Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Roses

Miniature Roses For the Holidays

by Karen Dardick

Some kinds of miniature roses perform best as garden plants, others as houseplants.

Not so long ago, miniature roses were almost strictly the province of hobbyists, usually ones already bitten by the rose-growing bug. But now, thanks to the influence of European gardeners and nurseries, an entirely new category of miniature rose is available here. In fact, these florist or European-style minis are the type you're most likely to encounter at supermarkets, chain stores, and discount stores. While the two types look pretty much the same to casual observers, it's useful to understand how these florist minis compare to the familiar miniature garden roses.

Late fall is the best season to introduce yourself to florist minis. They're widely available, they're inexpensive, and they're perfect for indoor holiday decorations. This article describes the kinds of miniature roses you can buy and suggests ways to use them. It also describes how to grow them indoors or in your garden.

What's a Miniature Rose?

For the most part, miniature roses are scaled-down versions of full-sized roses, and while they vary in many ways, all mini roses have small, rarely fragrant flowers. All can be traced back to a common ancestor, the China rose (Rosa chinensis minima). Plants can range from micro-minis (5 inches or less) to 3 to 4 feet or even larger. Flowers can be anywhere from 1/2 to 2 inches across, with a color range as broad as for full-size roses.

Mini roses are naturally outdoor-tough plants. They are perfectly hardy year-round in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 11. Given a good cover of snow or mulch, they'll survive winter as far north as zone 4.

Dozens of mini roses grow in my sunny Los Angeles garden. I've come to appreciate them for what they are: easy-to-grow perennials in almost constant bloom. I tuck them into borders, display them in containers, and cut sprays for miniature bouquets.

Mini roses also adapt remarkably well to life indoors. Unlike so many houseplants that have an extraordinary tolerance of low light and humidity, roses need plenty of bright light, such as in a bright west- or south-facing window. But for repeat bloom, you'll need the supplementary light provided by fluorescent tubes. If light is insufficient, the plants' stems will stretch, leaving longer spaces between leaves, a common problem called etiolation.

You'll also have to provide some extra humidity around the plants. In winter, the air in most houses becomes abysmally dry. A water-filled tray with a layer of pebbles (to ease evaporation) is usually sufficient. Again, the plants will tell you if humidity is low; leaves will shrivel, yellow, and drop. Often spider mites will make themselves at home.

In the garden, a significant advantage of mini roses compared to their larger brethren is easy care. Most are grown on their own roots and therefore tend to be hardier and easier to prune than larger, grafted roses. Pruning minis is as simple as shearing the tops of the plants with a hedge trimmer. The best time to prune is in early summer after spring flowers fade, and again in late fall after fall flowers fade.

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