The Q&A Archives: rose protection

Question: How do you protect your roses from dying in the winter? I had to get more roses this spring because they died from the winter.

Answer: Three options are available: (1) Burying the rose, (2) building a protective cage around the rose, or (3) transplanting the rose into a container and storing it out of weather extremes. In each case, work should proceed after first killing frost and ideally before snow cover.

Burying the rose is best accomplished by first hand-stripping leaves, then bundling the major canes loosely together. To minimize overwintering fungal spores, a light application of a horticultural fungicide can be sprayed on the shrub. A shallow trench is excavated next to the rose and the rose's root zone on the side opposite the trench is carefully uprooted with a shovel. The rose is tipped over and laid inside the trench, then covered with soil. Although slightly trimming the rose may be necessary to ease handling, severely pruning the rose in order to bury it should not be done. For miniature roses mounding the soil up around the rose as it remains upright may also be an option.

Building a cage around the rose is another option, especially for roses which are "borderline hardy". In this case, a wire or wooden cage should be constructed which is approximately 6 in. (15 cm) taller than the rose and 12 in. (30 cm) larger than its diameter. The cage should be anchored to the ground, preventing winter winds from dislocating it. The cage is then filled with organic insulating materials such as compost, straw, or shredded leaves. To help protect the rose from desiccating winter winds and low humidity, plastic covers should be secured over and around the cage.

Transplanting the rose is also an option, and is especially useful for miniature roses if storage space like a garage or basement is available. After killing frost, the rose is dug and transplanted into a container. It should also be pruned lightly to compensate for root loss and hand-stripped of any remaining leaves. It's also a good idea to apply a fungicide at this time, and if stored in a heated location, treated with an insecticide/miticide. The storage facility need not be heated, but it should remain above 10?F (-12?C). Light is not a requirement, since the rose will be dormant. Use caution to ensure the container's soil does not dry; check soil moisture periodically.

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