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Winter Care

As in the previous sections, winter care is a really important part of growing roses. Many rose growers get discouraged because there roses do not make it through long cold winters. In a cold climate, snow is your best friend, as it is the best insulator I know of. Cold is what will ultimately kill your roses.

I do not recommend using rose cones. I did use them for a few years when I first starting growing roses and found they killed more roses then saved. Roses need air even in winter, and heavy snow cover will insulate roses and still let in air.

This is why healthy hardy plants to start with are very important in a northern climate. If you take proper care of your roses, fertilize, have a good growing locations, they are healthy to start, and winter hardy, they should not have any trouble making it through winter. But if you have more tender roses, (roses that are not rated for your gardening zone), you need to give them winter care. By experimenting, I came up with a proven way to get roses through winter that need some winter cover and for roses that are tender.

Zone 3 Roses should not need winter cover. Zone 4 & 5 should if you're growing them in a colder area. Even if the rose is own-root they might need some winter protection.

Before preping them for winter, you should always water your roses before you cover them. Dry canes will freeze harder and you will get more winter kill. Always cover your roses after the first hard freeze, before it snows.

Now, onto winter care. First you must determine if the rose is hardy or not, if it's own root or grafted. Rule of thumb, in the north I cover all grafted roses, and ones that are rated for Zones 4-6 (yes that's right I said zone 6 in the north- it can be done with proper Winter cover)

  1. Here are some general steps for proper winter preparation of roses in cold weather: To start have a roll of burlap, dry tree leaves, rocks or bricks, and bags of potting soil. Do not use top soil-you need light soil. Never use hay because it will mold.

  2. For all tender roses add 10" of soil at the base of the plant

  3. Bend over your rose bush gently, some bend easily, others not so easy just be careful, anchor with a rock or brick or two

  4. Cut up burlap and put a piece gently on each rose bent over

  5. Next add a good pile of dry oak or maple leaves, not straw or hay that can cause mold. This is done to help your plants have to breathe, a nessecity in winter.

  6. Let the snow fall, it's the best insulator there is.

  7. Uncover in the spring; do not wait to long so plants do not start to mold

These winter protection tips work great for all tender roses, and are time-tested. There is also the Minnesota Tip, where you have dig up the plant and bend it over. I like my method it's easier, and it works in the coldest of winters. Sometimes if winter is really long you still can get snow mold on your roses that can be rinsed off with water and aired dried. That's why I never leave winter cover on too long in the spring! Early-Mid April is a good time: Do not be surprised if you see buds coming out and green leaves starting to bud, with all that protection most roses come through winter nicely.

If you have roses in pots, you can winter them over by these 2 ways:

  1. If you have the space out of the way; dig a hole large enough to completely put the pot in the ground at ground level. Mound about 8" of light potting soil at the crown, bend over the plants, anchor with a brick or rock and cover with lots if dry oak or maple leaves. If you have a rose tree and it's not winter hardy to your area, I completely bury the pot on its side by digging a trench, cover the hole rose and pot with dirt you can use the dirt from the trench, and then covering with dry leaves.

  2. If you have an unheated garage or shop put your roses in a corner where they will not get disturbed. I mound 10-12" of light potting soil again at the base of the pot. This will give them some protection. I also water them so there roots do no dry out too fast during the winter months. In the spring as the weather warms, when you uncover the ground roses, take the potted roses outside in some shade or light shade for the 1-3 days till they adjust to being outside and in sunlight again. You can try wintering over tree roses in pots in an unheated area, and cover them with burlap to protect the grafted union at the top of the rose tree, but I would recommend burying them if possible.

Check out the illustration below for winter covering: