Getting your Roses ready for the long cold winter may seem as daunting as getting a fussy toddler ready for bed to a Rose gardener! Don’t fret, because 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!
Gardeners in cold climates and those in warmer zones, both have to contend with a range of concerns their gardens must endure each winter. From drying winds, moisture and humidity, cold and fluctuating temperatures.
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, green leaves and potential molds, fungi and disease in with their shrubs to struggle with all winter long. This also wreaks havoc on your plants during the fickle autumn months that waver between freezing and thawing.
Wait until your Rose plants have been exposed to several killing frost 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, typically the right time is around Thanksgiving to think about protecting your Rose bush, 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 the more southern states, if winter protection is needed, then you’ll want to wait until much later in the season before wintering your Roses over. You may only need to provide the crown mulch and protection from cold, drying winds. In the warmest parts of the country, only attention moisture access is needed.
Water the soil at the root zone on a weekly basis throughout the autumn, as long as the ground is not frozen and there hasn’t been at least an inch of rain or snow. Saturate the soil around the Rose completely, avoiding getting excess moisture on the stems and crown. Once temperatures remain consistently freezing and your ground is frozen, or has sufficient snow cover, you’ll not need to water until the spring thaw. Read more about Winter Watering Here.
To hold moisture in the soil around the roots of your Rose, or any other plant for that matter, apply a 3-4” layer of Mulch at any time throughout the growing season. When autumn arrives, before frost, apply up to 4-6 inches more for the winter. This mulch also helps insulate the root zone from the chill.
Freezing 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. Warm and humid climates, less is more to prevent mold and fungus from infecting your plant.
The easiest method to protect your Rose is by piling leaves and/or compost over the crown. Clean out the interior of any debris or old Rose leaves to prevent harboring excess moisture, fungus and disease, then cover with dry, clean, loose organic matter. Depending on the size of your Bush, mounded soil and mulch over the base to about 10 - 12 inches.
The loose clean and dry material can include:
For taller or larger Roses, tie the canes together gently. Then either use a Rose cone or Rose collar or, create one by driving a couple of stakes into either side of your Rose (avoiding the roots) and attaching a cylindrical ring of tar paper, burlap or chicken wire that encircles the shrubs’ lower half. Keep the tops of your Rose uncovered. This can then be filled with your insulation of choice.
If using a styrofoam Rose cone, cut off the top to allow moisture and air circulation.
Shrub or Landscape, Rugosa, Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, Floribunda, Miniature and groundcover Rose types, all benefit from some additional mulch as noted above. Any kind of shredded mulch or compost works great. This protects the canes from blackening and dying back over the winter.
If your Climbing Roses are growing in a fairly protected area out of harsh winds and extreme temperatures, wrapping with burlap or evergreen boughs will give sufficient winter protection.
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.
Optional sprays are available for your Rose canes. Use a fungicide or disease-preventing dormant oil spray solution of 1/3 cup baking soda to 1-gallon of water.
You should avoid pruning your Roses until very early spring before you see new growth that year. Only remove broken and damaged limbs at the time of winterizing.
Fertilizer too should be completely avoided after midsummer to allow new growth to ‘harden off’ before winter and to prevent your Rose from being overly encouraged to produce new growth that will just die as soon as the cold weather arrives.
Deer when they’re very desperate will even nibble on the ends of Roses where there are fewer thorns, but unfortunately even the most thorny 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.
With just a bit of planning and timing, you’ll enjoy an entire romantic Rose garden or keep that one Rose bush happy and healthy for years to come! No more Rose tantrums from you or your garden when it’s time to be put to bed!
Head over to NatureHills.com for more to help you get your garden winter-ready! Then check out our Garden Blog to learn about Un-Wintering Your Roses in spring to help your garden wake up on the right side of the bed!