Caring For Tree Roses (And Get Them Ready for Winter)!

Caring For Tree Roses (And Get Them Ready for Winter)!

rose tree

Take everything you love about Roses and raise them to new heights by grafting them upon a strong, sturdy, and straight single-stem trunk, and these already iconic blooming shrubs become something otherworldly!

But caring for these precious works of art takes a bit more forethought and a touch of extra maintenance (but just a little - we promise!). Especially if you are growing these unique grafted plants in colder regions.

Nature Hills has you covered and takes all the guesswork out of the art of caring for Rose Trees!

About Tree Roses

Gorgeous landscape crown jewels, incredible garden specimens, and amazing gifts, Rose Trees are exemplary versions of the beloved flowering ornamental!

Experts have created Tree-Form Roses by taking the already beloved Rose bush (when grafted this is called the scion) and grafting them atop a straight trunk, known in the industry as the Rose Standard.

pink rose tree

This takes the anything-but-ordinary beauty of these classic garden ornamentals and elevates them closer to the eyes, nearer the nose, and head and shoulders above other mere shrubberies! Tree Roses can be grafted Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, or today many are reblooming Shrub Roses with built-in disease resistance. 

But what goes into caring for these precious tree-form flowering plants really isn’t what you’d expect! Long gone are the days of fussy Roses that need coddling and weeping over!

Today’s Roses have been selected and bred to be super easy to grow and care for! And this built-in carefree nature carries over to their Tree-Form versions as well!

Basic Rose Care For Happy Blooms

rose tree infographic

Roses need 8 basic rules of thumb to keep them happy and healthy -

  • Full Sun - Favoring morning sun to dry their leaves of dew
  • Air Circulation - Rose foliage needs ample air circulation to avoid many issues that typically can cause problems
  • Regular Moisture - Moderate yet consistent water access all growing season
  • Enriched Well-Drained Soil - Roses despise soggy stagnant conditions. Plant Roses in a location with high organic matter and good drainage
  • Mulched Garden Beds - Adding 3-4 inches of arborist mulch holds moisture better, insulates the root system, and further enriches the soil
  • Regular Fertility - Roses need ample fertility access to support their flowering and health
  • Winter Crown Protection - Protecting their crown and roots from chill is vital in cold climates
  • Spring Pruning - Pruning Roses is best performed in the early spring when you see new growth beginning to emerge

This is the basic care that many types of both new and old-fashioned Roses need to keep them looking their best for the long run! Rose trees will need just a little bit more to protect their graft union and support the very best growth.

Caring For Tree Roses

How do you maintain a Rose Tree that is different than a regular Rose bush? There’s not too much else during the growing season!

light pink rose tree

In addition to the 8 basic needs listed above, be sure to regularly water your Rose Tree deeply and use the finger-test method to know when to water. You will want to do this to ensure your Rose roots go deep to better help them tolerate heat and short bouts of drought.

Plant your Tree Rose in a protected location away from strong winds, and in exposed locations, or in low areas where cold air can settle.

  • For Rose Trees planted in lawns -
    • Give them a 2-3 foot wide ring of mulch to protect the trunk from mower and weed-wacker damage.
    • This buffer zone also helps keep lawn chemicals and fertilizers that are high in nitrogen away from your plant.
    • Roses exposed to high nitrogen levels grow predominantly green foliage and may have reduced flowering.

Preparing Your Rose Tree For Winter

Today’s modern Roses are much easier to care for and with just a bit of planning, your Roses will slumber throughout the winter like a baby, emerging in spring with an explosion of refreshing growth!

Rose tree with pink roses in a garden

Winter protection will be needed especially if you are growing them where winter can get to zero degrees or colder. Container Tree Form Roses can be overwintered in an unheated garage after they go dormant. If grown in the ground, they can be heavily mulched and wrapped with straw and burlap for protection.

Then in spring, take it back out of the garage, or unwrap it and water it well. Bring it back into a protected location in the event of a late spring freeze until it has fully acclimated to being outside again.


It’s a good idea to protect the crown of the Rose and its roots from the impending winter’s chills. 

However, most people cover their Roses too early. In the rush to beat the cold (to keep themselves warm more so than their plants), they accidentally trap moisture, leaves are still green, and potential mold, fungi, and disease in their shrubs. Forcing them to struggle all winter long. This also wreaks havoc on your plants during the fickle autumn months that waver between freezing and thawing.

  • Be careful with using Rose Cones for winter protection as the plants can rot underneath. Cut holes in the tops of the cones to allow moisture to escape but the sides of the cones will offer protection.

Wait until your Rose plants have been exposed to several killing frosts and consistently cold temperatures to help them completely go dormant before covering, and only if winter protection is needed in your Hardiness Zone.

Depending on your climate, the right time is around Thanksgiving to think about protecting your Rose bushes in colder areas, but Mother Nature dictates exactly when with her fickle nature. One warm and extended fall and you’ll find rotting or diseased Roses awaiting you in spring!


  • In USDA growing zones 6 and below, you need to protect your Tree Rose from winter’s chill. Do everything you can to protect your investment.
  • In the more Southern States (USDA growing zones 7 and up) if winter protection is needed, then you’ll want to wait until much later in the season before wintering your Roses. You may only need to provide the crown with a layer of mulch and protection from cold, drying winds.
  • In the warmest parts of the country, only attention to moisture access is needed.


Disease Prevention


Aside from much-needed morning sun and air circulation, cleaning away old/shed foliage, and proper winterizing, Rose Trees need a bit of help to keep pests away as well. 

Treating Roses for insects can be done with organic options or chemical control. Or if you are in an area that has a lot of pressure from insects you may want to consider using a Systemic Rose care option.

Granular systemic Rose formulas are applied to the soil, raked/watered in, and the plant takes up the active ingredient to prevent bugs from chewing on those plants (making them taste bad from the inside out!).

If disease and fungus are issues in your area, it is a good idea to choose Roses that have natural or built-in disease resistance.

  • Wait to cover until they are completely dormant
  • Choose a dry day to cover them
  • Water only at the root zone

Optional sprays are available for your Rose canes, including a fungicide spray, a disease-preventing dormant oil spray solution, or 1/3 cup baking soda to 1 gallon of water.

Winter Moisture Needs

Although Roses are drought tolerant, they really prefer to have good moisture to keep them stress-free. That means watering the soil as needed keeping the foliage dry. So check your soil moisture and water when needed right through the growing season into fall as the plants stop growing and go dormant. Read more about Winter Watering Here.

Deer Prevention

canva rose tree

Deer will nibble on the ends of Roses where there are fewer thorns, but unfortunately, even the thorniest Roses can receive a bit of tip damage when the deer are especially hungry! Try spraying your plants with a repellent and reapply after heavy rain or snow throughout the winter. Do this from day one of planting in high deer-pressure areas to train your local deer population that "This plant tastes awful!".

More Tips & Tricks for Deer Prevention

Mulch and Rose Trees

Freeze/thaw cycles and drying out are the two biggest issues facing Roses throughout the winter. Covering the crown loosely with mulch or leaves is the best way to prevent cold damage to your Rose, especially in colder climates.

  • In warm and humid climates, less is more when it pertains to preventing mold and fungus from getting to your plant.

We have found the best way to overwinter Hybrid tea, Floribunda, Grandiflora, Shrub Roses, and Climbers is to mound up the base of the plants with at least a foot of arborist wood chips, or clean mulch of any kind. This covers the bottom foot of so of the canes protecting the plants.

Mulch not only looks nice but also greatly reduces the incidence of soil-borne diseases (water hitting the soil can splash the foliage and make it dirty looking while carrying with it those diseases!).

The easiest method to protect your Tree Roses for winter is to allow the plants to go dormant first, and clean out the interior of any debris or old Rose leaves to prevent harboring excess moisture, fungus, and disease.

  • In zones 7 or colder, cover the crowns with dry, clean, loose organic matter. Mulch over the roots, cage the top, and fill with loose clean, dry material.
  • If container-grown, Rose Trees can be overwintered inside an unheated garage or shed or other structure out of the elements after the plant has gone dormant.


The loose clean and dry material can include:

  • Soil
  • Compost
  • Mulch
  • Shredded leaves
  • Straw
  • Peat moss
  • Bark chips

Most Tree-Form Roses have a Rose Standard on their own root and are grafted at the top of this 2-3 foot or 3-4 foot tall trunk. This graft is where your Rose Tree differs from the regular Rose bush that can sometimes be grafted just above the roots.

In extreme cold climate locations, even the hardiest Rose needs extra protection for that elevated graft union.

“Un-wintering” Your Rose Trees

Once winter finally recedes - it is time to pull that mulch or leaf litter away from the bottoms of the Rose trunk and get them pruned! Wear some good heavy gloves to protect your hands.

red rose tree

Expose the canes and inspect them, pulling the mulch and leaves away back to a 3-4 inch thick layer around the root zone only, spreading out to about 2-3 feet beyond the Rose Tree’s branches (the drip line).

Pruning Rose Trees

In the early spring, as you start to see new growth start, it’s time to prune your Rose. Pruning Roses allows for better, bushier growth each year and stimulates new growth.

  • Know what kind of Rose you have before you prune!
    • Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, and many Shrub Roses can all be trained into Rose Trees and all make flowers on new growth/new wood. That means that these Roses you are uncovering really do need to be trimmed to remove any broken or dead branch tips, but more importantly make the Tree Rose heads more uniform and allow them to make new growth from fewer healthy buds closer to the grafted top portion.
    • Any of the old-fashioned Shrub Rose types, or Climbing Roses that bloom on old wood/last year's growth should not be pruned in spring.
    • Some of these older Native Roses that bloom on last year's growth will flower in June and when that stem flowers you cut it down to the ground and new stems arise from the ground. Those stems make next year’s flowers.

Leave the Rose branches (canes) alone until early spring just before they start to grow. This way you’ll easily see the fat new buds emerging and this will give you an idea where to make your cuts. 

For older Rose trees that have been in place for many years, you should take a bit of time with each plant, eliminating any dead or brown and dry canes right back to the head with nice sharp pruning shears.

The key is removing older and/or diseased stems leaving clean and healthy stems each year. Winter damage may make pruning decisions for you. Remove anything suspicious and cleanly prune off the stem just above a fat healthy-looking bud.

Any nice green stems that are not broken and look healthy should be reduced to about 6-8 inches away from the main grafted crown. For larger Rose scions, trim the head back to about a 12" sphere just as it begins to grow again in spring.

  • Remember to wipe and sterilize your pruners between EACH cut!


Rose Tree Suckers & Rose Tree Stress

When stressed, sometimes a Rose Tree’s roots can send up suckers. This will look like straight canes coming up from the roots that are not branching off the main trunk. This could indicate your Tree is stressed from drought or pests, from mulch or soil that is piled too high over the roots, or the Rose Tree is not planted deep enough.


  • At any time of the year, you can prune away suckers and branching that forms at the base or on the trunk.

First, correct what is causing your Tree Rose to be stressed, and cleanly prune off these suckers so they do not sap more energy or nutrients from your plant.

  • Whenever any plant is showing signs of stress - Do not reach for the fertilizer! Treat the source of the stress and fertilize once it has recovered. Fertilizer forces new growth at a time when your plant is already weak and struggling to support its current growth, compounding any problems it’s already experiencing!

Rose Tree Fertilization

  • Spread compost around your Rose tree each spring as you top off its mulch layer.
  • You can also apply a slow-release fertilizer for Roses in the spring once you see new growth in the spring.
  • You can also apply liquid Rose fertilizer in the spring and again in the summer.

Containerized Tree Rose Care

Tree Roses potted up in planters and containers have a few extra needs for you to be aware of. Firstly, they completely rely on you to provide their sources of water and nutrients. Proper watering and regular fertility are needed to keep them growing well!

container rose tree

For container Rose Trees that were brought into garages or sheds for the winter, water sparingly enough to keep the roots barely damp but do not let them dry out completely. Avoid wrapping the pot in plastic or plastic bags because mold, mildew, or other fungal issues may grow. Proper air circulation is still important year-round. Temperatures in the storage area should be consistently in the 30s°F to lower 40s°F.

  • Another method in especially cold climates, is to dig a trench in the garden and lay the potted - dormant - Tree Rose in the trench. Then cover it with several inches of soil or clean leaf litter. In the spring, simply unearth the Rose and stand it up again, water well, and stake it if needed until the roots re-settle.


Ensure Your Rose Tree Container of Choice Has - 

  • Ample drainage to prevent root rot
  • Is large enough to give the roots plenty of room to grow
  • Is large enough and amended with enough organic matter to hold moisture adequately
  • Is heavy enough to prevent wind and storms from toppling your Rose tree
  • Receives regular moisture that excess water can quickly be shed
  • Large enough to not overheat in the full sun environment and cook the roots
  • Large enough to insulate the roots against the chill and freezes in the winter
  • Has a mulched layer on the top to insulate the surface roots and prevent evaporation

Elevate Your Rose Enjoyment Today!

Gorgeous elevated versions of your favorite Rose bushes are elegant, high-end focal points and works of living art! Caring for them correctly will allow you years of enjoyment from these incredible ornamental flowering shrubs!

Check out the incredible array of Rose Trees for you to choose from today at Nature Hills Nursery!

Happy Planting!

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