Issue: November 13, 2004

Miniature rose in winter


I was given a potted miniature rose for my birthday. It has bloomed all summer. Now that winter is coming, I worry that it will freeze if I leave it outside. Can I keep it blooming indoors?


The miniature rose is often hardier than the common hybrid tea rose, so it will survive but not bloom through the winter in most parts of New Mexico. It requires a cool, dormant period and will do poorly if brought indoors where it will stay warm. I have also noticed that if it is indoors during the winter, it is often attacked and even killed by spider mites. Other insects also become a problem when plants are indoors.

You have several options. One is to leave it in its pot and keep it outside in a protected location. Plants in pots are more subject to freezing during the winter because the soil in the pot can freeze completely and drop to a lower temperature than soil in the ground unless the pot is kept in a protected location. Plants in the ground may have the soil freeze around the base of the plant, but the roots are often not frozen. A sunny location that allows daily warming and nightly freezing of the soil in the pot is not good. You will also need to make sure that the soil in the pot does not dry completely during the winter. Roses need some moisture in the soil around their roots even in the winter. Soil in flower pots dries more quickly than in the ground.

Another option is to plant the rose in the soil where the soil temperature will remain more moderate and the soil will dry slowly. It is late in the season for this, but it can be done. Don't let it dry after planting, and by applying a layer of organic mulch (bark, straw, etc.) around the base of the plant, you can help maintain moderate temperatures and prevent sudden temperature changes in the root zone.

Finally, you can keep the rose in a protected, cool location, allowing it to become dormant for several months, then prune it and bring it indoors to begin blooming early in the spring. This allows it to have its winter rest, but you can enjoy its flowering earlier than if it stayed outside. Replanting in a large pot may be helpful to allow more root growth. A miniature rose is called miniature not for the size of the plant but for the size of the flowers. Some miniature roses can become fairly large plants and need a large root zone to support growth and flowering. That is why planting outdoors may be the best choice in the long run, but repotting it allows a potentially useful compromise.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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