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Horticulture and Home Pest News
Horticulture & Home Pest News is filled with articles on current horticulture, plant care, pest management, and common household pests written by Iowa State University Extension specialists in the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

Winter Protection for Roses

This article was published originally on 11/11/1994
Most modern roses grown in Iowa require protection during winter months. Exposure to low temperatures and rapid temperature changes injure and often kill unprotected roses.

Bush-Type Roses

Hilling or mounding soil around the base of each plant is an excellent way to protect bush-type roses. Bush-type roses include hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras.

Begin by removing fallen leaves and other debris from around each plant. Removal of diseased plant debris will help reduce disease problems next season. Then loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent the canes from being whipped by strong winds. Extremely tall canes can be cut back to 2 1/2 to 3 feet. Next, mound soil 10 to 12 inches high around the canes. Place additional material, such as straw or leaves, over the mound of soil after the ground freezes. A small amount of soil placed over the straw or leaves should hold these materials in place.

Many home gardeners protect their bush-type roses by placing styrofoam rose cones over them. Unfortunately, rose cones by themselves do not provide adequate protection. Additional material is necessary. If using styrofoam rose cones, prune the canes back to allow the cone to fit over the plant. Remove any plant debris, then mound 6 to 8 inches of soil around the base of the canes. Set the cone over the plant. Finally, mound a small amount of soil around the outside base of the cone to keep it in place. Secure the cone by placing a brick or other heavy object on its top.

Climbing Roses

Most modern climbing roses bloom on the previous season's growth. If extensive winter damage occurs, plants produce few if any flowers.

To protect climbing roses, remove the canes from the trellis or support and carefully bend them to the ground. Hold the canes to the ground with pegs or stakes, then cover the canes with several inches of soil.

Tree Roses

Tree or standard roses are produced by bud-grafting the desired rose variety onto a tall stem. Since the cold-sensitive bud union may be 2 or 3 feet above the ground, tree roses are extremely vulnerable to winter injury or death. (Tree roses are best suited to areas with mild winter climates.)

The first step is to decide which direction to lay the tree rose. Then loosen the soil in the opposite direction with a spade. Put the blade into the soil about 1 to 1 1/2 feet from the base of the stem. Then gently rock the spade back and forth to loosen the soil and free the roots. Loosen the soil in a semicircle around the plant. On the other side of the tree rose, dig a shallow trench and then carefully bend the trunk (stem) down to the ground. Peg the stem down with stakes. Finally, cover with several inches of soil.

Tree roses growing in pots or other containers also need winter protection. Dig a trench in the garden, lay the potted tree rose in the trench, then cover with several inches of soil.

Prepare roses for winter when plants are dormant after exposure to two or three hard frosts. Normally, this is late October to early November in northern Iowa, mid-November in central areas, and mid- to late November in southern counties.

Remove protective materials before bud break in spring, normally late March in southern Iowa and mid-April in northern Iowa.

This article originally appeared in the November 11, 1994 issue, pp. 11, 1994 issue, pp. 154-155.

Year of Publication: 
IC-467(25) -- November 11, 1994