Potted miniature roses thrive in morning desert sun.

We’ve been talking about roses all month—and I know some of you out there without roses in your potted desert garden are wondering if you should take the leap.

If you are just starting out, begin with a few rose bushes, and follow these instructions. You will develop what works for your home and your home’s micro-climate over time. You can make it as simple or complicated as you’d like.

Rose Selection

  • Buy only No. 1 grade roses, as these have the best chance to get established and survive our summer heat. Buy from a local nursery.
  • Make sure each bush has three strong, healthy canes. Reject those with fewer canes or roots that are spindly.
  • Roses should be potted by late March to get established before the summer heat.

Site Selection

  • Roses do best with at least six hours of sun a day. Eastern exposure is ideal to provide protection from the hot afternoon sun.
  • Plant near other roses, large trees and shrubs to provide added humidity and shade to the pots themselves, so they remain cooler.
  • Check the pot and soil for good drainage.
  • If you’re planning a bare-root rose, soak the entire bush for 24 hours in a 32-gallon trash can.


  • It is almost impossible to overwater roses if they have proper drainage. You want the roots to grow deeply into the pot, so be sure the pots are at least 20 inches tall. Roots near the surface are exposed to the desert heat and may dry out. Deep watering also serves to flush out salts which can accumulate in the root zone, causing brown leaf tips.
  • When temperatures are below 90 degrees, water potted roses deeply three to four times a week.
  • In the winter months, watering is needed only two to three times a week.
  • When temperatures rise above 90 degrees, water potted roses daily.
  • Add a 2-inch layer of mulch (use medium-size bark chips, or under-plant the rose with a thick, low-growing plant or flower) to conserve the moisture in the soil and keep roots cooler—prevent weeds sprouting.

Insect control

  • Jet-spray two or three times a week, above and beneath the foliage.


  • Roses are heavy feeders. There are many good fertilizers that will produce beautiful roses. You want to fertilize on a regular schedule to provide your roses with the best conditions possible, and to promote good health, which can ward off pests and disease. To avoid burning roots, water before and after you fertilize.
  • To receive monthly fertilizing tips, sign up for the Potted View at www.potteddesert.com.

Thanks to the Tucson Rose Society, the Desert Rose Society and the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society for their resources which were used in this article.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at potteddesert@gmail.com, and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.