Winter Care For Roses

Last Updated on June 26, 2022

If you can’t name any other flower you see, you probably still know what a rose is.  They are a gardener’s (and woman’s) dream, invoking romance and screaming classic beauty.  While other flowers come in and out of vogue, roses never seem to get old.

Unlike some other flowers on the homestead, however, roses need a little love in the winter—especially if you live in a zone 5 or colder climate.  But don’t let that stop you or make you nervous.  With a few pointers, you’ll easily be able to winter them over.


Late Fall Care

Two things are important to remember in the late fall.

First off, about two months before your last frost, you’re going to want to stop fertilizing them if you are in the habit of doing so.  If you are timing your rose fertilization for twice a year, this is a good time to do your second treatment, but no more.

The second thing you want to do is stop pruning once your frosty season is upon you.  If you have diseased or rotten spots on your roses, go ahead and trim those, but try not to cut anything you don’t have to right now.  This is a time when roses are even more susceptible to disease, and you don’t want to invite any problems.

If It Gets Below 20 Degrees In Your Area

If your area will get below 20 degrees, then once it starts freezing at night, you’re going to want to gently pull your canes in and tie them loosely with a treated string.  These don’t need to be all pulled together like a wheat sheath, just loosely bundled enough that the canes are all vertical.

Leaving canes spread out makes it easier for them to break during heavy snow fall.

Once your canes are tied up, grab a shovel and some loose dirt from another area in your garden, and place it at the base of the crowns.  You’ll want to place soil up about 20 inches.

If You Have Wind In Your Cold Climate

Wind can be more damaging to roses that just about anything else.  Even if you live in a warm area, if you have winds, you’re going to want to prepare your roses ahead of winter to get them through.

Start by bundling your canes as described above, and soiling the base of the canes.

Hammer stakes in the ground around your roses.  Make sure after they are in the ground they are at least 36 inches or taller.  Next wrap a long piece of burlap around your rose bush, using a stapler to attach the burlap to the stakes.

Once you’re stapled all the way around, fill around your rose bush with loose leaves.  Don’t use leaves that will compact down.

I have a beautiful oak tree with bushy leaves that works well for this.

If you live in a warm and windy winter area, you may skip the bundling of canes as well as putting soil at the base, as long as they have burlap protection.

Potted Roses

The success of a good potted rose lies largely on the temperature of the soil during the winter (despite the temperature of the air.)

Soil needs to be kept between 25-40 degrees.  If you live in a warmer area, simply pulling your pots into the shade may suffice.

In a cooler climate, you’re going to want to move your rose indoors to an unheated building not attached to your home.  A garage, shed, or well house will probably do.

In very cold climates, surround the base of your canes with mulch.  Form a barrier around your pot (can be wire mesh encircling your pot or some type of burlap barrier mentioned above), and fill with loose straw or leaves.  Again, don’t use leaves that will mat down, and remember that most straw will have weed seeds in it.

Always remove all your winter protection in the spring before new growth starts.

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