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Winterizing Roses

Q. How and when do I winterize my roses?

A. Planning for winter actually starts in early fall. Stop fertilizing your roses in early August and stop deadheading by Labor Day to allow the plant to shut down and set hips (seeds) for winter interest. Remove fallen leaves from the garden. It's best not to cut or prune your roses at this time of year as the cuts will not have sufficient time to callus over before winter. Roses should be dormant before winter protection is applied. After several days of below freezing temperatures, create a mound of soil, compost, shredded leaves or evergreens 8 to 10 inches deep over the base of the plant. Mounding keeps the rose uniformly cold, which reduces the chance of damage caused by cycles of freeze and thaw.

Canes of taller or climbing roses can be loosely tied together using twine or fabric strips to prevent damage from winter winds. The canes of climbing roses can also be laid on the ground and covered with approximately 6 inches of garden soil to protect them for the winter. Winter protection should be gradually removed beginning in late March or early April when new growth begins. Take care not to injure new growth. Hybrid tea and English roses, like the David Austin roses, should be cut to knee height after several days with temperatures in the teens. Mound 12 inches of composted manure or lightweight garden soil around the base of each bush. Additional shredded leaves can be piled on over the canes and held in place by chicken-wire cages. If we have not had the required low temperatures by Thanksgiving, proceed with the winterizing anyway. Shrub roses can be pruned for shape but generally do not require any additional protection. Climbing roses are mounded as above, untied from their supports, retied in one place and wrapped with burlap.