How to Care for Mini Roses: Pruning, Feeding, and Watering
What are Miniature Roses?
Miniature roses are, by definition, compact bushes with abundant blooms. A single miniature rose bush can have hundreds of flowers. There are several different varieties of miniatures, separated by size and growth behavior.
Micro-minis are particularly delightful, maturing at between 6 and 12 inches of height, with blooms as small as 1/4 inch across. They grow wonderfully in small pots and are the perfect plant to lend a touch of romance to a sunny city balcony.
Climbing miniature roses, like Rainbow’s Edge with showy orange and yellow flowers or the Red Cascade with its open, velvety red petals, can quickly cover an open frame or gazebo to create a rose-covered trellis in one growing season. Upright miniature roses, or standards, are tree roses that grow from 12-18 inches tall. A rose tree in full bloom is a delightful centerpiece accent in a low-growing rose gardening or standing on its own in a container.
There are several miniature roses that trail, sending out runners with new growth and flowers. These make wonderful choices in a hanging basket, with drifts of flowers cascading over the sides in a beautiful display of color. The best choices for hanging baskets include the aptly named Red Cascade and the ruffled pink Nostalgia. Miniature roses are hardy bloomers that winter well even as far north as zone 4. They grow quickly, require little care outside of watering, and will reward you with dozens of blooms for very little effort.
Mini Roses Pruning
David Squire writes in his fine book Pruning, Regrettably, there has developed a mystique about pruning roses that has deterred many gardeners from growing them, and yet these floriferous shrubs are some of the most tolerant of all garden plants and shrubs to bad pruning.
I offer as brief a synopsis as possible. Pruning should be done in the late fall or early spring. Take care not to cut too close to a bud; about a quarter of an inch above an outward-facing bud, cutting down and away from the bud at a 45-degree angle. Too far above the bud allows dead tissue to develop the disease; too close and they won’t be enough stem to support the bud.
When to Prune Miniature Roses
Now that you know how to prune, you need to know when. Generally, we should prune Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, and Floribundas in very early spring. A good rule of thumb is to do it when the forsythia is in bloom. The first task is to eliminate suckers that have started below the soil. Most roses today are grafted onto rootstock that won’t look anything like the rose you want.
Then we need to eliminate deadwood. Cut gradually back along with the cane until you hit the white healthy pith. Next, we want to select three or four canes that will form the frame of the plant. Cut everything else off entirely. Now cut those canes back to between 6 and 12 inches. If the rose is healthy and infertile soil, then leaving canes around a foot long should develop a good plant. If the plant has been neglected and gotten leggy, or if you are planting a new rose, then cutting back to the six-inch mark should encourage strong new canes from the base.
Never hard prune Floribundas as they don¡¯t break well from old wood. Climbers should have their laterals cut back to three or four eyes and any new canes breaking from the base should be eliminated (unless you want to develop a new cane). Species roses (and most shrubs) should be tip pruned each fall.
This will encourage new growth from the base. In the spring cut out the laterals and the old canes, leaving the new canes from the previous year (the ones that didn’t flower). Always cut dead or diseased wood and always use some judgment. If a plant doesn’t appear vigorous then pruning it to a nub probably won’t help it much. Use discretion.
Certain types of standard roses or pillars require special techniques. As always the deadwood must go, along with any weak or crossed branches. The rest should be cut back to six eyes or so and half that on laterals. On pillar-grown roses, you should grow the plant upon support. Cut back all the laterals and select canes evenly around the pillar. When the pillar is established cut out all old wood and select the previous year’s canes.
Read more: Buyer’s Guide For Pruning Shears
Mini Roses Feeding and Care
Roses are hungry feeders. You should fertilize with food that is a little heavier on phosphorus (the middle number in the three). Improving the soil is recommended to increase water and fertilizer retention. While species and shrub roses will make do with almost any soil, Hybrid Teas need highly fertile and organic soil to do well at all.
Manure, mushroom compost, or any other highly organic additives are a necessity for a good Hybrid Tea rose. A good organic mulch will go a long way towards improving soil fertility from year to year, as well as increasing water retention. DO NOT use wood chips or a poorly composted bark product. These require nitrogen to decompose and will rob your rose of nutrients.
If you have been looking for a reason to start a compost pile, there is no better reason than mulching. Compost will add nutrients to the soil along with beneficial microbes. A quick scratch with a hoe will easily eliminate any weeds and keep the soil loose and fluffy. Roses detest any sort of competition so do not fall prey to the temptation of planting closely around roses. Dusting with rose powder is recommended for tea roses to keep off the black spot and powdery mildew. These can be fatal diseases for your average Hybrid Tea rose, although not a big problem for your shrub and species roses. Many of the newer roses are bred specifically for disease resistance.
Mini Roses Over-wintering
Most manuals will tell you to do a late pruning, and then if you are in a cold winter climate (generally defined as Zone 6 and below), you should pile mulch or soil up around the canes to help the plant live through the winter. Stakes around the plant with a wrapping of burlap will provide a good shelter, as would pine boughs or some other evergreen branches. It is especially important to protect the bud union (where the top scion meets the rootstock). This should be done just after the ground has frozen. Tree roses should be tipped and buried or grown in a patio container that can be overwintered in a sheltered area.
Gardening: There’s a Rose for Every Gardener
Most of the information provided here applies specifically to Hybrid Teas although all roses are going to thrive with this kind of care. Decide (realistically!) how much effort you are going to put into your roses.
Think of it as getting a new puppy. While (thankfully) the rose won’t mess with your carpets or chew your slippers, it will require regular attention and a modicum of effort to keep it looking its best. If you are looking for roses that don’t require puppy maintenance try rugosas or one of the modern shrubs. This offer increased hardiness and disease resistance in a variety of forms and colors. Truly there is a rose for any rose gardening and with just a little thought you can find the right rose for yours.
Miniature Roses are Perfect for Small Places
Among the most charming and delightful of plants, miniature roses come in the same multitude of colors and varieties as their full-size cousins. They’re perfect for container gardens, but do just as well planted in the ground. Their small buds and blooms are beautiful in corsages and arrangements, tucked into a small vase on a tray or picked and carefully dried in potpourri.
While small in size, most miniatures are highly scented, and just a few small bushes can perfume the air in an entire rose gardening. That and the ease of growing the hardy little perennials have made them increasingly popular with home gardeners. Their versatility makes them at home tumbling over a trellis to create a romantic, rose-covered gazebo as they are in a neatly trained border along the side of a driveway.