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Winter Protection for Roses

Follow these simple steps to prepare your rose bushes to face a long, cold winter.

How to Protect Roses in Winter

+ enlarge image

Roses in frost-free Zones 9 and 10 seldom need winterizing. Roses in Zone 11 need no protection and do not go dormant; they bloom until you prune them.

What You Need

  • Fresh topsoil or compost
  • Pruners
  • Dry, shredded leaves or bark

In extra cold climates:

Click here to learn more about propagating roses.

Cold-Climate Instructions:

+ enlarge image Step 2. Prevent damage caused by freezing cycles by piling soil on the plant base.

1. In early fall, stop cutting roses and let plants form hips (seedpods) as they prepare naturally for winter.

2. After the first frost in fall, protect plants from the potential damage caused by freezing and thawing cycles by piling soil over the base of the plant; cover the bud union and up to about 2 feet. Use fresh topsoil or compost, not soil scraped from around the plant.

Prune overly long canes on bush-type roses to prevent wind damage. Expect a certain amount of winter kill (when canes die as far back as the bud union). Plan to prune off dead canes in early spring.

+ enlarge image Step 3. Mulch after the first hard freeze.

3. After the first hard freeze, add mulch: Pile dry, shredded leaves or bark chips on the mounded soil. In spring, remove the leaves or bark and the pile of soil; spread the leaves and bark around the garden.

Extra-Cold Climate Instructions:

+ enlarge image Step 1. Dig a trench the size of the height and width of the plant.

In areas where winter brings sub-zero temperatures and frigid, drying winds, take extra precautions to help your roses survive.

1. Wrap twine around the canes to hold them erect as you work. Use a garden fork to gently unearth the plant's roots. Dig a trench to one side of the rose large enough to contain the height and width of the plant.

+ enlarge image Step 2. Cover the entire plant with soil.

2. Gently tip the plant and lay it in the trench. Cover it with soil. Pile a 2-inch layer of shredded leaves on top of the soil. In early spring, carefully uncover the rose and replant it.

Protecting Hybrid Teas & Tree Roses

Hybrid Tea roses:

  • Reinforced plastic cylinder or styrene cone for each plant

Tree roses:

  • Straw (mild climates)
  • Soil (cold climates)
  • Wooden stakes
  • Burlap
  • Twine or wire

Potted tree roses:

  • Roomy cardboard box
  • Shredded newspaper, dry leaves, styrene packing pieces, or peat moss
  • Bales of hay

Hybrid Tea Rose Instructions:

+ enlarge image Step 1. Rose cones provide extra protection for Hybrid Teas.

Roses such as Hybrid Teas need extra protection in cold-winter areas.

1. Rose cones: Purchase a reinforced plastic cylinder or a styrene cone for each plant, if you like. Place the cylinder or cone over the plant and fill it with dry leaves, soil, or bark chips. Remove the protection in early spring.

Tree Rose Instructions:

+ enlarge image Step 2. For cold winters, place stakes around the tree rose.

1. In mild-winter areas, pile straw around the base of a tree rose (a plant grafted on a tree-length stem).

2. In cold-winter areas, use soil instead of straw. Place a framework of wooden stakes around the tree.

+ enlarge image Step 3. Insert stakes and wrap tree in burlap.

3. Wrap a generous length of burlap around the stakes to enclose the tree. Secure the fabric using twine or wire. Fill the enclosure with dry leaves or straw. In extremely cold areas, treat tree roses as you would other roses, by burying them in trenches (see previous page).

Potted Roses:

Overwinter potted tree roses as well as other potted roses by moving them into an unheated garage or to a sheltered place next to the south side of your house. Protect each plant by placing it, pot and all, in a roomy cardboard box and packing the box with shredded newspaper, dry leaves, styrene packing pieces, or peat moss. Surround the box with bales of hay.