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Miniature Roses: Versatile Plants -- Indoors or Out!

By Kathy Brown, Apprentice Master Gardener, Colorado State University, Denver County

If you love roses, think small. Consider growing miniature roses.

These tiny tykes are true roses with mini-sized flowers. Indeed, a miniature rose is defined as a plant with blooms that are 1 1/2 inches across, or less. Most were developed from Rosa chinensis 'Minima' and are petite versions of the floribunda rose.

Increasingly popular, miniature roses come in a wide range of colors and with fragrances that vary from slight to intense. You also can find them with single or double blossoms. Other characteristics include well-formed buds, closely spaced foliage, free flowering tendencies and disease resistance. These small roses are winter-hardy, including the decorative plants you find in florist shops or grocery stores. Ask at nurseries or garden centers about miniature roses that easily withstand Colorado winters. Miniature roses and shrub roses are the two most winter-hardy roses you can grow in the state.

Miniature rose plants range in size from 6 to 18 inches tall. Climbing varieties can reach up to 5 feet tall, still bearing tiny flowers. Some varieties feature a sprawling habit and make good ground cover.

These roses with the wee-sized blooms work wonderfully in narrow borders and small garden areas. If you plant them in raised beds, their small flowers are closer to the eye. Or pot them, and use them as outdoor table decorations, alone or with herbs and other small plants.

Miniature roses grow well in window boxes, and with their upright growing habit, look especially attractive when surrounded by trailing plants. The smallest cultivars also can be used in hanging baskets. For an especially attractive arrangement, plant a miniature rose in the center of a basket and encircle it with cascading plants.

Climbing varieties can be grown in a container or in the ground, trained on a trellis. Although miniature roses are not true alpine plants, they can be grown in a rock garden. They'll provide blooms long after the alpine plants have run their course.

Instead of bare root packages, miniature roses usually are available in containers. Their requirements are similar to conventional roses -- they need good soil and regular watering and feeding. When planting outdoors in the ground, minis should be set slightly deeper than they were when growing in the pot. That's because they grow on their own roots with no bud unions.

If you are planting a rose outdoors that has been used as an indoor plant, it needs to be hardened off first. Allow it to adjust to the outdoors over a week's time. Each day, leave it outdoors a little longer. Then plant the rose in a bed prepared with good garden soil and compost. If the plant is dry, soak it for several hours before planting.

The planting location should be in a sunny spot, and plants should be set about 12 inches apart. For greater visual impact, plant several roses of the same variety together. Because of a shallower root system, minis may dry out faster than larger roses. Keep them moist but not soggy.

You can successfully grow containers of roses outdoors. Choose a pot at least six inches deep with drainage holes. A good soil mix for the container would be equal parts of good garden soil, organic matter, such as sphagnum peat moss, and perlite.

Container-grown plants require more attention to ensure they don't dry out. Apply water until it runs out the bottom of the pot; this provides enough moisture and leaches out salts. Fertilize regularly using water-soluble or slow-release fertilizer according to package directions.

Pruning small rose bushes, whether in containers or in the ground, is important to ensure the bush maintains a pleasing shape. At the end of the dormant season, in late March or early April, cut back stems to the lowest outward-facing growth eyes. The result will be a well-pruned plant that produces stronger growth for flower production.

If that seems too drastic for you, cut back at least half of the plant, removing any weak and spindly canes. During the growing season remove faded flowers and, to encourage branching, trim back long shoots.

Miniature roses will reward you all summer by producing masses of small blossoms. Take your containers indoors for decorating a party, or use the tiny sprays to enhance your flower arrangements.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010