How to Protect Roses in the Winter (3 Best Methods)

Old garden roses can tolerate cold temperatures, but hybrid and other grafted roses will need your help getting through the winter because they are more delicate. There are many ways to protect your roses from frost, and their success depends on timing. 

You must ensure that your plants are completely dormant before covering them, so you must prepare accordingly.

How to Prepare Your Roses Before Winterizing

How to Prepare Your Roses Before Winterizing

The best time to prepare your roses for winter is before the first frost in your area.

Step 1: Remove Fallen Leaves and Other Debris Around your Rose Garden

Remove Fallen Leaves and Other Debris Around your Rose Garden

Dead leaves and other waste around your rose plants can lead to damage over the winter because they can harbor pests and diseases.  

Step 2: Remove Dead or Struggling Rose Flowers from Your Garden

Remove Dead or Struggling Rose Flowers from Your Garden

Deadheading is a crucial process of winter care for your roses before the plants become dormant. Removing wilting or dead rose plants will leave you with the strongest plants ensuring new growth in spring.

Step 3: Prune Down the Climbers

Prune Down the Climbers

Experts recommend pruning down your rose plants to two or four inches high, leaving them with the bare necessities through the winter. Plants with long stems can suffer damage from the cold winter winds, and shorter stems can die from frost and thawing. Do not prune your roses after the second week of fall to encourage the growth of hips.

Step 4: Stop Fertilizing in Good Time to Slow Down Growth During Winter

Stop Fertilizing in Good Time to Slow Down Growth During Winter

According to experienced gardeners, the best time to stop fertilizing your roses is six weeks before the ground freezes in your area. Using fertilizer in late fall will not only be a waste, but it can lead to plant damage because your roses will use unnecessary energy to try and survive through the winter.

How to Winterize Your Roses

How to Winterize Your Roses

You can use several methods to protect your roses through the winter. The method you choose will depend on the climate in your area and the type of roses. Remember, most roses can survive cold temperatures but still need help when it gets too cold. So, depending on how low the temperatures get in your area, any method shared below can work for you.

The Minnesota Tip

The Minnesota Tip

This method involves tipping your entire rose plant on the side and insulating it against the cold by burying it under the soil during winter.

Follow the process below to achieve the Minnesota tip:

  • Prune your rose bush to about three feet, ensuring you cut above the outward-facing buds. Leave only the healthiest canes in your bush, as they will most likely make it through the winter.
  • Remove all the leaves from your plant to prevent disease and dehydration.
  • Use synthetic twine to tie canes together. Synthetic twine is better because it will not decay and damage the plants. Start typing the plants from the bottom going up. Ensure you leave a long piece of the thread attached to the plant to help find the plant after winter.
  • Spray the plant with a fungicide to protect it from diseases while under the soil. Let your canes dry before burying them under the soil.
  • Dig a trench beside your rose bush to bury your plants.
  • Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plant roots to reduce root damage. Slowly pry under the roots and tip over your rose plants into the trench.
  • Mix the topsoil with green matter to increase acidity levels in the soils. High acidity ensures the healthy growth of rose bushes.
  • Cover your roses with the soil. Remember to expose the extra twine so you can find your plant after winter.
  • Water the soil so it can settle and keep the roots moist and healthy during the winter.
  • Cover your roses with a bag of leaves or a carpenter’s blanket to keep the canes in place.
  • Remove the bag of leaves and the blanket when the temperatures get warmer.

Hilling Your Roses

Hilling Your Roses

This technique involves insulating your roses using soil and other materials throughout the winter. Like other methods, the idea is to maintain a constant freezing temperature throughout the winter.

The hilling method works best for hybrid tea roses, grandifloras and floribundas. Here is how to hill your roses:

  • Buy well-drained soil from your local gardening shop. You can also use straw or compost to cover your roses. Do not scrape the soil around your plants for the hilling as it might damage the root system and reduce the chances of your roses surviving the winter. If temperatures get too low in your area, you can add a layer of straw on top of the soil for more protection.
  • Using a shovel, pile the well-drained soil on the base of your rose bush up to 30cm high and 30cm wide. Cover up to 45 cm high and wide if you use compost or straw.
  • Use a chicken wire, commercial collar, newspapers, or gutter screening to prevent your covering from being blown away by the cold wind. If you do not secure your hilling materials, you will need to add more covering regularly throughout the winter.
  • When the ground starts to thaw in spring, remove the soil and coverings from your roses and spread them around your garden as compost.

Wrap and Bundle Up Your Climbing Roses

Wrap and Bundle Up Your Climbing Roses

Climbing roses do not twine or attach to anything, so they need protection against the cold winter wind.

Follow the steps below to wrap your roses in winter:

  • Group two or three canes and secure them with zip ties or cotton string. Do not tie the canes too tight, as they might damage the plant.
  • Add a layer of dry straw around the tied canes and wrap them with burlap.
  • Secure the burlap with twine or wire to hold everything in place.
  • Use the hilling method (covering the base with soil) to protect the roots and crown of your roses. Remember to pile the soil up to 45cm high and wide when using compost or straw.
  • Remove the coverings in spring when the ground begins to thaw. Spread the soil and compost around the garden and unwrap the canes gently.

How to Winterize Other Rose Varieties

Mini Roses

Mini Roses

Mini roses are small and thus do not get affected by wind as much as other varieties. However, you need to protect them from thawing and refreezing during winter. Like all other species of roses, you must ensure that your mini roses are dormant before winterizing them.

Once dormant, cover your mini roses from the top and the sides with dry leaves. The leaves must be dry, so your roses do not get disease and mold.

Shrub Roses

Shrub Roses

Shrub roses are a bit taller, so you will need leaves, straw, and burlap to protect them against the winter.

  • Stuff the leaves and straw around and in between the branches.
  • Wrap burlap around the rose shrub and secure it using wire or twine to keep everything in place.
  • Unwrap the coverings when the temperature becomes warmer In your area.

Container Roses

Container Roses

Move your container roses indoors before the first frost in your area. Ensure you maintain the temperature at 25-40 degrees F. If your area does not get too cold, you can leave your potted roses outside but keep them in a sheltered location to avoid wind damage.

Recap: How to Protect Roses in the Winter

How to Protect Roses in the Winter

I asked a lot of questions about the best way to protect roses in the winter. I am always willing to answer their best of my ability. However, my ability is based on what I read and was told to really plant those roses in the winter environment. You see, my experience with roses grows from living in two places, now in Los Angeles, CA, and North Carolina. The former is barely a hand in the winter experience and the latter, while winter, does not equal the real northern winter’s daunting challenge.

This is where Jack Falker comes in. I got to know Jack through his blog “The Minnesota Rose Gardener”. Along the way we’ve emailed back and forth sharing thoughts and ideas. Jack is great about letting me bounce ideas off him for his practical, experienced input.

So while I can write about winter protection based on what I know, I always feel when you have someone you can call on with more experience why not do it! So with a shout out to Jack I’m going to share some his winter protection tips with all of you. You will find links to Jack’s blog and specific things I mention at the bottom of this post.

Winter rose gardening

First, as with dealing with disease and other things, a winter protection strategy starts with selecting roses that are right for your growing area. I realize not many roses are hardy to say zone 4 but at least select ones that can handle zone 5. Don’t pick tender varieties like Noisettes that simply can’t handle anything below 6 (with the rare exception).

Secondly, when you plant new roses bury the bud union and bury it deep – 3-4 inches. The bud union is what you see on budded (or grafted) roses. It’s that knot above the roots where the canes grow out from. If you have own root roses than bury the area above the roots where the canes are growing out from.

Thirdly,Be sure to cover the plastic film, we have discussed the use of cover for many reasons, the other is to protect the roots in the winter. So make sure you get into the winter bed cover.

Jack’s journey with the Winter Conservation began when he began to reflect on the so-called “Minnesota Tips”. This approach requires some uprooting of your roses, so you can prompt them to cover them with dirt. Spring comes and you’ll find them, let them re-erect and hope the roots you cut off the back. Although Jack began to think about this plant would not work very well in the long run.

Jack began experimenting with different methods and the one he came up with that worked for him involves cutting the roses down in fall to about 12-18 inches when they stop blooming and tie them in bundles. After the ground has frozen you cover them with half filled bags of leaves.

Another thing Jack suggested is to give you the first difficulty of freezing your first six weeks or so before the Rose Potassium feast. He found that this would stop the growth effects of nitrogen and phosphorus hardening the cane in the winter.

Jack has other great tips on winter protection (and rose growing in general) in his blog. Be sure to click the link below and spend a little reading it. I suspect you’ll learn some things. I know I did!

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