Winterizing Roses

Roses provide beauty and fragrance throughout the spring and summer months. However, if you live in a climate where the winter months are chilly, your roses will require a bit of winter maintenance to ensure they’ll return the following spring.

It’s true that many rose species will continue to bloom through the months of October or later, but it’s vital to begin the process of winterizing during the fall. This way, your roses will have time to harden off, providing some of the protection they require to survive the cold winter temperatures. September is a good time to begin the winterizing process in most areas. Some areas of the country may need to begin earlier if temperatures tend to drop drastically and quickly.

For those of you relatively new to rose gardening, “hardening off” a rose plant means that you’ll provide ample food and water to fortify their roots and then prepare them for winter. Essentially, it’s akin to a hibernation state for roses. If roses aren’t properly prepared in the fall, the root system is likely to break, therefore effectively killing the rose plant.

How To Winterize Roses

1) Stop feeding – begin in the late summer or early fall in order to discourage new growth. Otherwise, the roses won’t have time to harden off before the cold temperatures arrive, which means they could die. Don’t cut off the water supply completely, but rather taper it off gradually as the temperatures drop.

2) Trim roses back as needed – fall pruning is a good idea for preparing roses for winter survival. Once you’ve pruned, it will be easier to tie and wrap the plants inside burlap to protect them.

Winterizing Roses Means Providing Protection

Tender rose species require protection from the winter weather elements. Purchase soil or use soil from another part of the garden to mound over the crown and the lower stems of the rose plant or bush to a depth between 8 to 12 inches. It’s important to note here: do not use the existing soil around the plant as this will expose the roots and possibly damage them.

Once the soil is in place, the next step is to pile dry leaves or straw over the mounded soil. This will further protect the root system. Finally, surround the entire plant with chicken wire or small mesh fencing to hold the soil and straw in place and fill the empty spaces within the enclosure with loose mulch. In the spring, as the temperatures warm, you’ll remove the mulch and the mounded soil gradually so the roses’ root system can receive water and light.

For those of you who live in extremely cold climates and have severe winters, you’ll want to provide one last bit of protection for your rose plants. Once your soil is mounded around the rose’s root system, wrap the entire plant in several layers of burlap material. Wrap the burlap with rope so that it is secured, but not too tightly.

By taking the proper steps to winterize your roses, you’re likely to have beautiful rose blooms again the following year.

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