If you’re a fan of roses, you know that protecting rose bushes through the cold of winter needs to be a priority. While they can withstand some cold (knock-out roses, for example, are usually hardy down to Zone 5), roses usually need special care to safe-keep them through very frigid weather. Of course, you must be sure to plant rose bushes that are suitable for your plant hardiness zone. But even if you live in an area where temps drop to minus 20 F and below, fear not! Because even in the depths of a zone 3-4 winter, there are successful ways to protect your roses.
First, while you’re winterizing your garden, make sure you clean up your rose bushes. Clear away any leaves or old mulch which can harbor fungal spores. We recommend you spray rose plants with a fungicide/dormant spray after mid-October. After the first hard frost, trim back the canes to a few feet. Then, to help prevent winter wind damage, you can tie the canes together. Using mulch or wood chips mixed with soil or compost, mound up about 10 inches over the graft or crown of the plant (the crown is at the bottom of the main stem, above the roots). For more protection, continue adding mulch to a depth of 15-18 inches.
Once the ground is completely frozen and mice are not a threat, you can provide further protection by creating a fence around them. Fill the enclosure with straw, hay, or strawy manure to a depth of 3 feet. Once warmer weather arrives around April, reverse the process. Start by removing the last layer, and adding water.
Protecting Rose Bushes with Rose Cones
Another method is to use effective, but more expensive rose cones. Set them in place after several hard frosts have put the roses into complete dormancy. Cut the canes back and tie them together so they will fit completely under the cones. Mound soil or mulch over the base of each rose, then add more dry mulching material, such as leaves or straw. Place the cone over the mulched rose bush and punch 4-6 holes around the top to allow ventilation. This airflow helps prevent too much heat from building up that can cause the rose to break dormancy too early. Wrangling rose bushes into the cones can be a prickly experience. So wear protective gloves and sleeves. Make sure to weigh down the cones with a brick or heavy rock and mound some mulch or soil over the base. Remove the cones in the spring after the threat of hard frost has passed.
With a little extra effort in fall, you can ensure your rose bushes not only survive the winter, but come out healthy and ready to put on a show! If you’re interested in planting roses that can survive a harsh winter check out our selection of Knock Out® roses, which are beautiful and hardy!