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Magical Mini Roses

As Valentine's Day approaches, it's easy to find miniature roses for sale — even in grocery stores. In a full range of rose shapes and colors, they have the charm of all roses — with a boost. As true dwarfs, mature plants range from a few inches to a couple of feet tall (except climbers, up to eight feet) with tiny leaves, and flowers about an inch across. That exquisite size enchants me (and others: a California nursery that specializes in growing them calls itself "Pixie Treasures").

Although they're not houseplants, one bought now will survive, with care, until you can get it outside. Give it the most sun you possibly can. Every ten days, use half-strength fish-and-seaweed emulsion.

Don't let the soil dry out, but also don't let the roots stand in water, even briefly. The best strategy is somehow to lift the pot well above any saucer you keep under it. In my bay window, I use wire shelves: with the plant on an upper shelf, and a tray on the next shelf down to catch drips. Pebbles in the drip catcher will increase the surface area, helping moisture to evaporate; the rose will appreciate the humidity.

To remove aphids or spider mites, wash leaves and stems with soapsuds (not detergent), rub the insects off, and rinse with a lukewarm water spray. Make sure to get the undersides of leaves.

Outdoors, avoid fungal infections (black spot and powdery mildew) with excellent nutrition and air circulation. Some growers find daily overhead sprinkling reduces mildew. You can also find resistant varieties.

Two miniature roses lasted several years for me on the soaker hose next to my big rosebushes. However one summer I let the bed go a bit dry. The big bushes sailed through it, but the minis died: their roots just weren't deep enough. In addition, those two little plants didn't show up well alongside the big ones.

In the past I've avoided container gardening, because plants in pots require so much more attention than those in the earth. These days, my back is making me reconsider. I'd like to put a mini rose in a pot on the top granite step to my porch. Instead of getting lost in the confusion of other plants, the rose would be showcased. To groom it I could sit on the bottom step, avoiding bending much. Watering... hmm. For this magic, can I reform my lax habits?

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 7 February 2003

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For more information
  • All About Miniature Roses, by Ralph Moore. Published in 1966, the complete book is on the Web. It may be out of date in some details, but is still invaluable.
  • Naturally Healthy Organic Roses sells a product called Rose FloraTM, containing active bacteria "certified organic by the State of California; " the product "balances the soil, increases nutrient availability and enhances rose bush vitality." Recommended by a member of The Miniature Roses Forum at GardenWeb.
  • Miniatures at Michael's Premier Roses. Notes that some varieties are "resistant," without specifying to what.