Winter Rose Care

November 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM Leave a comment

Winter Rose Care

This article was originally published on October 31, 2011 and expired on November 7, 2011. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Everyone loves roses! Roses are probably the most popular of all garden flowers. Some roses require a bit more work. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says, “Don’t let that scare you though, because roses are definitely worth the trouble.”

Roses can seem confusing because there are so many different types and kinds. Ferree says that basically, roses are separated into two main classes – bush roses and climbing roses. The bush roses are grouped into types according to their flowering habit, winter hardiness, and other traits and include hybrid tea, floribunda, wild, old fashioned, and the new carpet and knockout roses. The most commonly grown rose is the hybrid tea, which is typically created by grafting a desired rose onto a different root stock.

“Grafted roses require protection on the graft union to survive winter in central Illinois,” says Ferree. A key factor to successfully overwintering roses is maintaining a constant temperature around the plants. Winter protection is meant to keep the plants cold, not warm. Successful rose protection buffers plants and protects them from sudden temperature fluctuations.

Do not plant or prune roses in the fall. Slight pruning may be necessary to accommodate some winter protection devices or to prevent winter winds from whipping the plants and loosening the root system. Avoid pruning plants back severely. Additional pruning should be done in early spring when the winter protection is removed.

Ferree emphasizes that you should not cover your roses too early. Covering plants early, often before dormancy has been completed, is thought to be the major cause of winter rose death. In central Illinois, mid-to-late November is generally the time to apply winter protection for roses.

There are many different methods available to protect roses in the winter. For bush-type roses, bushel baskets or commercial covers work well. You will need to trim the canes back to fit underneath the cover. Always secure the device with bricks or another heavy object so they won’t blow away. Other ways of protecting the roses include leaves (oak work best), pine needles, straw, old sawdust, or bark chips. Depth of the material should be 12 inches. Soil is not recommended since it stays too wet and packs too much. In the spring, remove the cover or mulch and trim the canes back to healthy wood, just above the strong bud and thin the plants to 4 or 5 canes.

Climbing and rambling rose canes may also need winter protection. Lay the canes on a bed of straw and cover with more straw. Be sure to cover the crown. Keep the straw in place by tying it or covering it with a small amount of soil. In the spring, remove the covering, remove all damaged wood and place the canes or shoots back on the trellis. Since most climbing roses bloom on old wood, wait until after they bloom to do major pruning.

For more information on roses, consult the University of Illinois Extension rose website at You can also post questions on Rhonda’s facebook page at

Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture,

Pull date: November 7, 2011

Entry filed under: Green Information.

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