Prepping My Roses for Winter

December 2, 2011 4 Comments

Normally I wait until Thanksgiving to winterize my roses but the weather was too good a couple of weeks ago to pass up.  I didn’t freeze my hands off getting the plants ready for winter.


I am doing an experiment with four rose bushes.  They were not developed in Iowa, Minnesota or Canada, as far as I know, so they are not absolutely winter hardy here.  One of them is the Firefighter red rose.  My mother-in-law got me one last year and it did not make it through last winter.  Vi got one for my mom, too, and hers is fine, but it is right up next to the house.  Mine was in the middle of the yard.  This year, I planted the Firefighter along with three others on the south side of the house, right next to the house.  They loved it during the summer, so I am hoping they love, or at least tolerate, it during the winter. 



There are several ways to prep your roses for winter.  You can use the Styrofoam cones, but you have to be careful to remove them on warm days and put them back on when it gets cold again.  You can put three or four posts around the plant, put chicken wire around it and fill it with leaves, straw or pine needles.  You can pile a foot of dirt around the base of the plant and tie the stems together to keep them from whipping in the winter winds.


I did a different version of the last one.  I piled a half a bag to a bag of mulch around the base of each rose on the south side of the house and the miniature Chinese rose bush in the main garden. 


The red Firefighter rose bush is preparing itself for winter. The old flowerheads are still on and the leaves are falling off.


Firefighter with about half a bag of mulch.


Miniature Chinese Rose uncovered.

 –Miniature Chinese rose winterized!


I leave the rose hips (the seed heads) on the rose bushes. This is a good indicator to the plant to stop growing and it provides food for the birds through the winter. Cardinals love them.


In the past, I have just mulched the Chinese rose and it turned out fine the next spring, but we shall see about the floribunda and the grandifloras next to the house.  They should be helped out by the snow that usually piles up there.  That will add another layer of insulation for the roots. 


The stems that are not buried will likely die, but as long as the bottom of the plant is alive, it will put out new shoots in the springtime.  And I don’t have to worry about remembering to put on or take off the Styrofoam thing.


If this works, I am getting another Strike it Rich rose bush, if I can find it!  It is an orange rose with a red blush and a beautiful fragrance… and I haven’t been able to keep it alive in two different spots in the open.


I don’t cover my Sven, Ole and Sigrid roses since they were developed in Minnesota and haven’t had a lick of trouble since I got them a few years ago. 


Sven shutting down.

My knock-out rose has, so far, not had any trouble coming back.  And Bill’s roses we have never covered, buried or done anything with in the winter.  They keep coming back and blooming profusely.  The only thing that we need to do it prune out the oldest canes… something that we will be doing in the spring.

 Dig it!

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  1. NE Iowa Mom says:

    I love those knock-out roses! I planted them along the south side of our house and love how they magically appear each spring. They are great roses for amateur rose growers like me!

  2. Patricia Clausen says:

    I’m enjoying your gardening postings. With the unusually warm weather, my roses have green stems and lots of leaf buds. I’m tempted to trim them back, as I do every year, but think we could be in for more wintry weather. What do you suggest?

    • Eileen Loan says:

      Patricia, I usually leave my roses alone for awhile until I see what is actively growing and what needs trimmed back (unless it is pretty obviously dead). I will probably fertilize my roses this week or next since they are starting to take in nourishment from the ground. I have my roses covered with about 8″ of mulch. It was higher in the fall, but it has settled. I will leave that for now, since we may have some more snow, although with the warm temperatures expected this week, we will have a hard time believing that! If there is going to be snow in the forecast, I will try to protect the leaves with a sheet. So, to try to answer your question… I will not have trouble starting my spring cleaning this week. The plants are starting to actively grow and if there is going to be more wintry weather, it probably won’t last too long… and should be taken care of with temporary measures, like sheets and blankets. I hope that helps! -E

  3. Patricia Clausen says:

    Yes, that helps a lot. I shortened one clematis and see lots of green and leaf buds in the trimmings. Silly weather. Thanks so much.

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