The Q&A Archives: Tree rose

Question: I have tried everything to keep my tree rose alive here in the winter. Can I just move it into my basement after it has had a mild freeze to drive it into dormancy?

Answer: Tree or standard roses are produced by bud-grafting the desired rose variety onto a tall stem. Since the cold-sensitive bud union may be 2 or 3 feet above the ground, tree roses are extremely vulnerable to winter injury or death. (Tree roses are best suited to areas with mild winter climates.) Your tree rose won't remain healthy if kept in a basement over the winter months, but you can protect it by laying it down in a trench and covering it with soil and then with pine boughs, straw, or other organic mulch material.

The first step is to decide which direction to lay the tree rose. Then loosen the soil in the opposite direction with a spade. Put the blade into the soil about 1 to 1 1/2 feet from the base of the stem. Then gently rock the spade back and forth to loosen the soil and free the roots. Loosen the soil in a semicircle around the plant. On the other side of the tree rose, dig a shallow trench and then carefully bend the trunk (stem) down to the ground. Peg the stem down with stakes. Finally, cover with several inches of soil.

Tree roses growing in pots or other containers also need winter protection. Dig a trench in the garden, lay the potted tree rose in the trench, then cover with several inches of soil.

Prepare roses for winter when plants are dormant after exposure to two or three hard frosts. Normally, this is late October to early November in northern areas, mid-November in central areas, and mid- to late November in southern counties.

Remove protective materials before bud break in spring, normally late March to mid-April.

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