How to Prepare Your Roses for Winter

All roses need some attention going into winter. Winter weather in USDA plant hardiness zones six and below can challenge rose bushes, particularly the hybrid teas. Shrub roses are hardier and can pretty much fend for themselves, but the hybrid teas and other modern hybrids are a little fussier. Here are some tips for winter rose survival, starting in zones six and below:

  • 01 of 08

    Coax Them Into Dormancy

    A frosted red rose

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    Stop feeding and pruning your roses around the end of August, to discourage tender new growth that will suffer from winter damage. Leave the last of the flowers on to turn into hips. The hips are the rose's seed pods. By producing seed pods, the rose bush thinks it's done for the season and can start to go dormant.

  • 02 of 08

    Make Sure the Rose Bushes Are Well Watered

    Watering of roses

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    After the first frost, thoroughly water the soil around your rose bush. Once the ground freezes the bush has to take care of itself, so give it a good soaking going into winter.

  • 03 of 08

    Prevent Problems From Overwintering Near the Rose Bush

    Black spot on rose leaves

    Tunatura/Getty Images

    Remove all fallen leaves to prevent diseases and insects from overwintering. If the leaves were healthy, you can go ahead and compost them. But if you had a problem with a fungus, like black spot or an insect infestation, dispose of the leaves and get them out of your yard.

  • 04 of 08

    Protect the Graft Union

    A rose graft union
    Marie Iannotti

    After a couple of hard freezes, mound six to 12 inches of compost soil additive around the crown of the plant to protect the roots and the graft union where the rose species you are growing is attached to a hardy rootstock. The graft should be at or just below the soil surface. In a mild winter, you could also circle the rose with wire and stuff this cage with leaves or mulch. Don't try to use the soil around the rose bush as mulch. Moving it could expose or disturb the roots.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Special Care for Climbing Roses

    Pinning down climbing roses

    Marie Iannotti

    Climbing roses are at risk from strong, drying winds. To protect the canes of climbers, either wrap the canes together by bundling something like straw on the outside for insulation or remove the canes from their trellis or support and lay them on the ground. Then tie the canes together and secure them to the ground with landscape pins. Protect with a layer of mulch.

  • 06 of 08

    Winter Rose Care in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 and 8

    Protecting potted plants in winter
    Marie Iannotti

    Zones seven and eight always stand the chance of a freeze and maybe even some snow. The graft union would benefit from protection, but it need not be as heavy as for zones six and below. Mounding with leaves or a shredded mulch should suffice. However, the rule about discontinuing pruning at the end of summer holds for zones seven and eight too.

  • 07 of 08

    Winter Rose Care in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 and Above

    A rain soaked rose
    Decent-Exposure-Photography/Getty Images

    In zones nine and above, where roses won't be subject to freezing temperatures, watch for fungal diseases that can creep in with the cooler, wet weather. Since your roses are still growing and setting buds, November is a good time for a light feeding. Prune after the plants bloom in December.

  • 08 of 08

    Remove Protective Mulch in the Spring

    Hands planting rose seedling or removing mulch

     Banepx/Getty Images

    One final tip: Don't forget to remove protective mulch in the spring. It's fine during the winter, but once the ground thaws, soil piled around the stem could cause it to rot and can also harbor insects and voles.

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  1. Yard and Garden: Preparing Roses for Winter. IA State University Website