The Q&A Archives: Do I cover roses in Iowa winter?

Question: I live in Iowa. When do I cover roses for the winter? And do I cut them first?

Answer: Roses should be allowed to harden-off before being protected from winter weather. This usually occurs naturally as the shrubs react to the gradual onset of fall and winter. You can help by letting rose hips develop (let the last of the roses remain after they drop their leaves, allowing the hips to swell). Make sure that they are well-watered. In the early fall, when the nights are getting regularly frosty, mound several spadefuls of soil over the base of the plant, extending the soil at least a foot above the bud union (graft). Tie the canes together with string so they won't whip around in windy weather and damage one another. When the ground is thoroughly frozen, cover the mound with a thick layer of mulch, such as straw, leaves, or compost. When the gound begins to thaw in the spring, begin removing the material from the base of the plant. You can then prune, removing any dead or damaged canes, and get the plant into shape for spring growth. If you prune in the fall, you'll signal the plant to produce new growth rather than slow down and go into winter dormancy, so save your pruning until just before growth starts in the spring.

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