The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Miniature Roses Make Nice Valentine's Day Gifts

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Roses share a colorful history with people. They have been symbols of love, beauty, war, states and nations. Roses were in such high demand during the seventeenth century that royalty considered roses or rose water as legal tender. Roses were also an important symbol in meetings. If a rose was hung from the ceiling at a meeting, all those present were vowed to secrecy.

Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, probably in China. Roses have been grown not only for their beauty but for cosmetics, fragrances, medicines and for making rosaries.

Roses have their own day of celebration – Valentine's Day. Roses and chocolate tantalize all your senses. Valentine's Day not only brings out bunches of long stemmed red roses but also pots of miniature roses.

Miniature roses are indeed miniature, miniature flowers, leaves, thorns and plants. Miniatures range in height from 3 inches to 18 inches. Flowers are about the size of a quarter. Most are continuous bloomers and very adaptable in sunny gardens. Unfortunately most have little or no fragrance due to their lineage from a single dwarf China rose called 'Rouletii'. "Cinderella" and "Sweet Fairy" are among the more popular ones that do have fragrance. Miniatures were very popular with Chinese gardeners long before they became popular in the United States just after World War II.

Miniature roses make nice gifts. They can be grown indoors this winter than transplanted outdoors once frost is unlikely. Most miniatures are very winter hardy. Few miniatures are grafted. So even if the top dies back or gets eaten by rabbits, the plants will send up new stems. Miniature roses are excellent outdoors in containers, borders, rock gardens, and other small spaces. Plus your sweetie can remember you and your thoughtfulness for years to come.

Once you get your mini home, make sure it is well watered. If the soil is really dry, soak the pot for about an hour in a dish of warm water. Tiny miniature roses are often marketed in tiny miniature pots. They are definitely going for the cute factor. For the rose it's like us wearing shoes two sizes too small. It's best to repot the roses into 4 or 6 inch pots with drain holes. These pots can then be set into a decorative pot. Soilless mixes are good potting mixes since they retain moisture well but also drain well.

Roses are sun loving plants so indoors they will need a south or west window. Supplemental lighting will keep them blooming longer. A combination of cool white and warm white fluorescent bulbs about three inches from the plant work well. Even a desk halogen light will help. Light should be kept on 14-18 hours a day.

Indoor temperature for roses is pretty much what we like. They are best at low 70's during the day and low to mid 60's at night. Roses do appreciate some extra humidity indoors. They can be placed on shallow dishes of wet pebbles.

Miniature roses should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy. Just feel the soil to test for dryness. If the roses dry out too much, the lifetime of existing flowers will be reduced and any flower buds may fail to open.

Spider mites can be a problem. The pot and soil can be covered with a plastic bag and the plant given a warm shower. Insecticidal soap is also effective against any of the soft bodied insects.

For more info on roses http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/roses

Garden Day 2005: Saturday March 5 at the Holiday Inn in Urbana. Featured speakers Erica Glasener of HGTV's "A Gardener's Diary" and Ken Druse author of The Passion for Gardening. Sponsored by U of I Extension Champaign County Master Gardeners. Phone 217-333-7672 for more information.

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