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Roses are plants, too!

Wait Before Assuming The Cold Killed Your Rose

While this rose looks dead and isn’t putting out new growth like some others, it’s too early to know for sure it was actually killed by the winter.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
While this rose looks dead and isn’t putting out new growth like some others, it’s too early to know for sure it was actually killed by the winter.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

Last month I talked about cutting some of my roses down to the ground because the winter had killed off the tops. I also mentioned that on almost all of them I was already seeing new growth coming up from the ground and that is one of the reasons I wasn’t worried about cutting so hard.

This post I want to talk about the roses that look dead but are not puutting out new growth from ground. Or at least, not yet.

It seems logical that with spring upon us and everything starting to grow that all the roses that had their tops killed by the winter should now be putting out new growth. Or at least in the next few weeks as we really get into spring here in the upstate of South Carolina. One would think that if no new growth was visible by say early May (our peak bloom time) it would make sense the rose was dead and the best thing to do would be to dig it up.

Interestingly experience tells me otherwise.

About 8 years ago we had a similiar winter like the one we just had. This was when I still had my rose nursery Ashdown Roses. Come spring we had what looked like dead roses all over the place. We cut the dead growth back to the ground just like I did this year and waited to see if anything happened. Come mid May several had not sprouted any but for one reason or another we didn’t get around to digging them up. Mainly because that is the busiest time in the nursery business and we had other things to do. I figured dead roses could wait.

It was around late June before we finally had a chance to get out there and “clean up” amongst the roses that were permenantly planted in the ground. We set out with shovels in hand figuring we would just dig them up and then eventaully replant newer ones. Much to our surpise, many that looked dead back in May were now sprouting new growth from the ground. The growth was not very tall so we knew it had just started and was not something we overlooked a month earlier.

We of course left those alone and also decided to leave any alone that had not yet sprouted growth. Interestingly over the next severarl months many of those also began to grow again. To be sure some did not and by September we were digging those up, but by waiting we saved quite a few roses. By next season they were fine and blooming again.

As you wander around your garden this year thinking you have dead roses I advise you to be patient. As I mentioned my peak bloom is usually in early to mid-May. Many of the roses didn’t reveal new life until 6-8 weeks after that. Use that gauge after your normal peak bloom time to determine how long it might take before that seemingly dead roses suprises you with new life.

Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. anmlvr 04/11/2014

    Wise words, as usual. I was all set to dig up one and thanks to some experts like you, I waited. It's not all dead wood like the one in your image - but to me yellow is just not healthy rose. Today I do believe I see some swelling leaf nodes! :)

    Lynn T

  2. PFZimmerman 04/16/2014

    Lynn. Mine are popping up like crazy. Be patient!

  3. bayouland 04/29/2014

    Do you fertilize the plant even if it has no growth on it?

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