Fall and winter rose care
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[October 20, 2008]
Many of the roses that are classified as old
garden roses are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures, while
others, like hybrid teas, experience considerable damage. Also,
budded roses stand a greater chance of injury or death due to severe
cold than do own-root roses. When selecting roses, always select
cultivars that are able to tolerate the coldest temperatures in your
area, based on USDA hardiness zone maps.
One of the ways to protect roses for the winter is to be sure
they go completely dormant. To accomplish this, stop fertilizing
early enough so growth slows down. No fertilizer should be applied
after Aug. 15. To further encourage dormancy, stop deadheading or
cutting flowers after Oct. 1 and allow the plant to form hips.
There are many methods to provide winter protection for roses.
The whole idea of winter protection is to keep the plant
uniformly cold and frozen all winter and prevent the damaging
effects of alternate freezing and thawing.
method, don't begin covering plants too early. Wait until a
hard, killing frost has caused most of the leaves to fall and
the temperature has dropped into the teens for several nights.
Prior to covering, remove any foliage or other debris that
might harbor disease for the next season. Before covering, some
tall roses may need minor pruning to reduce their height, and
tie canes together to prevent wind-whipping. Pruning at this
point should be kept to a minimum. Most pruning will be done in
the spring to remove dead and diseased canes.
The most common way to provide winter protection is to pile
or "hill-up" a loose soil and compost mix around and over the
plant, about 10-12 inches deep. A variety of hilling materials
can be used, but the key is to be sure that the material is
well-drained. Wet and cold is far more damaging than dry and
cold. Soil that is used to hill-up plants should be brought in
from outside the rose garden. After the soil mound has frozen,
the mound can be covered with evergreen boughs, hardwood leaves
or straw to help insulate and keep the soil frozen.
A variation of the "hilling" method is one using collars. An
18-inch-high circle of hardware cloth or chicken wire is placed
around the plant. The collar is filled with soil, allowed to
freeze, then mulched with straw. The benefit of the collar is
that it holds the soil in place all winter and prevents it from
being washed or eroded away.
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Another popular method of winter protection for roses is the use of
styrofoam rose cones. If these are used, they need to be used
properly. First, don't cover the plants too early. Follow the
general timing guidelines. Second, cones need to be well-ventilated
by cutting holes around the top and bottom of the cones. This helps
prevent heat buildup on the inside during sunny winter days. It is
also advisable to mound soil around the crown of the plant before
putting the cone in place. For extremely tender varieties, some rose
growers cut the top off the cone and stuff it full of straw for
added protection. It is also a good idea to weight the cone down
with a brick or stone to keep it from blowing away.
Climbing roses offer more challenges. For marginal varieties,
climbers may need to be removed from their supports and bent to the
ground, then covered with six inches of soil and mulched. When
laying climbers on the ground for covering, one needs to be very
careful not to injure or crack the stems. As the weather gets
colder, their long stems are more rigid, and they are easily broken.
Another method that can be used is to physically pack straw
around the canes while they are still attached to the trellis or
support. The straw is held in place with twine, chicken wire or
hardware cloth to keep it in place over the winter.
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]