Winter Rose Care

                                                Winter Care For Your Rosebushes
                                                By Stan “The Rose Man” Griep
                                                Consulting Rosarian – Colorado Native Rosarian 


*Tip #1*: Stop feeding rosebushes any granular type fertilizer by mid September. We want the rosebushes to get the message that it is time to store up strength for the winter and not focus so hard on growth and bloom production.


**Tip #2**: Stop deadheading now (first to second week of September) if you have not already. I just pull the petals off of the blooms that are done and scatter them about the gardens and leave the rest of the bloom on the bush. This helps the rosebushes get the message that it is time to focus on storing up some energy rather than using so much on growth and bloom production.


***Tip #3***: Keep an eye on soils moisture throughout the winter as some light winter watering is usually needed to keep the bushes doing well for a great spring bounty of blooms.


****Tip #4****: Sometimes the winter snows melt and freeze cycles cause ice caps over the ground around the rosebushes. Thus the needed moisture stops getting through. Sprinkling some Epsom Salts lightly around the bases of the rosebushes will help make holes in the ice caps, thus allowing the moisture to flow through better. The Epsom Salts will provide magnesium to the bushes which helps them create new basal breaks in the Spring.


Winter Mounding and Protection:


Grafted rosebushes are the most critical to protect by some means of mounding. I recommend using “rose collars” for at least the first two years for new roses in your rose beds or garden areas, after those first two years mounding with or without the collars is fine.  


The main goal is actually to keep the rosebush cold. Once the cold weather and frosts have sent the rosebushes off to a dormant state or what I like to call, “Their Winters Nap”, they need to be kept cold enough so that they do not think it is okay to start growing. Some long stretches of warm winter days can send the rosebushes the wrong message and start them to growing. If they do start to grow and then a sudden deep cold snap hits, the chances of losing the rosebush are very high. Thus we do what we can to keep them cold enough that they will not get any bad ideas!


Mounding all of the rosebushes even the “own root” rosebushes is not a bad idea. It helps to keep them all cold and cuts down on the chances of premature growth. Wrapping the canes on climbing rosebushes with a fabric that is loose knit enough to allow some air flow and good drying abilities is recommended. This will help protect the canes from the harsh cold winter winds as well as the severely cold temperatures.


Keep some garden soils without fertilizer in it and some mulch stored in a place where it will not freeze. These items can then be used once the cold temps have sent the rosebushes into dormancy to do the mounding. There should not be any fertilizer in the soils used for mounding as this could help deliver a message for the roses to grow at a  time when that is the last thing we want them to do.



Here is a checklist of sorts that I use once the rosebushes have gone dormant due to the cold weather conditions:



  • Clear all debris and old mulch away from the rosebushes. Place two or three tablespoons of Super Phosphate around each bush and work into the soils lightly. The super phosphate moves slowly through the soils and will help keep the roots strong through the winter.


  • Place a Rose Collar around the base of the rosebushes to be protected. Fill rose collar 2/3 of the way with the garden soils and very lightly water to settle the soils within the collar. Add a bit more soils due to settling. Top off with mulch, such as shredded cedar mulch. Water very lightly again to settle the mulch.


  • Prune hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda rosebushes down to half their current height. (Some lower growing floribunda rosebushes will not need this pruning but may be thinned out at this time.) This pruning helps prevent cane damage such as; breaking off clear down to the base of the bush, due to strong winter winds whipping them or heavy snow falls breaking them over.


  • Once the leaves have dried out a bit, they may be stripped off of the bushes if so desired.


  • Mound up around the bases of climbing rosebushes and Shrub rosebushes also, use rose collars if desired and follow above directions for fill. Wrap climbing rosebush canes with light fabric to protect from harsh cold winds. 

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