The Q&A Archives: Overwintering Roses

Question: I have 160 rose bushes - mostly teas. I started this four years ago and in the past winters I have tried tipping and actually digging them up and burying all of them in several deep holes. When I tipped them I lost many because the plant actually rotted away from its root. When I dug them up and buried them, they were beautiful and green all the way to the tips of the branch in the spring and did great all summer. The difficult part is mostly the replanting in the spring. Obviously I have too many plants to use rose cones. Do you have any suggestions to make this easier?
Also do I have to cut them down? I have some that 5 and 6 feet tall.

Answer: Actually, you don't want to prune now, which will stimulate new tender growth that is susceptible to frost damage. Here's an alternative description of what to do to prepare roses for winter. It's taken from "Roses for Dummies" written by Lance Walheim and the National Gardening Association.

Stop fertilizing 6 weeks before the first frost and let spent flowers go to seed rather than cutting them off. This encourages the plant to go into dormancy. Then,

1. Deep water after the first frost, but before the ground hardens.

2. When nights start being frosty on a regular basis, mound several shovels of soil over the base of the plant, at least a foot above the bud union. To make this easier, you can tie the canes together with a string.

3. When the ground is completely frozen, cover the mound with a foot layer of mulch, such as compost or leaves. Remove all leaves from the roses, which can harbor disease and increase drying out of the plant. Enclose the rose with a cyclinder of wire mesh and fill it with mulch or soil.

4. When the ground starts thawing in the spring, gradually start removing the covering. Don't remove all at once, let the plant acclimate.

You might want to try this method with a portion of your roses and see if it works as well as digging them up completely. I hope this info helps with your roses!

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