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Protect Your Roses This Winter

If you have planted roses, it is important to know how to protect your roses through the winter season to keep them healthy and happy all year round. 

Roses are beautiful flowers that bloom in the summer and create an atmosphere of warmth and happiness. While roses thrive in many places during the spring and summer, however, roses require a lot of care and attention during the winter because they can face damaging wind, cold, and ice during the winter months.

Winter can be a challenging time for your garden, and roses, in particular, require special care to survive the harsh cold. To keep your roses healthy and looking great year after year, you should take extra steps to protect them during the winter.

While some varieties of roses are more winter-hardy than others, taking extra steps to protect your roses can help ensure they'll bloom beautifully once spring arrives. Here's a guide to help you shield your roses from winter's icy grip.

1. Right Variety

The first step in helping roses survive winter is planting the appropriate varieties for your area. Roses are one of the most popular flowers during the winter months. However, some rose varieties do not withstand freezing temperatures, and others may be more suitable for a particular environment.

There are many varieties of roses that can be planted in the winter. They range from pink, red, and white to yellow. While hybrid teas are quite beautiful, they don’t fare well in cold winter weather. If you live in areas that get very cold and have harsh winds, choose a hardier variety that will have a better chance of survival.

2. Fall Prep

In order to fully protect your roses from cold winter weather, take steps in the fall to help your roses go dormant with ease. Remove all fallen leaves and debris from around your roses. These can harbor diseases and pests that may damage or kill your roses during the winter or when spring arrives. Stop fertilizing your bushes sometime around mid-august. (The exact date should be adjusted depending on how early or late your area freezes.)

Dormancy is an important part of the life cycle of plants and flowers. It helps them to thrive and grow when they are needed again. If they are completely dormant by the time winter weather arrives, they’ll have a better chance of making it. Late fall is not the time for heavy pruning, as it can stimulate new growth that will be vulnerable to winter damage. Instead, do a light pruning to remove any dead or diseased wood and to prevent wind damage to long, arching canes.

3. Winter Proofing

Resist the urge to start winterizing at the first sign of frost. It's best to wait until your roses have entered dormancy, which usually occurs after the first hard frost (temperatures below 28°F for several hours). If you act too early, your roses may not be fully prepared for the cold. Once winter arrives, then you can take extra protective steps.

In many rose varieties, the damage is not caused by freezing, but by alternating of freezing and thawing. To properly winterize roses, you should let them freeze; then take steps to keep them frozen for the season.

After your area has experienced several hard freezes, you should mound about a foot of compost around the bottom of your bush to protect the roots and base. You should then protect the branches by adding another foot of mulch. This will help insulate the bush and keep it from thawing until it is warm enough to be safe. As an alternative, you can wrap the bush in a small fence or bag and fill this with compost and mulch instead.

If you have a climbing rose bushes, remove the canes from the trellises, attach them to the ground, and cover them with layers of dirt and mulch. If you can’t move them to the ground, try to wrap them where they are. It is important for them to be protected from the cold, but also properly bundled so they don’t break from wind damage.

  •  Mound and Mulch: The practice of mounding involves heaping soil around the base of the rose bush to protect the bud union (the swollen area where the rose was grafted onto the rootstock). The soil should be around 10-12 inches high and wide.
  • After the ground freezes, add a layer of mulch on top of the mound and around the bush. Straw, shredded bark, or chopped leaves work well. Mulching insulates the soil, keeping it frozen and preventing the cycles of freezing and thawing that can push the rose out of the ground (a process known as "heaving").
  • Additional Protection: For very tender roses, or in particularly harsh climates, additional protection may be necessary. This can include constructing a cage around the rose and filling it with straw or leaves, or wrapping the rose in burlap.
  • Stay Vigilant: Throughout the winter, keep an eye on your roses, especially during periods of heavy snow or ice. Brush off excess snow that could break canes, but leave a light covering, which can insulate the roses against intense cold.
  • Remember, even with all these precautions, winter can be tough on roses, and you may see some damage come spring. But don't despair - roses are remarkably resilient, and with proper care, they can recover and thrive.

Final Thoughts

Protecting your roses in winter may require a little effort, but the sight of their first buds opening in the spring makes it all worthwhile. So bundle up, brave the cold, and show your roses some love. Your reward will be a garden full of vibrant, blooming roses when warmer days return. Roses are the perfect addition to your home in the spring and summer. If you take these precautions during fall and winter, your plant will thank you with beautiful foliage and flowers when spring and summer come around.

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