. So many of us just can't give up entirely. Thanks for your answers Want to incorporate this as part of our program for this month. Barb

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Fortunately, I haven't had to resort to containers due to health or age, but the "collector" side of me always HAS to try something new, even if there are a few dozen fewer spaces in the ground than pots waiting. Add the need to be able to protect plants used for breeding so the flowers and hips aren't damaged or eaten, plus way too many seedlings germinating each spring and that all adds up to a bunch of pots! Then, there are the roses which just won't "do" in the ground. Very small micro minis and aggressive ground covers very often don't play well with other plants, particularly when the former tend to be real favorites with the rabbits! Kim

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:35PM
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seil zone 6b MI

My first experience with pots was when I dug up my mom's rose bed to rebuild and raise it. They spent the whole season in pots on the patio and were gorgeous! Better than they had been in the ground. That also happened to be the summer I found a whole new rose world on line and got very into it. By the following spring I had ordered way more roses than I had room for in the bed so I decided to experiment with growing (and wintering) roses in pots. I wasn't sure it would work out but it did and my patio pot collection has been as high as 60 pots at one point. I'm down to about 35 now but that will probably grow again, lol! The pots have some advantages and disadvantages for me. They're fairly easy to care for during the season but way more work to winterize!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:56PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Not really my favourite way to grow roses (all that feeding and watering). In truth, my home garden had no soil at all and is, in effect, a total pot garden with 3 raised beds (giant pots in other words) and I was relieved to be able to transfer a lot of needy plants to the allotment.
Am steeling myself for a whole heap of potting to come whilst transitioning between the allotment and our new woodland - an extended nightmare of potting, moving and transplanting.
Even so, needs must - I would do whatever was necessary to grow the plants I love, including the endless watering marathons.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:08AM
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My entire rose garden is in pots, due to the fact that I am only going to be living in this location for a few more years at most. My original plan had been to have about 30 or so roses in pots--I thought that was a reasonable number, as previously I had had as many as 150 house plants so was very used to growing in containers. It turns out that roses are much easier and healthier growing in containers than any of the tropicals I had been growing, so my roses in containers went out of control, as I admit I have something of an addictive personality esp. when I am somewhat new at something. The rose addiction, though, seems to be lasting longer as I'm still ordering more here beginning my fourth year.

I have found many kinds of roses that you wouldn't expect do very well in pots. Even though most are only in 16" pots, they are mostly healthy and blooming. The ones that would get very large in the ground are still getting very large. Sir Thomas Lipton is more than 6 feet tall and about 4 feet wide. The rare rambler Arcadia has some runners more than 12 feet long (from a 16 inch pot!) and its runners mostly covered all the other roses when put into the garage. I am, however, trying to coerce a work aquantance to allow me to plant it along her fence since if it gets any longer or if those runners start branching out she'll be immoble.

While we are on the subject of containers, I do have a question for more experienced rose gardeners. While growing non-rose plants in containers, both through my own experience and through research, I had a rule that plants that were hardy at least two full zones further north than you were would survive winters outside in contaners without protection. I have a yarrow variety my aunt gave me when I was a child in the sixties that has followed me around several moves, often staying in containers outside without protection. I have experimented with this with roses as well--this winter my albas and gallicas, and a few others rated zone 4 or better--stayed outside due to the garage being full. So far they seem to still be healthy--I'll let everyone know how they did once spring finally arives here. Has anyone else dared experiement with this?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:45AM
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With my recent purchase of unplanned roses from VG, I'm going to have to start using some pots. I've been going back with searches on everything from size and type of pot to planting material. I know there have been some great threads. Any resource recommendations or links to previous threads that would be helpful?

Barb - There was design article in the most recent Fine Gardening that had some hints and ideas for maintaining a garden as people get older. Some suggestions were fairly basic, but there were some good ideas in there as well.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 8:52AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

I've kept extra gallica suckers outside during the winter. They went in the shelter of the big oaks, and were covered with leaves. It was long enough ago for that to have been a real winter, and they were fine.

My bigger concern is that gallicas have *NOT* liked pot life, IME. So there have been real limits to how long they could be kept in a pot. Since mine were just orphan suckers, waiting for somebody to want them, it wasn't a big loss when they pooped out and went in the garbage.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 9:36AM
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Maryl zone 7a

I started growing roses in pots because of our horrible clay soil. The room in my raised beds being limited, I began growing a few in pots instead. Now I'm glad I do as my stooping, crawling around on my knees days are not what they used to be. Fertilizing is a snap compared to in the ground. A couple of down sides are the height of the rose must now be on the shorter side or our wind will tip the pot over, and watering. I've had roses in pots now since the late 80's early 90's and it's worked out well for me in my climate/zone.......Maryl

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 2:41PM
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minflick(9b/7, Boulder Creek, CA)

My pot population has ebbed and flowed as my housing altered. I'm new to roses in pots, but I've got 4 grocery mini's in 3 gallon pots (I think?) that have been quite happy there, and are coming back nicely after mostly going nekkid over the winter. I've grown lilies that were extremely happy in large pots - lilies like to be a good 7 inches below dirt level, and about that under them, which means you need big pots. My lilies have done nothing but bloom and multiply for me. At THIS house, the lilies have made it into the ground, but because I'm a bit shy on good dirt and non-driveway sunlight, I still have some roses in pots - they have been in either 15 gallon nursery pots, or half wine barrels. Only the ones in too much shade have refused to be happy for me.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:19PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

For mobility issues, raised beds might be better than individual pots: less watering required and less need to repot frequently.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:49PM
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There is a nurseryman who sells at our local farmers market . Below I have copied his writing explaining his view on potting soils in a newsletter he sends out. I am having better results with the peat/pumice mix when I add some sand and some of my soil than with the usual store bought mixes. As Gary says, the bagged mixes at the stores usually have a more limited life. Using longer lasting mixes allows you to save some work by repotting less often. If I were not growing roses in the ground, I would be using raised beds. We have an elderly neighbor who does all of her gardening in tall brick sided raised beds and it allows her to continue gardening. She can sit on the bricks and work with the plants. A concrete path allows her to use her walker to easily reach the beds. I find that the polyanthas and smaller roses do very well in pots and that young hybrid teas like 1/2 barrels or 15 gallon cans. I don't mind hand watering them but the summer can dry a pot with a large rose in it out in half a day. Dry roses quit flowering in my experience. The other caution is about sunlight baking the sides of the pot and killing roots. Some growers will place a mark on the sun side of the pot so that they don't turn it and cook another area of roots. I prefer just to shade my pots or place them in larger pots so that I can keep all the roots cool and in good health.

I'm not trying to sell Gary's soils, but I wanted to share his views on potting soils and the recent use of growers to use a soil with a very short life in order to raise plants for market fast but which cause trouble for the plants/ buyers later whe the plants are installed. We both think bareroot is best for planting in pots and in the ground.

From Gary's Newsletter-

LHN Potting Soil ACID MIX
1 cubic foot $10
Although this soil was specially created for Azaleas, Blueberries, Camellias, and Ferns it is not too acidic for most plants. I use it in containers for growing all annuals (flowers and vegetables) and plants that require lots of moisture (Hydrangeas and Roses). It is especially valuable for outdoor use in smaller containers (6" or less in diameter) where moisture retention is critical. It can lose about 10-15% of its volume within 18 months as the peat moss breaks down, but retains excellent permeability due to the pumice. It is actually a good soil substitute or replacement when used in the ground. I have beautiful Azalea in Ferns in the ground growing in 100% ACID MIX for well over a decade.
Ingredients: Peat moss & Pumice (about 1:1)

1 cubic foot $10
This soil was created for those plants that require well-drained (highly permeable) soil especially in permanent (at least several years) applications. It is also ideal for all indoor potting applications. We haven't observed any significant shrinkage of its volume over many years of use. It's water retention is about 25% lower than the ACID MIX, so use with caution in small containers outdoors. It is acidic enough to grow most acid-loving plants.
Ingredients: Pumice, peat moss, sand (about 6:3:1)

Our potting soils do not have time release nutrients added. The brands that include it can be toxic if moistened and not used immediately. I like to add a time release, like Osmocote, at the time of planting and follow it with organic fertilizers at monthly intervals (we sell these also). Plants potted in our soils can sit in a deep saucer of water for extended periods to provide moisture when you are on vacation. The majority of other brands will rot and stink when left submerged. Also water draining from pots filled with our soil is clear. Many other brands leach out a brownish red color that discolors pavement.

When I grow our trees and shrubs in containers, I mix our ACID MIX with construction sand at a ratio of 1:1. Many of our customers like this mixture for the added weight. I like using sand because it is the main component of the finest natural soils and allows plants grown in it to perform better when installed into the landscape.

A University of California researcher confirms that just about all commercial brands of potting soil are meant for 5 months of use. This short period is due to the temporary nature of the materials chosen. Most potting soils contain composted bark and/or sawdust which lose permeability and gradually become less habitable as the chunks of organic matter decompose and shrink. Apparently the 5 month period is acceptable as most potted plants in the US (other than mild Orange County) freeze or are allowed to die during winter and replaced every spring along with fresh soil.

These same researcher also found that most commercial soils, even when fresh, are suitable for growing only a small percentage of extra hardy (tolerant of poor soil) plants. They were able to grow vigorous Impatiens but found that ferns and Cyclamen did poorly. I have also found that most potting soils are not permeable enough to allow vigorous root development, especially when used in large containers. Most potting soils are actually compost. The more you use, the less oxygen is available for root health. This is why some "experts" tell you to increase container size in small increments. Too much fresh compost at one time will suffocate and kill the roots! (see below)

In contrast, our potting soils behave more like real soil. The more you use, the better the results. You can use them over and over. Just follow the rules of crop rotation and don't plant the same (or closely related) plant twice in a row. Even more important, you can irrigate freely. Our soils are nearly immune from too much watering. Many of our customers have used our potting soils in the ground, either as an amendment, and often as a replacement with excellent results.

Don't give up trying to grow a particular kind of plant until you've tried growing it in our potting soils.
The Science Behind Potting Soil

Plant roots require water retention, air exchange, support, insulation, and nutrient storage.
Unfortunately, the first two of these are usually in opposition. Any soil that has high water retention has less air exchange, just because water is taking the place of air.

Our Laguna Hills Nursery soils combine peat moss, the best natural material for water storage (Clay holds more water, but won't release it) and pumice, the most permeable natural material (70% space, 30% rock).

In our atmosphere the oxygen content is roughly 21% and the carbon dioxide is 0.03%.

Research from the University of North Carolina shows that the air in the soil of container plants can be anywhere from 0%-21% oxygen and 0.03%-21% carbon dioxide. High levels of carbon dioxide can inhibit root growth. More importantly the oxygen must remain above 12% for active root growth and above 3% to stay alive.
The problem with most potting soils is that they depend upon the structure of organic matter to create free air flow. Peat moss, bark and sawdust all have great air exchange initially, but because they are not permanent materials, problems eventually occur. Generally (different materials and even parts of organic materials decompose at different rates) within 6-18 months the airflow through the organic materials decreases considerably. Moist organic matter gradually turns to "muck". On top of that the decomposition continues and compounds more toxic than carbon dioxide are produced when the supply of oxygen is compromised.

I've noticed that plants under such poor conditions produce small, off-colored foliage usually showing tip burn (resembling salt burn).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 11:13PM
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Thanks, Kiity. Very informative.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 7:38PM
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barb_in_dc(z7 DC)

All my roses are in containers, including the two climbers I have growing on a trellis. This is because my garden is a concrete patio in a high-rise apartment building in the middle of the city. Been growing them for years, now. I can't really say whether they are easier than in the ground, but they do take some work, at least initially. Plus, they need to be re-potted every now and then. That's a PITA, and you may need some help with that. We have a couple of people on staff in the building who are available to haul bags of potting soil and other stuff from the car to the patio. Honestly, without them, I wouldn't be able to garden anymore because I'm passed the ability to haul those bags myself.

Once they are in the proper soil, though, keeping them watered and fertilized and dead-headed isn't much of chore. I use the largest pots I can find at the Home Depot for roses, while the other perennials (phlox, alstroemeria, spirea, clematis, etc.) go into smaller pots.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 1:55PM
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Everyone says a 15-20 gallon pot for a larger shrub rose, but how big is that (inches)? I have some David Austins coming in the mail and I want to keep them in pots so I can haul them away with me when I go off to graduate school.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 1:24PM
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The largest pots at Lowe's (24" diameter, I think) are more than big enough for my roses. Admittedly, I only have one established rose in a pot right now, but I've got 5 new roses in them and they seem very happy - be forwarned, the ones I got (terra cotta colored plastic) need a few side holes placed near the bottom for better drainage in my Florida spring rains. Poor SdlM nearly drowned this week!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 11:18AM
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