Winter Protection for Roses

There is nothing quite like the beauty and fragrance of roses in bloom in mid-summer. These hardy shrubs thrive in a sunny location with well-drained soil, but when winter approaches they need a little help from you. Keeping them snug and safe from the ravages of winter goes a long way toward preserving their beauty and protecting their health.

Stop fertilizing your roses my the end of August to discourage the formation of new shoots. Allowing the rose bush to go dormant is an important step toward providing winter protection. If new shoots appear in the fall, cut them at the base with a pair of sharp pruning shears. Young shoots freeze with the first frosts and may stress the entire plant.

Reduce watering in late summer or early fall to allow the rosebush to enter dormancy. Stan Barrett, Master Gardener from the Colorado State University Extension Services explains that if rose bushes are allowed to enter dormancy slowly, the plants cells thicken making them better able to withstand freezing.

Remove dead leaves and garden debris from around your roses in the fall before the ground freezes. Garden debris harbors both insects and disease that may overwinter in the garden. Cleaning the garden now saves time and energy next spring when your roses begin to grow.

Trim back any long canes that may break in winter storms, otherwise do not prune your rose at this time. Fall pruning stresses the rose bush. Leave major pruning until the spring when new growth appears.

Add winter protection for roses in the late fall just as the soil begins to freeze. Covering them too early may actually do more harm than good, as it can hold in heat and interfere with your rose bush entering dormancy properly, making it more susceptible to winter damage.

Make a cylinder from chicken wire and place it around the rose bush. Fill the bottom 12 inches with lightweight mulch such as leaves, straw or peat moss. Heavy soils may choke out oxygen during the winter and kill your rose bush.

Cover the wire cage with burlap to hold in the mulch and prevent harsh winter winds from damaging the canes. Tie the burlap in place with twine or rope.

For climbing roses, either lay the vines down and mulch with a lightweight mulch or wrap them with burlap on the trellis. This prevents breaking from winds or heavy snow and ice.

Remove the winter covering in the spring once the weather has warmed and gently rake away the mulch.