If you have a rose that is hardy to our zone, it’s possible for it to mean one of three things-
- It can be hardy to the tip, which means that no part of the rose will show damage;
- It can be hardy to the snowline, which means there will be damage down to where the snow starts; or
- It can be hardy to the crown, which means the rose will die back to the crown like a perennial, but will quickly grow back the following spring.
Winter Hardy Roses
Knowing what kind of winter hardy rose you have purchased and knowing what to expect come the spring is the best way to avoid disappointment. Also keep in mind that the healthier a rose is leading up to winter, the more likely it is to survive. Taking care of your rose the previous summer is the best thing you can do for it. There are a couple things you can do to ensure that your rose is the healthiest it can be-
The first is making sure that it has been properly watered. Roses should be watered deeply throughout the growing season to encourage their roots to stretch down. You should continue to water your roses until the first hard frost.
You can give them a dose of fertilizer that does not contain any nitrogen. This will encourage the rose to keep producing strong roots, while not encouraging top growth.
You may also choose to apply a dormant spray to prevent insects and disease from affecting your plant.
If your rose is truly winter hardy to your zone, this is all you need to do. If you would like to provide it with some extra protection from the wind and sun you can cover with some mulch like flax straw or leaves. This may, however, invite small rodents to nest there for the winter.
If you don’t have a winter hardy rose, there are methods of protecting roses against early freezes in the fall, the bitter cold of winter, and the dangers of thaw-freeze cycles in the spring.
Again, the number one thing to keep in mind is that your rose should be as healthy as possible going into the season. Make sure that your rose has been fed and watered throughout the summer.
After that you can take one of several approaches-
Bend, Hill and Cover
Bend the bushes over in an arch, very gently and carefully to avoid breaking the canes at the roots. Pin or tie down the branches with wire loops or stakes. Don’t try to bend short bushes. Make a mound of soil around the base of the bush to a height of about 9-12 inches. Cover the bushes with about 2 feet of leaves or flax straw, held in place by fencing or chicken wire around the entire bed. Be sure the leaf cover extends out at least 1 to 2 feet from the center of the bushes. Water leaves well. In the spring, remove layers of leaves as they thaw.
Hill and Cover
Make a mound of soil up the base of each bush to a height of about 9-12 inches. You may use a wire cylinder to hold the soil in place. Very tall canes, which would whip too much in strong winds, may be cut back. Cover entire bed with about 2 feet of leaves or flax straw, held in place by wire or plastic fencing. Water. In the spring, gradually remove the leaf cover as the layers thaw. Then gently wash the soil off the bushes in stages. Remove any excess soil that was used to mound in the fall.
You can purchase rose collars from our garden store. Place the collar around the bush and tightly seal the bottom of the cone with soil. Pile leaves that you have saved into the collar to protect the crown and roots. Do not do this, however, until the first hard frost. If you do this prior to the first hard frost, there is more chance that insects will infest the plant or that mice will nest there. After the first hard frost chances are those animals will have made their home somewhere else.