In the Garden
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Fertilizing your roses: A step-by-step guide
Planting Roses: A How to Guide
Pruning your roses: why, how and when
Mulching: benefits and how tos
Selecting the Right Rose
Summer Rose Care Tips
Late Summer Roses
Gifts from Your Rose Garden
Christmas Treats for the Birds
Perennial Companions for Roses
Birds: Our beautiful garden allies
Getting Your Roses Ready
Eat Your Roses! Rose Recipes
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Getting Your Roses Ready for Winter
Winter. Brrrr. How could
it be time to think about winter already? It seems like just yesterday
I was planting young tomatoes in my vegetable garden. Now, it's
time to rip out the remnants of the old tomato plants and throw
them in the compost pile.
But what about the roses? What do you have to do to get roses
ready for the coming winter? In this issue of In the Garden,
we'll tell you how to winterize your roses -- that's if they need
it. Curious? Read on...
At Spring Valley Roses, we specialize in winter hardy roses --
ones that will survive our Zone
4/3 winters without winter protection. Yes, there are lots of
roses that you don't have to cover with those awful styrofoam cones.
Winterizing Hardy Roses
So, if you have some winter hardy roses in your garden, what do
they need to get through the winter?
Just leave them alone. They don't need to be cut back and they
don't need to be covered if they are truly winter hardy in your
climate. Save all your pruning for spring. An open wound on a rose
cane that is exposed to the frozen rain and snow and cold, dry winds
can suffer damage. If you have to prune to get a rose under control,
be sure to seal the wound with a dab of vaseline.
But, if you think you need to do something for your roses, here's
what you can do in the fall:
- Put a couple of shovelfulls of compost over the crown of the
- Give your rose some non-nitrogen fertilizer. Late fall, after
a hard freeze, is a good time to give your rose a dose of Epsom
salts (about 1/2 cup per plant), along with rock phosphate (don't
use bonemeal -- it attracts rodents) and maybe a little greensand
for potassium. These fertilizers won't promote new growth on the
canes, which can be hurt by frosts and winter. Instead, they will
help promote root growth, which can continue well into December
if the ground is mulched. And, they'll have a chance to work into
the soil through freeze/thaw actions and be ready for your plants
to use in the spring.
- Water well. A well hydrated plant can survive winter better
than one that is dry and stressed.
And that's it for winter hardy roses. If you're not sure if your
roses are hardy, then mound soil or compost about 6 inches over
the crown for extra protection.
If this is your first year growing winter hardy roses, you may
be surprised at what you find in the spring. Some roses may have
winter-damaged or dead canes and others may not. We have found that
the term "winter hardiness" can mean three things in the rose world:
- Hardy to the tip (our personal favorite). None of the rose has
any winter injury -- even when it drops below -40 degrees and
the dry, cold winds whip it around all winter.
- Hardy to the "snowline" or about 15 to 20 inches from the ground.
The part of the rose above the "snowline" dies back, but the canes
that are protected by the snow survive just fine.
- Hardy to the crown. These roses die back to the ground, just
like perennials. But, they rapidly regrow in the spring and start
blooming perhaps a bit later than those that don't die back.
To avoid panic or dissapointment in the spring, try to find out
just how hardy your roses are before you buy them. Then, you'll
be sure to purchase something you can live with.
Winterizing Non-Winter Hardy Roses
Even though we don't sell roses that aren't winter hardy, we still
get asked about how to prepare tender roses for the winter. First,
the amount of preparation depends on two things:
- How cold does your winter get?
- What type of tender roses are you growing? Or, how much cold
can they take?
If you live in Zone 4 or colder and you need to winterize Hybrid
Tea or other tender roses, be prepared to give them complete protection.
This takes alot of work and effort, but if you want to grow a palm
tree in Alaska, then you have to accomodate its needs. You have
- Minnesota Tip. Personally, I don't know how roses survive
this technique, but I have friends who do this every fall and
have beautiful Hybrid Tea roses the next spring. Here's what you
do. Dig a trench to the side of the rose. Cut the canes back so
the rose is no longer than 2 feet long. On the opposite side of
the trench, dig up half of the rose' roots. Gently tip the rose
into the trench. Completely cover the rose and its roots with
about 6 inches of soil. Then, put leaves or pine boughs on top
of the soil for extra protection. This technique works well, but
you can't be guaranteed 100 percent success.
- Chicken Wire and Mounds. This is pretty easy to do and
works on lots of roses. Make a "silo" out of chicken wire that
will go around the circumference of your rose while leaving about
a foot of clearance all the way around. Mound soil or compost
over the crown of the rose about 8 inches deep. Then, backfill
the chicken wire silo with leaves -- really pack them in for adequate
insulation of the rose, making sure that the entire plant is covered.
You may want to spray the rose with a mouse repellant before you
pack in the leaves. Avoid using mouse bait poisons, if possible.
This technique also can't guarantee 100 percent success.
If you live in Zone 5 or warmer, you may not need to provide as
much protection. It's a good idea to ask your local rose society
members for advice on preparing roses for winter in your area. You
can locate your local rose society through the American
So, in summary, if your roses are winter hardy in your
area, you don't have to do anything to protect them from winter.
But, if you want you can throw some compost over the crown of the
plant. If your roses aren't winter hardy, you'll need to
give them complete protection.
Oh, and one last thing. Don't use styrofoam cones on your tender
roses unless you cut off the top to provide air circulation (fill
up the cone with leaves for insulation). On sunny days in the winter,
those cones turn into little ovens that cause your rose to break
dormancy. Then, when the thermometer plunges at night, major freeze
damage happens. And styrofoam isn't very recyclable and it looks
kinda' weird. Better to use a chicken wire silo...