Climbing rose bush

(Question)

I have moved from a house to an apartment facing west in Toronto I transplanted a climbing rose bush into a large pot 16″ wide x 16″ high keeping the soil intact that it was growing in, in the garden. It bloomed beautifully for 2 summers however it now has very little life. It is showing a few signs here and there but I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can save it if I can. I gave it some liquid kelp a couple of days ago, not knowing what to do. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me. The rosé bush has sentimental value

(Answer)

Successfully growing a large perennial such as a rose in a balcony container can depend on a number of things:

a) Container: You don’t mention the type of pot used. The hardest part about overwintering any plant in a pot is the freeze-thaw cycle that happens when water in the container soil constantly melts and refreezes in the winter sunshine. This can cause the soil to become dry and be damaging to the roots, and root health is crucial to successful container gardening. Be sure to water the container well before the soil freezes. The container must be both large and well insulated, using something like styrofoam sheeting. You can also insulate the container by piling compost, straw, mulch or leaves on top of the soil, and by placing garbage bags full of leaves around the container.

b) Winter conditions, year to year: Winter can be the most stressful time for a container plant. Winter of 2011-12 was unusually mild, and many plants survived over winter that might normally have died. Winter 2012-13, on the other hand, was alternatively very cold and rainy. This was not good for the health of container plants, and likely contributed to what you’re experiencing now. Balconies can be windy, and winter wind can cause die-back on roses, which is usually pruned out in spring (don’t prune roses in fall, as that opens a wound to winterkill).

c) Plant maturity: As the plant matures, its root system gets bigger – now in its third year, yours might have outgrown its 16 x 16″ pot and/or have exhausted the existing. If possible, either replace or at least amend the soil with potting mix rich in organic matter or repot the rose to a larger size.

We have had a slow start to spring in 2013, too, so it might be a little late getting going.

As it has sentimental value, you might try propagating your rose with cuttings. This is usually done in summer or fall, as this guide on rose propagation explains: http://www.roses.hains.com.au/RosePropagation.pdf

Best of luck with your rose.