Coming Up Roses

By Sharon Naylor

September 3, 2014 5 min read

It's time to prepare your rosebushes for the coming cold weather, and if you have different types of rosebushes, you'll need to prepare each of them in a different way to keep them protected during winter's most dramatic freezes and winds, according to experts writing at

*If you have tea roses:

To prepare tea rose plants for winter, it's important to gather plenty of soil and mulch up and over the base of the rosebush -- about 8 inches high. Doing this will protect the graft union of the rosebush from the severe cold. Prune down hybrid tea roses to about 12 to 18 inches in height, and then cover them up to protect them from the wind and the sun. Avoid using plastic rose cones that do not have ventilation holes, or rot could form.

*If you have shrub roses:

Shrub roses generally need little winter protection because most shrub rosebushes do not have a graft union that you need to protect. Still, it helps to place at least 3 or 4 inches of new mulch over the top of the bed to help protect the plants' root systems and stalks. You may choose to fertilize them at least a few weeks before the soil freezes.

*If you have climbing roses:

For climbing roses, it's best to lay the canes down for winter protection -- but only after leaves are completely off the plant and the plants have "hardened off" -- and cover with a layer of mulch. In the spring, when the danger of any severe cold has passed, pull the mulch off the canes of the plant, and stand them back up again.

*Overall tips for winterizing your roses and rosebushes:

--Preparation starts early. In spring and summer, your rosebushes get healthy via your best care. Watering, weeding, fertilizing, pruning, controlling diseases and fighting off insects will help create healthy, blooming plants that can face winter better because they're so well-fed and hydrated. Healthy rosebushes will survive winter better than weak plants.

--Stop fertilizing your rosebushes in mid-August. If you fertilize in late summer and fall, that encourages new growth in the plant. Tender young branches will not be able to face winter well and will likely die during the winter.

--In late fall, pick off any remaining leaves on the stems, and pick up any dead leaves or dried blooms on the ground around your rose plant's base. David Brill, plant expert at The Farm at Green Village, warns against disease that can spread to rose trees because of dead leaves and organics on the ground; pests can feed on these materials, and fungus can grow on them.

--Don't prune your rosebushes in late summer, because pruning also encourages new growth.

--Don't deadhead your roses in fall.

--Keep watering your rosebushes, giving the root system plenty of hydration before the ground freezes. The experts at http:/// say, "Roses can suffer as much from dehydration as from cold during the winter."

--Don't mulch with the wrong types of mulch materials. According to http:///, "maple, willow, poplar leaves, and grass clippings should not be used as winter mulch; they absorb water, mat down, and cut off oxygen to the crown and roots, smothering the plant. Oak and beech leaves shed water and are very good as winter mulches. Heavy wet, clay-like soils, if used in mounding, can also smother the roses."

--Consider building a protective structure around your roses, especially if you get a lot of wind where your rose plants are located. Build a protective shield of chicken wire covered with burlap to surround your rosebushes.

Remember that the temperature fluctuations leading into winter, including warm sun in midday and the plunge to below freezing at night, can be a real danger to your new and established rose plants, says Brill. And don't forget that the unique qualities of your garden soil also figure into your rosebushes' winter needs. As you make preparations for your rosebushes to survive the winter, take a sample of your soil to your local garden center, and take with you the tags for the types of roses you planted. (If you didn't keep the tags, take close-up photos of your rosebushes with your smartphone.) The experts there can advise you on the best care products, protective shield products and steps to take for your rosebushes, and they can test your soil for proper pH levels and other nutrient needs to help your rosebushes not just survive the winter but better thrive after the cold weather has passed.

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