Save the Roses

When fall chills the air, it's time to start winterizing roses and preparing them for the coming cold weather. Follow these easy steps to save your roses.

As I was leaving my house to come in to work this morning, I noticed a definite fall chill in the air. Glancing over at a rose plant with one lonely, fading flower still hanging onto summer, I realized it is almost time to prepare the roses for winter! Roses can succumb to the cold and dry winter winds, sudden changes in temperature (between freezing and thawing), and injuries to the bud union. Winterizing roses for their protection may be what saves your rose plants from one year to the next, so I'll share with you some general guidelines we follow in my family when preparing our roses for winter. Rose Blooming on Bush

Tips to Winterizing Roses

  • Mulch around the root system to protect the bud union. You can use mulch or garden soil and pile it up around the bush several inches thick. Do this after the first hard frost. Know your anticipated first-frost date for your zone (or find yours here). You can even put a tomato cage over the rose bush and stuff it full of straw or dry leaves, then wrap it with burlap.
  • Tie back long canes and climbers to prevent "wind rock" – although you may want to wait until the ground begins to freeze first. Pull the canes back as close together as possible, without pulling them hard enough to damage them, then tie them gently together. Use a strip of soft fabric (a narrow strip of fleece or a strip torn from a worn-out sheet), or your local nursery might carry rolls of self-gripping tape. This helps by giving you a more compact bush to protect from the harm of winter injury.
  • Do not prune or fertilize roses in fall. You do not want to encourage new growth this time of year, which would suffer from winter weather exposure. Instead, save these tasks for spring when things warm up and get ready to grow – it's a better use of your time and effort and your roses will appreciate it!
  • Container plants can be moved inside to an unheated shed, basement, or garage after they lose their leaves. After their leaves drop, a little water should be given monthly to prevent drying out – enough to reach all of the roots.
And this is what I will be doing as soon as we get our first frost. I hope to see all of you rose gardeners out there, too! Rose cage — Judy S., Stark Bro's Product Specialist (ret.)

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