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How to Protect Your Roses in the Winter

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

Winterizing your house in preparation for the colder months is important, but too many people neglect their gardens. Why would you let a little bit of cold weather shrivel up your gorgeous plants when protecting them is such a simple task? We decided to take charge of our blooming plant life this year by properly protecting them from Jack Frost's fierce cold. Work fast; winter is on its way!

Cold Climates

What You Need

  • Fresh topsoil or compost
  • Pruners
  • Shredded leaves or bark

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.

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 Climates

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

What You Need

  • Twine
  • Garden fork
  • Fresh topsoil or compost
  • Shredded leaves or bark

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.

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.

Hybrid Tea Rose

What You Need

  • Plastic cylinder or styrene cone
  • Shredded leaves, bark, or soil

To make a rose cone, purchase a reinforced plastic cylinder or a styrene cone for each plant. 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

What You Need

  • Straw
  • Soil
  • Wooden stakes
  • Burlap
  • Twine or wire

1. In mild-winter areas, pile straw around the base of a tree rose. In cold-winter areas, use soil instead of straw—soil will provide more insulation.

2. Place a framework of wooden stakes around the tree.

3. Wrap a generous length of burlap around the stakes to enclose the tree. Secure the fabric using twine or wire.

4. 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.

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.

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