Protecting Roses In Winter

By The Old House Web

Protecting Roses In Winter

Roses must be protected against not only low winter temperatures, but also fluctuating temperatures and winter winds. To prevent winter injury, keep your roses healthy during the growing season. Roses that have been sprayed for disease control and have been properly nourished are more likely to escape winter injury than plants that have lost their leaves because of disease or nutrient deficiencies. Provide winter protection for the bad union of roses that have been grafted onto rootstocks.

Bush roses: Most rose bushes are not completely hardy in the North Central region and need to be protected from cold temperatures. Different types of insulators, such as soil, mulch, cones, etc., can provide necessary protection.

To protect roses using soil, mound soil around the base of canes after the first hard frost while you can still work the soil. Bring soil from another part of the garden for mounding because you may injure roots if you remove soil from around the rose plant or bed. Avoid using clay or heavy soils because they hold too much moisture.

Tie all the canes together to keep them from being wind- blown and loosening the soil around the base of the bush. Or, you may shorten canes to reduce wind whipping. However, do not cut the canes to the soil level because they may not be killed during winter. After tying canes together, mound soil 8 to 10 inches high around canes.

After the ground has frozen in late fall, around Thanksgiving in the northern parts of the North Central region, pile hay, straw, strawy manure, leaves or a similar material over the mounded canes. Hold the material in place by covering with some soil. These materials help to keep the soil temperature constant. It is important to apply straw or other materials only after the ground has frozen to prevent mice invasion.

You may also want to distribute some mouse bait around the bushes. For additional protection, place twiggy branches or evergreen boughs (from Christmas trees) over the top of the bushes. These branches help accumulate snow between the bushes, which may help reduce injury to the roots while still allowing for air circulation.

You can also make or buy your own rose protectors or cylinders. Cylinders 12 inches in diameter, styrofoam cones or similar coverings are satisfactory. Apply cylinders or cones after the plants are fully dormant after the plants are fully dormant - after two hard frosts have occurred, usually after Thanksgiving in the northern parts of the North Central region.

If you use an open-top cylinder, tie canes together, apply the cylinder, then fill with one of the following mulches: - dry vermiculite - corn cobs - leaves - straw - perlite or other material (not peat moss).

Cut the tops of the canes even with the top of the cylinder and cover with polyethylene film to keep the insulation material dry. Anchor the film to prevent wind damage. Check the plant occasionally in winter for mouse, wind or other damage. If you are using a closed-top cylinder, tie the canes together, apply one of the materials listed above, then cover with the cylinder and anchor it.

Follow manufacturer's directions when using commercial plant protectors. This usually includes mounding the soil and pruning the bush to fit the cone. Most need to be anchored by placing stones on the tops or soil around the base. If using a styrofoam cones, be sure to drill a few 1-inch holes near the top to prevent moisture buildup and mold.

Remove protective materials- straw, soil, cylinders, etc. - in spring as soon as danger of hard frost (several degrees below freezing) has passed, but before new growth appears. If new growth has already started the plant may need protection in case of frost, so replace the protective covering whenever frost is predicted.

Carefully remove the soil mounded around the bases of plants to avoid breaking off any shoots that may have started to grow. Never uncover the bushes in spring before the ground has thawed because the tops may start to grow before the roots can provide water.

Tree Roses: Protect tree roses by covering the plants with soil. Dig carefully under the roots on one side of the plant until the plant can be completely pulled over on the ground. Be very careful to prevent breaking all root connections with the soil. In spring after the soil thaws and danger of severe frost has passed, remove the soil cover and set the plants upright.

Shrub Roses: Most shrub roses do not need additional protection.

Climbing Roses: Climbing roses need protection in areas where the temperature regularly drops below zero. Lay the canes on the ground, anchor them with wire pins or notched stakes, and cover them with several inches of soil. In spring, remove the soil after danger of severe frost has passed.


Most rose cultivars can be propagated from cuttings taken after the first bloom or in the summer or fall. Newer rose cultivars are patented, so propagation of these cultivars is prohibited.

Take summer cuttings after blossoms have died. Make 6 to 8 inches cuttings from the stems. Use either stem tip or stem section cuttings. Remove all leaflets except one or two at the top, then plant the cuttings with half their length below the ground. Water thoroughly and cover with an inverted fruit jar or jug to provide high humidity during rooting and protection over the winter. Remove the fruit jar the following spring.

Take fall cuttings after the wood has matured or becomes woody. Cut stems into 8- or 10-inch lengths, remove all leaves, and plant the cuttings in a well-protected, sunny place with only the top bud above the ground. When freezing weather approaches, cover the cuttings with a mulch of organic matter several inches deep to keep the ground from alternate freezing and thawing.

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