Choose the right container. Wooden tubs work well; plastic pots hold moisture, while unglazed terra-cotta dries out quickly. A smaller miniature rose (from 6 to 18 inches tall) needs a pot at least 6 to 8 inches deep; a 2- to 3-foot standard rose requires a container at least 18 inches deep. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole.
Improve the soil. Add one scoop of organic matter, such as composted manure, mushroom compost, or garden compost, for every three scoops of regular potting soil. Some gardeners swear by adding a scoop of peat moss (to retain moisture), as well as a scoop of bonemeal (for extra nitrogen and phosphorus). Add water-holding polymer granules (available from garden centers and mail-order sources) to absorb moisture and release it as the soil dries. Feed plants weekly throughout the growing season. Use liquid fish fertilizer, or make compost tea (mix a handful of compost or composted manure in a gallon of water).
Plant properly. Position rose roots on a mound of soil, with the bud union or base of the plant 1 to 2 inches below the rim of the container. Add enough soil to fill the pot.
Water smartly. Check potted roses daily, and water when the soil feels dry. If you live in a hot, dry climate, set up a drip irrigation system for your containers, and control watering with a timer. Mulch to preserve soil moisture. A 1/2-inch frosting of pebbles or wood chips adds a finished look to plantings and may help keep squirrels and other rascals from digging in the pots.
Protect plants from temperature extremes. Insulate potted roses by slipping them into slightly larger containers; pack peat moss between the pots. Remember, part of the beauty of potted roses is their portability. If they get too much afternoon sun, move them to a slightly shadier spot. In winter, transfer potted roses out of the garden to a protected location where their roots won't freeze. An unheated garage is fine, as long as you wrap the pot with layers of burlap or set it in a styrene ice chest and pack leaves around it.
Continued on page 2: Fill Small Spaces