How to Winterize Your Roses

Check out these tips to get your roses through the winter unscathed.

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If you live in a zone where the temperatures get cold but stay above freezing, you can use these steps for all of your roses. In the warmest areas, roses never go into complete dormancy, but they do stop blooming and need very little winter attention.

Many gardeners prune their roses heavily at this time so they won't interfere with spring growth, but pruning is a matter of personal preference. You can cut back the canes to two or three feet high and remove any problem branches. Most hardy roses come from Canada and are crown-hardy, which means that they can die back to the ground. In the spring, you can prune the dead wood above ground and the plant will come up again.

To winterize hardy roses:

  • Add a rose cone, which is available at garden centers.
  • Poke holes for ventilation to prevent moisture buildup against the canes.
  • Weigh the top down but leave it open.
  • Push soil against cone to seal it. Once the shrubs are cut back, tie them with string. Wrap them in a circular way, just to keep them from being whipped in the wind.
  • Mound the base of rose with 10 to 12 inches of soil. Get the soil from somewhere other than your bed. You don't want to be removing soil from the root base and exposing it to cold.

An alternative method for winterizing hardy roses is called collaring:

  • Don't prune the top of the rose bush.
  • Remove the leaves but not the hips.
  • Tie up the bush with twine.
  • Mound soil 10 to 12 inches around the base of the plant to insulate the crown.
  • Surround the plant with a wire hoop to form a collar.
  • Fill the collar with leaves to insulate the canes.
  • For extra protection, wrap a piece of burlap around the collar and secure it with twine.

You might be tempted to add new roses to existing beds in the fall, but it isn't a good idea. New roses have to compete with older roses that have a stronger root base, so the new plants won't get the nutrition they need to grow strong. Prepare now for a new bed by loosening the soil and adding several amendments to the soil, such as coarse sand for better drainage, sphagnum peat moss for aeration and higher acidity, leaves and pine needles, blood meal, manure, cottonseed meal and gypsum (calcium sulphate). All of these materials will break down over winter, and in the spring your soil will be rich and you'll have one less task to do when you'd rather be planting.

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