Popular roses like floribundas, hybrid teas and climbers need help to survive cold winters – particularly if the weather routinely gets down to 10 degrees or so. If you live in an area where very cold weather is common then you have to take measures to ensure your roses can withstand Mother Nature. You can also choose to plant roses that are hardier… think miniature roses and shrub species.
When you’ve taken the steps to prepare your roses for the winter, they’re often referred to as “hardened off”. For the most part, they take of this all on their own. The cell walls begin to thicken in preparation for going dormant for some time. But when it’s going to be extremely cold they usually need a little help.
Preparation Year Round
The first thing you have to realize is that preparation begins way before the temperatures start to fall. Throughout the summer and fall, the better you take care of your roses the better chances they’ll have to survive the winter when it hits. That means if you didn’t give them enough water or if they were victim of harsh conditions or bugs during the summer and fall then they won’t be as hardy as they would have if that hadn’t happened.
To help your roses survive a harsh winter, you need to ensure that they are completely dormant before the weather actually arrives.
Water and Fertilizer
Find out when the first frost normally hits in your area and stop all fertilizing six weeks before then. You don’t want the fertilizer to still be ‘in their system’ when the temperature drops. You should also start cutting back on the amount of water you give them. Don’t stop watering completely though, as you don’t wanna send them into dormancy with no water at all.
Protect the Base
The diving temps aren’t the only thing that can harm your roses during the winter. Excessive winds can be just as detrimental. The canes dry out and it has no way to deliver water to them since the ground is frozen solid.
When the weather is often giving you frosty nights, it’s time to ‘soil up’. Take some soil and cover the base of your plant, ensuring to bring the soil up high enough to be well above the bud onion (don’t go accidentally digging up precious roots… get your soil from another area or buy some).
Later when the ground is frozen solid, surround your mound with mulch. Use compost, straw or whatever you prefer and ensure you cover it with at least of foot of it.
Check your roses for leaves. If it still has leaves, take them all off. They can encourage further drying out, not to mention increase the risk of disease.
Tree Roses and Climbing Roses
Tree roses and climbing roses are more susceptible to damage from cold and wind. Many gardeners prefer to untie climbing roses, wrap them up in insulation and retie them. Just like previously, you want to cover and protect the base, too.
As for tree roses, simply (and gently) dig them up to store them in a safe area like your basement. If this isn’t a feasible option then you can dig up only half of the roots and lay it on its side. Use mulch as you would for the base on other types of roses and make sure it’s completely covered and protected.