Winter Rose Care

Question: I planted some roses this year and need to know how to care for them during the winter. The Styrofoam cones are ugly!

Answer: Grafted roses require protection on the graft union to survive winter. Keep the plants healthy throughout the growing season by avoiding or treating insect and disease damage and watering properly. After several freezes in the late fall, plants become dormant and winter protection should be applied. If applied too early, the soil, rose cone or other materials can trap moisture around the plant and encourage disease.

Pick up and remove debris, such as leaves and dead stems. If the soil is dry, give it a thorough soaking.

The best method is to mound soil up around the plant. A 12-inch mound, or approximately 5 gallons of soil, provides excellent protection. It will also keep rabbits from feeding on the stems.

Prepare the plant by tying the canes up with twine. Dig the soil from an area away from the roses, so you don’t damage their roots. For further protection, pile additional mulch, such as straw or chopped leaves, on top of the soil mound.

Commercially available rose cones have been used with varying success. Even with cones, some mounding is advisable. Plants must be pruned to fit under the cone. Cut slits in the tops to provide air ventilation, and weigh the cone down with a heavy rock or brick.

In early spring, all protection must be removed as soon as plants begin new growth. Soil from the mounds should be placed in another area, rather than on top of the plant’s root area. Adding more soil thickness may prevent proper aeration needed for root growth.

-Beverly Shaw, Advanced Master Gardener Purdue University