Guide to Rose Bush Winter Care

Your rose bushes have bloomed like champs all season long. But now that there are fewer pages on the calendar, you're wondering how best to protect your plants from old man winter.

If you live in zones 6 or colder, winterizing rose bushes should be a priority. Hybrid tea roses are at greatest risk, while shrub roses are hardier and don't need much attention. If you live in zones 7 or 8, your roses will still be exposed to a hard freeze or two, but don't need as much protection as their northern cousins. If you live below zone 8, you biggest winter worry will be the fungal diseases that sneak in with the cool, damp weather.

Begin Early
Stop feeding your rose bushes about six weeks before the first hard frost. The lack of fertilizer will hinder the growth of tender new shoots that won't stand up to winter chill.

When It Gets Cold
After the first hard frost, water your rose bushes deeply. Once the ground begins to freeze you won't have any more watering opportunities until next year.

Around the time of the second hard freeze, apply 6 to 12 inches of compost mulch around each of your rose bushes. This will protect the roots and graft union from freezing temperatures.

Climbing roses should have their canes bundled together and placed on the ground. Cover the bundled canes with a layer of protective mulch. Leaving climbers uncovered will expose them to harsh winter winds that will burn or dehydrate them.

Rose bushes grown in zones 7 and 8 will benefit from mulching, but not as heavily as roses farther north. A three or four inch layer of leaves or shredded bark mulch will give plenty of protection from cold snaps.

When It Starts To Warm Up
Be sure to remove the mulch in the spring. For convenience, remove mulch at about the same time you prune your rose bushes.

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