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How to Overwinter Potted Roses Indoors

One option for ensuring they live from year to year in a container is moving them inside in winter

orange roses in a container
Photo: Fionuala Campion

A lot of the newer (and older), smaller roses are great for growing in containers on your patio, deck or even out in your garden. I’ve always felt they look terrific with plants like herbs spilling out the sides.

But if you live in a climate that gets a real winter, what do you do with the container and the rose when those cold north winds come blowing through? If you leave the rose outside it will likely die from the cold, but since roses need full sun you can’t bring it inside. Or can you? Yes, you can and you should.

Dormancy is when to make the move

During winter a rose is totally dormant, and because of this it doesn’t matter if it’s in the sun or not. Now I don’t advocate shutting it in a dark closet, but an unheated room with some natural light is perfect, such as a garage near a window. You might be asking, “But why unheated?” Because you want the rose to stay dormant during winter, and placing it in a heated room will wake it up. And once woken up it will need sunshine, but it’s too cold to put the rose outside.

Simply wait for the rose to go naturally dormant, and when that first deep freeze is forecast, like 25°F (–4°C) or below, go ahead and bring it inside.

Tips of while it’s inside

Once the rose is inside don’t let the soil dry out, but don’t water it regularly either. Since the rose is dormant, it won’t be taking up water. Just make sure the soil remains slightly moist and you’ll be fine.

Place it back outside after the weather has regulated

Come spring when the rose starts to wake up, take it back outside. If you get an unexpected late spring freeze, bring it back inside or just throw a blanket over it.

Roses in containers are a wonderful sight in any garden, and even if you live in a cold climate, keeping them for years is a snap if you are ready to move them in when the temps drop.


Previous: Great Rose Varieties for Growing in Containers Next: Tips for Growing Roses in Containers
View Comments


  1. Rosarian 10/22/2010

    I would just like to add to keep the containers a few inches (2-4) off the cemment floor of the garage.


  2. PFZimmerman 10/25/2010

    Great point and thanks for posting it!

  3. Mrs_K 11/30/2010

    I live in upstate NY where it is often around 0 or lower over the winter. I d not have a garage, just an unheated woodshed. Will that do? Should I wrap the pots in insulation before putting them in the shed? If I water the roses won't the water just freeze in the pot? I do have a basement, but it is heated. HELP!

  4. PFZimmerman 12/01/2010

    A shed will work just fine. Don't worry about wrapping the pots and if the rootball freezes it won't hurt the roses. The temperature underneath frozen water is actually just above freezing due to the friction of the freezing. It's why citrus farmers in Florida spray water on the fruit before a freeze because the ice is actually insulation.

    At my old nursery I had thousands of roses in pots and the entire rootball would freeze on a regular basis with no problems.

    Just don't keep them soaking wet. A little moist is all you need.

  5. JoAnneL 08/29/2011

    I live in Ottawa where winters frequently go well below 0 farenheit. And my unheated garage has no windows. Will my rose still survive?

  6. PFZimmerman 09/05/2011

    I have no personal experience with roses in temperatures like ottowa but I know of people who do keep them in unheated garages up north with little trouble.

  7. PFZimmerman 09/05/2011

    I have no personal experience with roses in temperatures like ottowa but I know of people who do keep them in unheated garages up north with little trouble.

  8. sandyiniowa 10/19/2013

    Should you cut it back when you bring it in?

  9. PFZimmerman 10/29/2013

    I would cut it back before you bring it in provided it appears to be dormant. Generally the first good couple of frosts will shut down any new growth.

  10. user-7008232 08/30/2016

    Unheated... but not a garden shed that can get really cold? How about crawlspace that doesn't ever get cold enough to freeze? I guess I am asking what the optimum temperature would be for the roses. We have several in containers this year and really want to overwinter them correctly. Thanks!

  11. darlenemayer 10/19/2016

    Do the roses need to be cut back when they are brought in?

    1. Rhodorah 11/21/2017

      If it's too big inside your home, then cut it back.
      It's also a good idea to keep your roses pruned to be healthy.

  12. user-7008298 11/07/2016

    I live in a a small apt - I have no garage etc. Would putting it in the back of my car - its like a small station wagon?

  13. user-7008308 11/17/2016

    Im new to this gardening stuff. Every place i lived at i couldnt plant or garden. But now i have my own house & i want to make this right. I have these climbing roses that r both in a flower pot. Its starting to get chilling outside. I have an attic that is not to hot & not to cold ether. Could I put them up there during the winter? It has two windows so it will get sunlight. & how often should I water them? Like how much water & how many times a day or a week or a month. Please let me know.

  14. user-7008985 11/07/2017

    My knockout roses are in containers outside against the west side of my house. They are too large and heavy to bring inside. What is best material to use to protect them for winter in Texas. It usually only gets in 20's a few times and usually doesnt last long.

    1. Rhodorah 11/21/2017

      They are fine to stay outside all winter long.

  15. marziehbe 11/10/2017

    I brought my roses inside, but I am thinking suspiciously about the insects the soil may bring inside. Do you have any advise for this?

    1. Rhodorah 11/21/2017

      A mixture of 1 TBS of garlic juice, and 1 TBS of mild dish soap into 1 gallon of water will keep insects out of your roses. Let the mixture sit overnight before using.

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