Before the coldest days (and nights) of the year hit, consider how to protect roses in winter. Winterizing a home often extends out into the yard including draining garden hoses and raking up the last of the fallen leaves. For home gardens that bloom with roses, the right winter protection can help keep them safe throughout the harshest seasonal conditions, including a hard freeze.

Know Your Hardiness Zone

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map helps gardeners know what plants are more likely to do well where they live. For example, the area of Salem, Oregon falls into Zone 8b. This means the coldest average temperature is about 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Considered a more temperate zone, it’s great for many climbing roses as well as bush roses or a tree rose. However, it’s still important to protect all roses from winter. Hybrid teas can experience significant damage when exposed to more frigid temperatures. For your roses to survive the winter, plan to take action before a cold snap hits.

Different Ways to Protect Roses in Winter

Because there are many different types of roses and multiple USDA Hardiness Zones, there also are different ways to protect roses in cold climates. The most common and effective include:

  • Covering with rose cones
  • Hilling or mounding
  • Bending/tipping and bundling

Rose Cones

Styrofoam rose cones cover the plants easily, but you don’t want heat building on the inside during bright, sunny winter days. If heat builds up, it can break the plant’s dormancy. Simply cut about five, one-inch slits/holes around the outer edge of the cone’s top and bottom. Before placing the cone over the rose bush, mound soil up and around its base. Don’t forget to weight the top of the cone down so it doesn’t blow away. A brick or heavy stone usually works well.

The University of Illinois Extension Office recommends, “For extremely tender varieties, some rose growers cut the top off the cone and stuff it full of straw for added protection.”

Hilling or Mounding Roses

To hill or mound roses before winter, begin by prepping the site. You’ll need well-drained soil/compost mix plus leaves or straw. Don’t scrape up the soil from around the roses as this can hurt the roots. Use soil from another source.

  • Create a hill/mound around and over the plant, about 10 to 12 inches
  • After the ground freezes, add mulch to help prevent a cycle of freezing and thawing
  • Place evergreen boughs, leaves, and straw on top of the mulch for more insulation

Bending or Tipping

  • First prune and tie the canes together with synthetic twine
  • Spray the canes with dormant oil spray
  • Start at the base of the plant and dig a trench that’s equal to the plant’s height
  • Loosen the soil at the root zone
  • Add evergreen needles to the topsoil
  • Use a garden fork to gently loosen the plant
  • “Tip” the entire rose plant into the trench
  • Cover with soil and loose leaves

Once spring returns, uncover the rose plant. Set it upright and prepare as normal for growing season. As soon as the threat of frost passes, remove the winter protection from your roses. Consider doing this on a cloudy day to keep any new growth protected from strong sun exposure.

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