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How To Prepare Roses For Winter

Updated on May 18, 2009

Putting Your Roses To Bed:

This is always a melancholy time of year. -- Your roses have produced their bountiful bouquets all summer into late fall and now it's time to put them to bed. Literally.

In climate zones 6 or below, roses, even though quite hardy, need to be winterized in order to ensure they repeat their magnificent display year after year.

When I first began my hands-on education in roses over 10 years ago, I was somewhat ignorant on how to make these flowering wonders thrive. -- Most of what I've picked up along the way has been the result of trial and error.

Yes. I've allowed (unwillingly) a few roses to expire. -- After all, they are a tad high-maintenance. But for the most part, every hybrid tea in our garden has held a healthy residence the better part of nine years.

In short, I've learned what works and what doesn't when it comes to tending to roses in my neck of the woods.

The focus of this hub will discuss the few, short steps needed to prepare your roses for their long winter nap.

A Common Misconception:

The belief many people hold, that extreme cold kills roses, is somewhat false. It's true that if you allow your roses to experience long periods of below-freezing temperatures, they will die...

However, the single-largest danger to roses this time of year is the cycle of freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, etc.... SO...

Primary Rose Winterizing Tip:

Once overnight temperatures are consistently below freezing, REGARDLESS of what daytime temps are, your roses need to be protected.

Yes. Winterizing roses is very important to keep them healthy. This hub will hopefully explain everything you need to know.

The three stages are: Pruning, Mounding, and Final Covering & Caging.

HAPPY ROSES~

A well-bedded rose bush ready for its long winter nap.
A well-bedded rose bush ready for its long winter nap.

WINTER PRUNING:

Pruning your rose bushes is the first step toward winterizing. A well-pruned rose bush in winter allows it to bounce back gangbusters in the spring.

Winter pruning, however, is not the same as spring pruning; where the objective is to stimulate growth. The goal of winter pruning is to prepare the plant for spring by getting rid of all dead, dying and unnecessary growth.

Roses healthfully sleeping are simply preparing for next year.

I suggest a heavy winter pruning and immediately covering up the plant, AKA winterizing.

BUSHES PRIOR TO PRUNING:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hybrid tea rose prior to pruning.Ready to be pruned after many blooms.Past its blooming season & ready to sleep.
Hybrid tea rose prior to pruning.
Hybrid tea rose prior to pruning.
Ready to be pruned after many blooms.
Ready to be pruned after many blooms.
Past its blooming season & ready to sleep.
Past its blooming season & ready to sleep.

WINTERIZING PRUNING CHECKLIST:

  • Prune each rose bush to within 12" or less to the ground; making sure to expose healthy pith at the end of each cut.
  • Seal the end of each cut with a school glue or other water-based sealant.
  • Remove all canes less than the width of a regular-sized pencil.
  • Remove all canes growing toward the center of the bush.
  • Prune all deadwood and dying-wood canes.

BUSHES AFTER PRUNING:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Well-pruned and ready to cover.Ditto...
Well-pruned and ready to cover.
Well-pruned and ready to cover.
Ditto...
Ditto...

WINTERIZING BEDDING CHECKLIST:

  • Mound existing dirt and mulch, or other organic material over the bud union of each bush.
  • Extend the mound of organic material as high as needed to cover most of the freshly-pruned canes. (It's OK to leave some cane tips exposed. Those will be taken care of during spring pruning).
  • Continue to mound additional organic material and push toward center of bush to create a cone-like appearance.

Examples of Mounded Bushes:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bush with bud union and majority of canes covered.Another example...... and another.
Bush with bud union and majority of canes covered.
Bush with bud union and majority of canes covered.
Another example...
Another example...
... and another.
... and another.

MOUNDING OF ROSES:

Mounding, bedding, or covering rose bushes is the second step in rose winterizing.

The concept is pretty basic. Simply cover up the bud union (the point where the primary canes meet the main rootstock of the plant) with heavy organic material and continue to build up as much material as possible.

If possible, try to use as much soil near the base of the plant since it tends to maintain a more consistent temperature when insulated.

THE FINAL COVERING: CAGING

The finishing step in winterizing roses is what I call the final covering, or caging.

Basically, it's providing a "cage" around each bush (which can consist of any rigid, weatherable material) allowing for the final covering of organic material and top coat to remain in place.

I typically use wood since it holds up to the weather and can be re-used year after year.

NOTE: Material allowing for a lot of air infiltration has not worked as well for me in the past. Just an FYI.

WINTERIZING CAGING CHECKLIST:

  • Stake the bush to allow the "caging" material to remain in place.
  • Place caging barriers in place.
  • Cover the bush with light-weight organic material, i.e. leaves, chopped leaves, straw, etc. and work down into all voids around bush.
  • Top cover with a layer of heavier organic material, i.e. mulch or heavy straw.
  • Wait until spring to come :)

Images of "Caged" bushes:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rose bush just after putting up "cage"The same bush after first covering of organic material.The same bush after the final covering of heavier organic material.
Rose bush just after putting up "cage"
Rose bush just after putting up "cage"
The same bush after first covering of organic material.
The same bush after first covering of organic material.
The same bush after the final covering of heavier organic material.
The same bush after the final covering of heavier organic material.

IN CONCLUSION:

These how to winterize rose tips are designed to give your roses their best chance to survive the bitterness of winter. At least they have in our garden.

Prepare yours for next year's buckets of blooms. ~

Comments

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    • profile image

      lbell 

      8 years ago

      Great instructions, I am heading out to do this work on a beautiful sunny fall day.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I learned a lot today about roses. Amazing. :-) Thanks for putting this together.

    • Barbie-Perkins profile image

      Barbie-Perkins 

      9 years ago from Cincinnati, OH

      Rob,

      Great Hub! Very informative. I didn't realize there were so many steps to preparing rose bushes for winter. Thanks for sharing.

      Barbie Perkins

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Fortunately, in Texas we don't have to do quite as much, but when we lived in Chicago it was always part of the late fall ritual to prep the roses for the cold. Nice tips.

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