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Grow Fabulous Roses in Containers—Anne Reeves Shares her Secrets

Still going strong–hybrid tea ‘Apricot Candy’ was Anne’s first container rose five years ago. (Anne Reeves)

“Roses don’t like to live in pots. They all want their feet in the ground.” I thought that old rose adage was true—until I met author, photographer, and blogger, Anne Reeves. Her home garden in the Seattle area is overflowing with roses in containers. And many have been thriving for years in their pots—so I asked her, how does she do that? Here are her tips for rose container success in your garden.

Get to Know Roses – The bonus of roses in containers? You can situate them where you’ll see them daily. That’s the best way to understand their specific needs and habits. Anne first started growing roses right by the front door of her first home in Rochester, Michigan. That was the perfect spot for learning about them, she says, “I could watch them change and develop every day.”

Floribunda ‘Passionate Kisses’ blooms continuously all season long. (Anne Reeves)

Research Right Rose Size – Roses range from tiny to massive, so it helps to know what you’re getting. Many of Anne’s shrubs, floribundas, David Austins, and hybrid tea roses are upright, reaching only between three to five feet tall and wide.

Choose Large Containers—If you want to keep roses in pots, give their roots room. Anne’s containers are never less than sixteen inches across and deep. She always drills extra drainage holes in the bottom to avoid soggy roots.

Feed and Mulch – In containers, rose roots cannot seek what they need from the soil, so you provide it. Anne feeds monthly with an organic granular fertilizer, and ups the game with a fish and seaweed fertilizer added to the watering regimen every three weeks. (All her pots are watered on driplines.) She mulches with fine wood chips to hold moisture.

Shrub rose ‘Distant Drums’ displays subtle and elegant coloring. (Anne Reeves )

Make Rose Care a Habit – Anne says, “I deadhead every day and cut blooms to give away in arrangements weekly.” To avoid diseases, Anne always pulls off any yellowing leaves and discards them in the trash, not the compost. At season’s end, she advises, “Clear away any old leaves from below the bush to keep any disease or mold from decomposing and perpetuating in the soil.” Her plants are vigorous, but if needed, she relies on an organic three-in-one spray to control insects, fungus, and mites.

Plan for Winter Protection – All plants in pots are more vulnerable to winter freezes. In colder climates, you can move your rose containers into the greenhouse. For protection in her relatively mild Zone 8b, Anne tucks her collection up against the house in winter.

Grow What Appeals to You – Many of Anne’s roses are unusual colors, such as the brown, bronze, and lavender shades of ‘Hot Cocoa’, ‘Koko Loko’ and ‘Distant Drums’. She also favors the apricot gold with copper and pink colors found in ‘State of Grace’. She mixes paler hues with the dramatic purples of ‘Celestial Night’ and ‘Royal Amethyst’. Others in containers include ‘Tournament of Roses’, ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, and ‘Summer Romance’, which, Anne reports, “has four-inch blooms, so yes, I’d say it’s happy.”