9. Balcony Roses: The Hanging Basket Rose (May 2022)

  by Carolyn Thomas   ♥   @HeartSisters

Flower Carpet Scarlet – an “ideal rose for hanging baskets!”

It’s mid-May – and unseasonably chilly here on Canada’s usually-balmy west coast this year. In fact, I now suspect that the grey chilly weather might be part of the problem with the alarmingly frail-looking new stems (canes) in my four Drift roses along the balcony railing. There’s lots of canes, growing fast – but I’m already wondering if they’ll be sturdy enough to hold up the blossoms without drooping over when they’re fully open if that sun doesn’t start doing its thing like it’s supposed to do.

I have found a groundcover rose called Flower Carpet Scarlet that is recommended for planting in a hanging basket. Like my four Drift® roses that I planted as pre-ordered bare root plants along the balcony railing, Flower Carpet roses claim to be easy-care, highly disease-resistant and long-blooming from summer through to frost. The tags on Scarlet promise an ultimate height of about 2′ and a 2-3′ spread – but rose experts sometimes warn that, given the right growing conditions (full sun, regular watering, and a good fertilizing schedule), they may grow much bigger! I’m guessing that a confined root space in a container might keep Scarlet to a manageable size in her new hanging basket home. Stay tuned. . .

One nursery grower wrote recently that groundcover roses like the Drift® or Flower Carpet families are his “top picks” for the best rose to grow in a container.

” They have a lower and more compact growth habit than shrub roses, which makes them look tidier when planted in a pot. Plus they play well with others. Groundcover roses will mingle beautifully with companion plants for a spectacular display of color, bloom, and texture”.

Until I have more experience as an actual balcony rose grower, I’m resisting the urge to add too many companion plants to my rose containers. So far, my four Drifts® along the balcony railing have only two little buddies: Rainbow Chard (a colourful and useful edible pot plant I put in every summer in those pots!) and some delicate purple and yellow winter pansies that will be pulled as they fade in the heat of summer. Let’s see how the main attractions do this summer before adding serious competition for root space.

 Flower Carpet Scarlet roses along a road (National Gardening Association)

Flower Carpet roses have naturally arching canes that make them popular choices for landscape gardeners wanting to fill in mass planting spaces along highways or in long borders. But despite my keen urge to plant Scarlet now in her waiting hanging basket (one that housed my gorgeous big fuschia last summer), I’m holding off until June.

June seems like forever away at this point.  Here on Vancouver Island, the Victoria Day long weekend (also known as simply the “May Long” – usually around the 24th of May) is traditionally planting weekend for summer annuals. Planting any earlier does not actually result in earlier blooming if it’s just not warm enough – especially overnight – to encourage growth. Even the garden centres have signs along every massive rack of six-pack annuals warning “BRRR-RRR! Don’t plant me yet!”

For maximum bloom, plants need consistently warmer temperatures at night – and that’s why my hanging basket rose will wait in its nursery pot in a sheltered corner of the balcony for a few more weeks. At this time of year, garden centre roses that started off as bare root plants during the winter (like my four Drift® roses in red, coral, apricot and pink) have now been transplanted into plastic pots by commercial growers, but we still need a few more weeks for those newly transplanted roses to grow stronger roots before moving them again.


Once the Drifts® began blooming (in early July – a full month later than most roses bloom most years), I learned that this big hanging rose basket casts a long shadow right over three of the four roses along the balcony railing for a distressing amount of time each day. In order to get maximum east-facing sun on those four sisters, I had to move Scarlet from her overhead hook to a lower spot that’s not perfect (tightly wedged between a big happy hydrangea that’s been in a large pot on the balcony deck for years and my new H.F. Young purple/blue clematis that’s in bloom right now). It wasn’t my first choice – not nearly as much sun as it would have received had I been able to keep it in its hanging basket. As a result, Scarlet is so far behind the Drifts® to bloom – barely any buds, even in early July (because of that crazy-damp spring no doubt) and those buds that are visible are still tightly closed, unlike the four Drifts.

But wait – it gets worse for Scarlet: here’s a scary new pic of her lovely new blooms in August surrounded by the nasty rose fungus called powdery mildew on leaves and buds. ARRRRRGGGH!

Read the next essay in this series on balcony roses:

10. Balcony Roses: We Go To Ben’s Garden! – May

Return to my HEART SISTERS  site, or find out more about my book A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease.  You can ask for it at bookstores (please support your local independent bookseller!) or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon – or order it directly from my publisher Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 30% off the list price)

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