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With the flat, we inherited a large (150 cm x 50 cm and about 50 cm deep), earth-filled container on the balcony. A rose bush is growing in it. We will get some frosts over the winter but not every day.

I can only find advice about smaller containers. This advice is generally to bring the container into a garage or unheated room. We do not have a garage and the container is much too big and heavy to move.

What should we do to care for the plant now that frosts are due? Can we keep it safe or will it die?

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Your location is critical, but generally, a bit of frost is irrelevant in terms of damage to a rose, in fact, it's necessary, though it does depend on the variety of rose to some extent. It's important to establish the difference between 'frost' and 'freezing' - generally, frost can occur when temperatures fall below 5 deg C (around 40f) - freezing occurs below zero centigrade. You might find the information here https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/temperature/frost of interest on this subject.

If the pot you have already had the rose in it when you moved into the flat, and both the rose and the pot are a good size, the likelihood is the rose has never been moved for winter. Roses go dormant in winter and are pretty tough and withstand cold temperatures well, but because it's in a pot, its vulnerability is through the roots; but only then if the soil in the container freezes solid. That will only happen if temperatures fall below zero C (32f) and remain there day AND night for longer than a week. On the other hand, if you only planted the rose recently yourselves, and it's a more modern variety of rose and still not very large, it may need some winter protection - but that's location dependent, in other words, depends how bad your winters are where you live.

If you do live in an area that has sub zero temperatures all winter, then insulating or lagging the pot is a good idea, as well some protection over the top of the rose - more information on that here, should it be relevant for where you live https://www.hunker.com/13427246/at-what-temperature-do-rose-bushes-freeze

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vegetable garden grown in caliche clay first yearThe most fragile part of a plant is the root system. Plants in pots have their roots unprotected by the bulk of a garden soil from heat as well as cold.

How long has this rose in this pot and soil lived on this balcony? What zone do you live in and what do you consider a frost or a freeze?

I would let this plant stay right where it is. You could get burlap or Reemay to cover this plant for night time temperatures. Cover the pot as well. Do you get frozen water, such as your kitty's water bowl?

If not, leave that rose bush where it is and cover it during nights that might get below freezing. Frost, well, that happens in the early morning with temperature inversion and stuff. If covered, your plant should be just fine, roots and all. If your plant goes through a freeze in the early morning if you get out there and hose that plant down before the sun comes up, you will save your plant from freeze damage.

Damage happens when the plant cells freeze and then the sun comes up and thaws those cells too quickly.

In the spring, I would turn that rose over on its side, pull it out of the pot, get rid of the old soil and replace with sterilized plain old potting soil. Fertilize with a simple balanced fertilizer of NPK. Use half of the prescribed directions.

Get used to the HEFT of that pot and plant when watered. Do not water again until that pot and plant feel obviously lighter. No fertilizer for the winter. Wrap in burlap or Reemay (floating row cloth), keep the soil barely barely moist going into winter and maybe once watering during a warm period, lightly. Do not use compost or add anything to the soil medium, to the sterilized potting soil. Make sure there are drain holes and that the bottom of the pot or container has 1/4 air space between the surface and the bottom of the pot for better drainage.

Covering plant and pot for the winter with Reemay is your best method. Don't take this plant inside without acclimation. If it has been out of doors, leave it out of doors. Again, what zone are you in?

  • And it is easy to move big heavy pots. A platform with wheels or learning how to 'walk' the pot on the edge of its bottom works just fine. But do not move this plant and pot inside without acclimation. That means walking it in and back out of doors every day for a couple of weeks! Reemay is cheap. Allows plenty of light, you still have to water infrequently, and make sure that pot or container is covered with Reemay as well. Burlap doesn't allow much light to the plant but still works. I've also used the old fashioned Christmas lights to wrap the plant then cover with Reemay or Burlap. – stormy Oct 3 '18 at 7:51
  • Roses don't get "freeze damage". They drop their leaves and go dormant! Growing in soil (where the roots are better protected than in a pot) they don't need any protection at all from night time temperatures down to -10C or even -20C. In fact they often flower better the year after a really good freeze than after a "warm" winter. Wrap the pot with some sort of fleece if you like, but don't bother about the rest of the plant - but if you "don't get frosts every day", IMO you don't really need to do anything at all. – alephzero Oct 3 '18 at 8:42
  • One extra piece of advice: give the rose a "rough" prune, to reduce it to about the right size for next year and remove any branches that are rubbing on each other, at the start of winter after the leaves have dropped. That will reduce dehydration and mechanical damage from strong winds, and branches being broken by accumulations of snow and ice. Do the final pruning in spring, after the buds have started to swell - if you try to do it before the rose has started to grow again, you are just guessing where to cut. – alephzero Oct 3 '18 at 8:51
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    On the general topic of roses and frost, note that roses don't do very well in southern Europe, because the winters are too warm and they never go properly dormant. The UK climate is close to ideal for them, which is why they became the English national flower. – alephzero Oct 3 '18 at 8:55

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