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Roses are plants, too!

Step 2 In Preventing Winter Damage To Your Roses

Sometimes, a little ice is a good thing!
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
Sometimes, a little ice is a good thing!
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

Last week we talked about trimming the long canes on your roses back a bit so the winter winds wouldn’t whip them and snap them off.  This week we’ll add another tip to your arsenal.


Winter damage is more often caused by winds than by cold.  Think about it.  You’ve all been outside on a cold day with no wind.  While your hands and face are cold, it’s not the same dry, chapping feeling you get outside on a cold windy day.  Those cold winds just pull the moisture out of your skin to the point where feel like taking a chap-stick bath!

The same thing happens to your roses.  Those winter winds howl against the exposed canes, drying them out and even causing die back sometimes.  I realize during dormancy most of the sap, water etc has migrated down to the roots for this very reason, but I’ve still seen them do damage.

This is where water comes in. But don’t water the ground.

Water the canes.

That’s right, just before a winter windstorm is about to hit, see if you can bet some water on the exposed canes.  Sprinkler’s, garden hose – anything will do.  If it freezes on the canes, so much the better.  The principal behind that is the same as citrus farmers use in north Florida when they get a freeze. The overhead water so ice forms around the fruit. The ice actually insulates, and in fact underneath the ice it’s just above freezing. Plus, the ice acts as a barrier against the winter winds.

A gentle wind, or even a short blast doesn’t call for this kind of drastic action.  But, when your local weather forecaster leads off the news looking all excited about actually having something interesting beyond the days temperatures, you know it’s time to overheard water your winter roses.

Happy Roseing

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