Winter Rose Care

Corinne from Beaver Dam planted a rose bush this summer, now she is now wondering the best way to protect the plant for the winter.Rose bushes should be protected against low and fluctuating winter temperatures and winter winds. Winter protection should be applied after the plant has become fully dormant, typically after the ground is frozen in the late fall, around Thanksgiving. If applied too early, moisture may be trapped which encourages disease.

One option is to mound soil 10″ –12″ high around the plant. Tie the canes up with twine before mounding the soil. Soil should also be dug from another part of the garden so that the roots are not damaged. For extra protection pile hay, straw, or leaves over the soil mound. These materials help to keep the soil temperature constant. It is important to apply straw or other material only after the ground has frozen to prevent mice invasion.

Another choice is once the ground is frozen, wrap chicken wire around the base of the plant and layer about 4″ of loose organic, mulch material such as peat, leaves, or straw, on top of the crown. Avoid using clay or heavy soils because they hold too much moisture and may rot the canes.

Commercially available rose cones should be used with caution. If choosing the cones punch four or five quarter-sized holes on the sides near the top of the cone to allow for air circulation and to prevent moisture build up and mold. The rose bush may have to be pruned to fit the cone. Most cones need to be anchored by placing a heavy rock or brick on top of the cone.

Remove protective materials in spring as soon as danger of hard frost has passed, but before new growth appears.

The best winter protection is to select varieties that are hardy to this area, been properly planted and are healthy. A weak bush will not have the proper reserves to take it through our cold winters.

Chris Jacobs
Certified Master Gardener

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