By Jimmy Deaton
Ahhh……It’s February and time for old Cupid to make his presence known once again. Of course a majority of guys will fall on the old standard of a dozen cut roses to surprise their better half, but I found something that outshines a dozen red tips any day of the week. And what may this be you ask….? Miniature roses. I came across these about 3 years ago when I was panicking on where I was going to score a beautiful dozen roses for Angie. Sitting in the garden center were about 15 miniature roses that I stumbled upon and the little light bulb went off in my head. Hey! Why give a bunch of roses that will be headed to the trash can in a week or two when a rose bush – even a mini one – can show your love 24/7 year round.
Miniature Rose Care Basics
PLACEMENT: Miniature roses should get five to six hours of direct sun from a southern or western facing window daily. Turning the plant from time to time will encourage even growth. As the miniature rose plant needs consistent watering, a kitchen or sunny bathroom location near a water faucet is helpful.
LIGHT: At least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. A west- or south-facing window provides sufficient light for the miniature rose. That said, because miniature roses do well so outside, many folks like to put their roses on their patios many months of the year.
TEMPERATURE: Potted roses can live outside year round up to Zone 5 where it reaches -20° in winter. In zones 1-4, where winter temperatures reach -40°, miniature roses must move inside in fall. Indoor potted roses do well in temperatures that range between 60° at night and 70° during the day.
WATER: Because they have delicate, shallow roots, mini roses need abundant water in well-draining soil. They cannot tolerate drought. Water any time the top two inches of soil get dry, possibly daily. Try to water roses during the morning or at least by early afternoon to prevent fungus and bacteria from invading the plant.
FERTILIZER: Fertilize rose flowers in early spring, as soon as frost danger has passed but after the plant has been pruned. Use a rose or balanced garden fertilizer with even 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 ratio at half manufacturers recommended strength every three weeks. Plants that are outside need more fertilizer than those kept inside as more photosynthesis occurs in direct sunlight.
Those living in planting zones 5-10 (the majority of Americans) can be confident about the safety of replanting the miniature rose outside permanently. A temperature of -40° (zones 1-4 brrr!) will kill it, but -20° won’t. A good time to plant outside is right before the plant starts growing in the spring. That way, roots can grow and get established before the first winter frost.
Care During the Growing Cycle
Since roses are perennials, they grow and bloom in spring and summer and go into dormancy during the winter before budding again the following spring. Care during these phases differs because metabolism occurs at different rates, changing the plant’s needs.
Miniature Rose Care in Spring and Summer – The Growing Season.
What’s Happening? The miniature rose’s job during the growing season is to create a bloom that will get the attention of birds and bees. These creatures will bring in pollen from other plants and carry away that rose’s pollen. The rose’s growth requires close attention with water and fertilizer remaining readily available. The rose flower takes significant energy and resources.
What to do: Start fertilizing two weeks after you see the first leaf buds emerge on stems. Fertilize with a balanced rose or garden fertilizer. Some growers use a high phosphorous, liquid fertilizer that can penetrate deep into the root bed. A high phosphorus fertilizer typically has a 5-10-5, where the middle number (which pertains to phosphorus) is twice the other two. Nitrogen encourages plant growth where phosphorous focuses on blooms.
Organic gardeners stick to compost and manure as fertilizers, but manure must be allowed to decompose for several months before being placed directly on plants to prevent damage.
Care In Winter – Dormancy Outside
What’s Happening? With pollen both received and dispersed, rose bushes can rest. As they drop their blooms and leaves, the plant’s energy goes to amending its root system. These changes are welcome as roses will be damaged if a frost hits while they are in full leaf and bloom.
What to do: Those living in zones 5 – 13 can leave their mini roses outside. 1-4 zone dwellers will bring the plant inside or into a shed or garage where temperatures won’t dip below -20° F. Six weeks before the first projected frost, stop fertilizing and reduce water. If your winter temperatures go below zero, load up the base of the plants with one to two inches of soil, mulch or dry leaves. Avoid covering the entire plant with compost as it can smother.
Care in Winter – Dormancy Inside
What’s Happening? Just like miniature roses outdoors, bushes kept indoors will drop their leaves and blooms, but only if they get to experience a drop in temperature. This necessary step can be taken care of by putting the rose near a cold window day and night or in the garage during the evenings.
What to do: While you’re protecting your roses from winter’s chill, keep in mind that miniature roses need a decent cool (even cold) period so they know to take a rest. They may even keep their leaves. It’s “the pause that refreshes.” Keeping a miniature rose bush indoors year round in our ideal temperatures 65° to 70° impacts the plant’s overall health. As mini roses are best pruned mid-winter to early spring.
What’s Happening? You can tell if your rose needs to be repotted by examining the soil surface. If roots are crowded on or above the soil surface, it’s time to repot. Also crowded roses tend to wilt when they are watered.
What to do: Growers typically re-pot miniature rose plants at least yearly and sometimes two or three times in a year. The best time is in the fall, after flowers have faded. When you go to re-pot your plant, keep in mind that many commercially available rose plants have several separate plants in each pot. Getting each plant in its own 6”, 5- to 7-gallon pot is sufficient. Miniature rose plants don’t mind a snug fit over their roots. After you remove the pot, hold the plant by the base and gently work root systems apart. Shake off left over soil and repot separately. Prune off broken, rotting or damaged roots.
As recommended above, mix a premium, bagged potting mix with compost, perlite or peat moss. Some growers recommend against using soil from your garden as it could harbor insects or disease.
Miniature roses do best in pots that are wider than they are tall. Most of all, make sure the pot has decent drainage. Drill holes in yourself if you have to.
So there you have it: Give your loved one a miniature rose so they may be reminded day in and day out of your love and devotion to them.
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