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Readers Respond: How to Care for and Protect Roses in Winter

Responses: 13


Since most roses are grafted, they can have a tougher time withstanding winter's extremes. What do you do to protect your rose bushes in the winter? (Don't forget to tell us what Zone you're gardening in.)

Mountain Desert Roses

I live in northern NM and it can get very cold in the winter. We have lots and lots of roses and take great care when we winterize them. In November we cut them down to about 2 feet tall then remove all the leaves green or not. Our winters can be very dry so when when it does snow we shovel the snow and place it around the plants for moisture. We have learned that if they don't get water during the winter they die.
—Guest Debbie

Preventing Mildews

Lots of people seem to have problems with mildews. What works for me is lime sulfur, applied before the weather gets above 85 degrees. Also, and so over looked, is anti-transpirants. I use wilt proof. It's made from pine oil . It acts like Chapstick, handlotion, and sunscreen all in one. You can get 2-3 degrees more protection using it in the cold and it protects from the heat and the winds. Also spray young squash plants to keep the graying from appearing.

Roses Over the Winter in Frost Free Area

In Orange County, we don't get a lot of frost, so to protect the roses, I first prune them, clean up the ground around them and then spray with lime sulfur. The sulfur protects the immune system and when springs comes the leaves are big and green, better for collecting sunshine for food.

Rose Pruning

If you cut the canes of the roses, cover them with wax to preserve the cane.
—Guest Dan Cunningham

For zones 5 and less, Go with Wild Roses

I live on the Eastern Colorado Plains, in what has to be the most unforgiving environment for roses imaginable, outside of the Poles. Drought, intense summer heat, intense freezes, hard clay soil that has a tough time supporting grass, let alone roses, humidity in the single digits for much of the year, strong winds, a perpetual lack of water and all of the intense sun one gets at 5310 feet above sea level. Not to mention the hail, the bugs, weeds that are toughened by our extreme climate (the bindweed is unstoppable). We have a small strip of regular hybrid roses on a sheltered side of the garage (eastern exposure, well mulched, protected from the everpresent dessicating wind) but for the rest of the property, we chose to plant rosacea woodsii (wild roses native the Western U.S.) and three rosa rugosa (also called beach roses or saltspray roses). These require far less water than the hybrids, no pruning and survive will in the very worst of Colorado growing conditions.
—Guest CJ

Winter Protection for Roses

First of all, stop fertilizing six weeks before the expected first frost date. This does help with induction of dormancy. Roses that are dormant before the freezing weather will withstand winter better than roses that are not dormant. Secondly, apply about a third of a cup per bush of Potassium sulfate, granular, sprinkle evenly and water it in. Potassium has been proven to improve cold tolerance. Thirdly, apply winter protection. How much and what depends upon the weather zone you live in. I used to place a few shovel-full of garden soil mounded around each grafted rose plant and uncover in the spring with a very high success rate;practically 0% winter loss. But with over 600 bushes, this became tedious. Now with absolutely NO winter protection, my loss rate is about 2 to 3% each winter, which I am happy to replace with more winter hardy roses. Roses that are know to be more winter tender die more easily than winter hardy roses. Example is Color Magic, which is very winter tender.
—Guest Satish Prabhu

VA Roses

We actually have it pretty easy in my location. I normally do some minor trimming after my roses last bloom. I use about a 3 inch layer of leaves around the base of my roses to help protect the graft. I prune them back hard, normally on one our warmer days in February and let them do their thing.

Prune, Fence, Add Leaves and Check Often

The very best results I have had over the years in Zone 4 is to clean up good around the rose bush, prune any bad branches, drive four stakes into the ground that will support a chicken-wire fence surround, attach the fence and fill up over the top of the rose bush with leaves from your own trees or get from friends. Check often during winter months to make certain sufficient leaves remain to "comfort" the rose bush. When the last danger of frost is behind you in the Spring - remove all that you have done to protect your bush, water well and pray it has beautiful blossoms to enjoy and perhaps have on your table!

Preparing Roses for Winter

It is well known that adding some potash (potassium sulfate) granules sold as 0-0-50 at the rate of a quarter of a cup per bush helps in promoting winter hardiness. If you use a preventive spray program throughout the growing season and if you live in zone 7 or South of that, the bushes never really go dormant completely, hence will retain foliage, rather than dropping them in the fall. Some bushes may even continue to grow, although at a slower rate. In that case, preventive spray program of fungicides must be continued, at least twice a month. Also water bushes deeply at least twice a month if you do not get any winter showers. After the bushes go dormant or slow down growing and blooming, for tall bushes, it is an excellent idea to cut off the top one third of the bush to reduce getting blown around by winter winds and causing the bushes to be topped over or uprooted. I also remove all dead limbs and clear the centers.
—Guest Satish Prabhu, M.D.

Collars for Roses Over Winter

I have successfully used tar paper collars and filled with peat and it works great!!!!
—Guest marie

Roses in Holland

In our moderate climate generally its not needed to protect our roses. Last winter though we had some frosts for to weeks up to 20 degrees celsius below zero. In my experience its best to protect the roses by spreading straw between the shrubs or use the branches of your old christmas tree to protect the shrubs. More info about taking care of your roses you can find on our website: www.1000islands.nl
—Guest 1000 Islands Roses

roses in the hills

Zones 3 in the Berkshires: Use the wired tomato cones, very inexpensive (people give them away) & invert (after pruning) so that the tines go into the ground. Wrap the bottom with a section of burlap, fill with top soil. Come up higher & add another wrap of burlap, fill with mulch. Wrap the top with burlap, horizontally, & pin/tie all tight. Cross fingers & hope 'til spring!

Montana roses

I have found that living in Montana is a challenge to my roses. Mulch is not enough. I use rose collars every fall, with mulch. The plastic of the collar has added insulation, where mulch alone has allowed the base of the rose to suffer severe wind, snow and freezing damage. The collars also help the mulch stay around the rose during the howling winds in late January. This has doubled my rose success through the hard cold winters here in Montana. The rose collars are in-expensive, easy to apply and store for use year after year. Good Luck!!
—Guest Allen

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