Roses Are Plants Too!

Winter Rose Protection Tips From The Minnesota Rose Gardener

Paul’s rose garden in the snow. Snow is a great insulator for roses
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

I get asked a lot of questions regarding what is the best way to protect roses during the winter. I’m always happy to answer them to the best of my ability. However, my ability is based on what I’ve read and been told by those who truly grow roses in a winter environment. You see, my rose growing experience comes from living in two places; Los Angeles, CA and now the upstate of South Carolina. The former is hardly a place for hands on winter experience and the latter, while it gets winter, does not equal the formidable challenge of a true northern winter.

This is where Jack Falker comes in. I got to know Jack through his blog “The Minnesota Rose Gardener”. Along the way we’ve emailed back and forth sharing thoughts and ideas. Jack is great about letting me bounce ideas off him for his practical, experienced input.

So while I can write about winter protection based on what I know, I always feel when you have someone you can call on with more experience why not do it! So with a shout out to Jack I’m going to share some his winter protection tips with all of you. You will find links to Jack’s blog and specific things I mention at the bottom of this post.

First, as with dealing with disease and other things, a winter protection strategy starts with selecting roses that are right for your growing area. I realize not many roses are hardy to say zone 4 but at least select ones that can handle zone 5. Don’t pick tender varieties like Noisettes that simply can’t handle anything below 6 (with the rare exception).

Secondly, when you plant new roses bury the bud union and bury it deep – 3-4 inches. The bud union is what you see on budded (or grafted) roses. It’s that knot above the roots where the canes grow out from. If you have own root roses than bury the area above the roots where the canes are growing out from.

Thirdly, mulch, mulch, mulch. We’ve talked about using mulch for lots of reasons and another one is to protect the roots during winter. So going into winter make sure you’re beds are well covered.

Jack’s journey with winter protection began when he started re-thinking what is called “The Minnesota Tip”. This practice requires partially uprooting your roses so you can literally tip them over and cover them with dirt. Come spring you’d uncover them, set them back upright and hope the roots you severed grew back. While it worked Jack began thinking this can’t be good for the plants in the long run. See his post “No Tipping Please”

Jack began experimenting with different methods and the one he came up with that worked for him involves cutting the roses down in fall to about 12-18 inches when they stop blooming and tie them in bundles. After the ground has frozen you cover them with half filled bags of leaves. See Jack’s post “The Big Coverup”

Another thing Jack recommends is giving your roses a potassium feast starting about 6 weeks before your first hard freeze. He finds this stops the growth-promoting effects of nitrogen and phosphorous and it hardens the canes for winter. He talks about it in this post “Potassium” A Special K-Ration Feast For Your Roses”. (Potassium is the “K” in the NPK rating on fertilizer bags.

Jack has other great tips on winter protection (and rose growing in general) in his blog. Be sure to click the link below and spend a little reading it. I suspect you’ll learn some things. I know I did!

Happy Roseing

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