Rose Winter Care

Look around and almost every home garden area has a rose shrub. As you prepare for the arrival of winter weather, your rose bush will need some prep work as well. If you live in a hardiness zone of one through six, your rose will need some extra protection during the winter months. Shrub varieties such as rugosa or David Austin roses are hardy and require very little care. Hybrid roses, such as tea or Floribundas, will need extra care to survive the freezing temperatures. 


Preparing your rose for cold weather actually begins in the fall. As September approaches, stop fertilizing your rose shrub. You don’t want your rose to be actively growing when the first hard freeze arrives. Fall is also the time to stop deadheading. The goal is to slow down the growth and help the plant to conserve energy for the winter. After the first hard frost, give your rose a good long drink, follow our pruning tips, and take measures to protect the root system for the winter months.

The idea behind winter protection is to keep the rose consistently frozen and cold during its dormant period. Allowing the rose to go through multiple freezes and thaw cycles can have damaging effects. After the first hard freeze, protect the plant by covering the bud union with a mound of top soil (10-12 inches high.) Do not use soil from your own garden as moving soil can expose roots to the cold. Cover the mound with leaves, or mulch to help maintain a constant freeze to the root system. If you wish, you can place a wire hoop around the plant forming a collar. Fill the area with leaves to insulate and protect the canes. You can add extra protection to the canes by wrapping burlap around the collar as well. Another option is to purchase a rose cone from a garden center and fill it with the same amount of garden soil around the base of the plant. In the spring, once the ground begins to thaw, remove all protective soil and mulch from the base of the shrub.

Cutting Back Roses For Winter

In the early fall, you will want to stop deadheading and pruning your rose bush. This slows down or stops new growth that could be damaged by the cold weather. It also lets your rose know that it is time to start going dormant. After a few hard frosts, your rose should be dormant. Once dormant, prune the canes down to about half the size. This helps to prevent the canes from being damaged by high winds or the weight of heavy snow. 

Rose Winter Care in Pots

If you have container grown roses, the entire pot can be moved to an insulated yet unheated location such as a shed, basement, or garage where the temperature stays near the freezing mark. Water sparingly only when the soil is dry to the touch, usually once a month.

Another option is to bury the entire pot in the ground for the winter months. Find a garden area and dig a hole deep enough to bury the pot. Add mulch, straw, or shredded leaves to help insulate the plant. Remove the pot in the spring when you see buds beginning to form.


Watering Roses in Winter

It is important to remember that your rose may need water during the winter months. Depending on rain or snowfall amounts, you might need to give your rose an occasional sprinkling of water. If it is a very dry winter, check the soil moisture and supplement with a small drink of water, careful not to soak the plant. 

Growing Roses Indoors

Most rose varieties can successfully grow indoors as long as the right conditions are provided. A room or window area that gets 6 hours of sun each day is optimal. Daytime temperatures in the room should be 70-75 F, with nighttime temperatures of around 60 F. Do not crowd the containers together. Roses need good air circulation to help prevent diseases. Water the roses each day or every other day allowing a small amount of water to remain in the drip tray. Apply a water soluble fertilizer once a month. To encourage new growth, prune blooms as soon as they fade. It is best to re-pot indoor roses once a year to provide fresh soil nutrients.

If your container rose has been outdoors all spring and summer, it is best to allow it to go dormant for the winter and reenergize itself for the next season. Follow our recommendations in the section Rose Winter Care in Pots.

Steps To Care For Roses in Winter

Some rose varieties are more high maintenance than others. While one rose can handle a thin layer of mulch for winter protection, others need a few more steps to help survive a harsh winter. Follow these tips to help your rose male it through winter.

Step 1 - Start preparing your rose during the fall months- halt fertilizing and deadheading.
Step 2 - After the first hard frost, water the plant well.
Step 3 - After a few good freezing days, protect the bud union with a mound of soil then mulch.
Step 4 - After the rose is dormant, prune the canes.
Step 5 - Monitor the moisture in the soil and water occasionally if needed.
Step 6 - In the spring, remove the protective soil and mulch.

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Author Chris Link - Published 05-28-2021