Re-Potting Roses in Containers

by Carol Lynch
(Crystal River Florida)

QUESTION: I live in Florida where the soil is pure sand. I have had luck growing my roses in large containers. My question is-- when will they need repotting and what is the procedure? Also could I remove them from the pots in the winter, trim then back to more like a bare root plant and then repot them in the spring?
Carol Lynch
ANSWER: Hi Carol, Since both soilless and soil-based potting mixes break down over time, the organic matter should be refreshed with yearly topdressings of compost and an additional inch or so of organic mulch.
In containers or planters that have soil-based potting soil, the activity of earthworms and soil-dwelling insects help move the fresh organic matter into the soil.
But in containers filled with soilless mix, though, there are no earthworms to incorporate additional organic matter.
If you are using soilless potting mixes, you need to change the potting mix every year.
If you want to re-pot the roses into larger containers you will automatically be adding fresh potting mix to the new container.
The best time to unpot and refresh the mix is in early spring, or when the roses are dormant. But in Florida the roses rarely go dormant. I have the same problem here in Southern California.
Unpot the rose and gently remove as much of the old mix from the root ball as possible, being careful not to damage the root ball.
Remove any old potting mix left from the container.
Refill the container with fresh potting mix that includes slow-released fertilizer, and set the rose in an appropriate depth as you fill. The roots will soon grow into the new mix.
You should also carefully read the potting mix bag to see what's inside. Some mixes are actually soilless, like I said here,which makes them very lightweight and ideal for containers and window boxes.
Choosing a very good quality planting mix is critical to growing healthy roses in containers. Unlike garden soil, or lesser quality mixes, good potting medium keep roses better hydrated and fed.
Regarding your question about trimming the rose and keeping it out of the pot until spring, I don't think that's a good idea, because it would be hard to keep the feeder roots plump, and they could easily dry out and then the rose would die.
You should re-pot the rose as soon as you changed the soil in the container and keep it watered.
Warmest Regards,

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