Winter Rose Care

One of my favorite flowers is a rose! When I came across this article by one of the Linn County Master Gardeners on how to care for roses for the winter, as a bee, I just had to pass it on. Enjoy…

Winter Rose Care

By Lisa Slattery, Linn County Master Gardener

I have several varieties of roses in my garden, each requiring slightly different techniques for winterizing.  The shrub roses or “Knock Out” rose is the easiest to care for since they are the hardiest.  Don’t trim back the rose before winter.  After the first few freezes cover the rose with burlap and tie it securely with some rope.  Pile mulch around the base of the rose bush and over the roots, extending out from the center of the bush.

Hybrid teas, grandiflora and floribunda roses can be severely injured or killed if left unprotected. So the best way to protect these is to hill or mound soil over the base of each plant.  First remove all the fallen foliage and debris.  Then loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent them from being whipped by strong winds.  Next, cover the bottom 10 to 12 inches of the rose canes with soil, I use bagged top soil.  Don’t dig soil from around the rose to mound because you don’t want to expose any roots. Then add a layer of mulch such as straw or leaves and end with another layer of soil which will help keep the mulch in place.  A chicken wire fence around each rose bush will also help keep materials in place.  The best time to do this is after the plants have been hardened by several nights of temperatures in the low to mid-twenties.  Usually that’s in mid-November.

Climbing roses are a bit trickier due to their size.  If the rose is tied to a wall, trellis or fence, untie the climbing rose canes and wrap them in insulating material, kind of like you’d wrap pipes to keep them from freezing.  Again, I usually use burlap.  Then retie to the rose canes to the wall, trellis or fence.  If the canes need to be cut back a bit that’s OK but limited trimming before winter is always best.  Then add soil and mulch to the base of the plant like you would for a floribunda.  Another option for climbers is to detach the canes from the trellis and lay the whole plant down on its side on the ground.  Stake it in place and cover the whole thing with a foot or so of soil and mulch.  When the weather warms in the spring, gently remove the soil/mulch mixture and retie the rose to its structure.

If you have tree roses, dig them up and store them for winter in a cool garage or basement.  Another option is to dig only one side and bury it similar to the canes of the climbing rose.  Hopefully we’ll also have a nice layer of snow this winter for additional protection and great snow ball fights!


Bev Lillie, Linn County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator, 319-377-9839,


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