How To Winterize Roses and Rose Bushes

We get asked every year on: “How to prepare rose bushes for winter? How do I winterize roses?” There are many different types of winter weather homeowners experience in the northern part of the country. This makes it hard for roses to grow and reach their full potential during the growing season. Depending on location you will find a variety of ways to protect roses and get them through the winter season.

The key to well-winterized roses – start early. From covering your rose bushes with leaves, growing roses in large tree containers and moving them inside for the winter. For tips and tricks on preparing and winterizing roses for winter, read the rest of the article below.

Rose Question: How Do You Winterize Rose Bushes?

My rose plants did not come through last winter very well. It was a battle all year to help our rose bushes recover. This winter I’d like to better prepare. What and how do I winterize rose bushes?  Megan, Minn

Answer: How To Prepare Rose Bushes For Winter?

Megan, a great variety of winter weather found in northern areas of the United States presents rose growers with a great problem, so do not feel alone. In fact, the time roses need to recover from a long hard winter could be the hardest part of rose growing. Some years, winter sets in following a very dry fall. Other times winter arrives with an abnormal amount of snow when the ground is only barely frozen.

Then again, a winter season with little or no snow may have severely cold, below normal temperatures. Or, any combination of these conditions.

Before covering roses for winter with mulch:

  • Make sure the rose beds have plenty of moisture before a hard freeze or,
  • Before the time covering the plants gets underway usually about November 10, depending on conditions of the season.

Alternatively, purchase bare-root roses and plant them during late winter in warm climates or after the frost passes.

Do not spare the water. It helps bring shrub roses through varied weather conditions the plants experience in northern gardens. When planting always provide a well-drained soil for optimum growth, healthy roots, and protection from diseases roses face.

Varied Methods Of Winter Rose Bush Care & Protection

Northern rose gardening employs varied methods of caring for roses through the winter. For example:

  • Some mound the plant with dirt, entirely covering it, and then use a light covering of hay or straw
  • Others hill dirt up around rose plants only four or five inches from the base, using a greater amount of hay or straw for covering.
  • Some build wooden housings to cover the plants after filling with dirt and covering with hay.

These practices have been used in rose gardens for many years and all used with good success.

Mildew & Mounding Roses

When using earth for mounding on rose plants, some growers experience problems with mildew on the main stems. The mildew damages the stems and slows up the vigorous growth “comeback.”

The cause and appearance of mildew is rather hard to explain. I believe the chief reason for the mildew is not removing the covering early enough in the spring. Unless extremely subnormal weather conditions prevail, remove the covering no later than the first week of April – even earlier if possible. The rose grower must take each year’s weather in stride.

Covering Rose Plants With Leaves for the Winter

Leaves are another kind of covering used for winter rose bush protection – but not rose leaves. Many northern rose growers use leaves alone for winter protection.

However, it takes a large number of leaves to give ample protection for roses – more leaves than the average rose grower has on their property. When using leaves, place them well around the plants, and put plenty on top, also. The leaves will require some type of material to hold the leaves in place. An inexpensive coarse grade of chicken wire will do the job adequately for many years. Even if some snow falls before the roses are covered, go ahead and cover over the snow.

In the spring the removed leaves make excellent material for the compost pile.

Should You Prune Roses For Winter?

Pruning roses help them grow even better but some growers prune their roses bushes in the fall before putting them to bed. Others do not prune until early spring, after new growth begins to develop.

For covering pillar or climbing roses, lay all canes on the ground and use any of the above-suggested ways for the bush roses. Cut climbers and pillar roses from their trellises or those growing on fences gives you an opportunity to inspect and repair supports when necessary.

Tree Roses

Some gardeners grow tree roses in large containers and move them inside from the winter winds.
One method used by tree rose growers is to loosen the dirt around three sides of the plant and gradually bend the entire tree over to the ground, pinning it down with stakes. They use the same garden method for climbers and bush roses. Taking the time to prepare your roses for winter months will pay dividends when the warm spring weather arrives – and so do the blooms!

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