Photo by Melody

Putting Your Roses to Bed for Winter

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowOctober 30, 2007

IF you live in USDA zone 6 or colder there are certain steps that need to be taken to ensure that your roses survive the winter.

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Those of us that live in the colder climates have to take a few extra steps to make sure our roses make it through the winter and will be ready to come to life in the spring.

Most hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras are grown as grafted plants. That is, the rose plant is grafted onto a hardy root stock. The large knob or graft is known as the bud union. This has to be protected from freezing.

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Just as a side note, many tags or packages that roses come in tell you to plant the bud union level with the soil. In our colder climates, zone 6 and colder plant the union 2-3 inches below the soil surface.

The first step in preparing our rose beds for the cold is to do a complete cleanup.

The image This means to remove all debris from the beds. Fallen leaves, broken canes and anything else that doesn’t belong there needs to be removed. By doing this you will ensure that fungal or bacterial spores will not over winter and attack our plants in the spring. I find that using a shop-vac makes this task much easier.

After there has been a couple of hard freezes strip off all remaining leaves and discard.

This is the time when a dormant spray needs to be applied to the canes and the soil around your plants. The usual combat ion of this spray is to use a mixture of Lime-sulfur and dormant oil. These are natural substances than will kill and insects and spores that might be present on your roses

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You can mix the ingredients together yourself or premixed sprays are available. Follow the instructions on the container and wear appropriate protective clothing and eye gear as should be done when any spraying is being done.

Make sure the temperature is above 40 degrees F when applying this product.

If you talk to many different rosarians you will get many different methods as how to protect your roses from the cold.

I’m going to share a couple of the ones that I have had success with. Protection should be placed after a couplre of hard freezes.

Tie the longer canes together with garden twine to prevent them from whipping around in the wind. I like to take several thickness of newspapers fold in half lengthwise and place them around the base of the plant. Staple the ends together to form a collar.

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Fill the collar with shredded leaves, compost or garden soil.

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Many folks like to use rose cones as their winter protection. If you choose this method cut the top out of the cone. This allows air circulation and prevents condensation on sunny days. If the plant is too large for the cone, prune it back just enough so that it will fit. Place bricks or rocks around the base to keep it from blowing over in the wind.


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I grow several roses in large containers 25 gallon or larger. I have found that moving them into the garage and watering them once a month works really well.

In the spring after the danger of freezing weather has passed, remove the winter protection and give them a good watering. When the forsythia blooms it’s time to prune them and apply the rose fertilizer.

  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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