Roses Are Plants Too!

Step One In Preventing Winter Damage To Your Roses

climbing rose covered in snow
Making sure your climbing rose are securely tied in is one way of preventing winter damage. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in upstate South Carolina, we’ve already had some nights below freezing. Snow has fallen high in the mountains as well as the northern parts of United States.

Roses are tough and can withstand a lot. Yet, as with anything in the garden sometimes a little prevention can help.  I don’t pretend to be a winter rose growing expert, having never gardened up north, so instead I’m passing on some tips I’ve learned from those who do garden in the colder climates.  Look for more to come.

First step is to trim the taller roses back slightly.  The idea behind this is the winters winds can whip canes back and forth – potentially breaking them off and causing severe damage.  Many of the old roses and newer shrub roses send out long canes that eventually arch over.  While beautiful in bloom, in winter these canes are easily snapped off.

Don’t trim too hard, as we’ll save the “pruning” height trim for later.  The idea here is to simply trim them back just enough so the winds affect them less. Generally about a third will do it.  You can go to half height on the longer ones if they are really tall.  No need to trim all of them.  Just the tall ones.

Same goes for your climbers.  Make sure the main canes are tied in well and trim the laterals back to a few feet long.  Or tie in some of the laterals you may be using as main canes next year.  Doesn’t have to be tidy.  You can clean this all up when you do your prune in early spring.  The idea here is just to make sure they are secure.

If you can wait till after your first frost to trim anything back that would be great.  Gives the roses a chance to really go dormant first. But if your weather forecast calls for some big winds go ahead and do so a little early.

This light trimming at the very start of winter is a good first step towards making sure your roses come out in spring looking their best.

Happy Rose-ing

Learn how water can be another tool for protecting your roses in Step 2.

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