How to Winter Protect Roses

Roses are beautiful.  We have some wonderful hardy roses available to us from the “Explorer”, “Parkland”, and “Canadian Artist” series.  They require little winter protection and generally winter over well in Alberta.  For more information on hardy roses for Alberta check out this link to our blog on Alberta & Roses.

For floribunda and English Tea Roses, the challenge to overwinter them is more rigorous. The freeze and thaw cycles of winter can damage their roots and the dry winter air can damage their branches & stem tips.  Because of this, tea roses need protection. We have some ideas listed below that should help with getting tea roses to over winter but they’re not a guarantee of success.

  • Healthy roses will survive a cold winter better than roses weakened or compromised by bugs, drought, nutrient deficiencies, or poor soil conditions. Roses grow best in sunny locations and in well drained soil.
  • Stop applying fertilizer to the rose by about the middle of August and allow it to produce rose hips.  This encourages the rose to start going into dormancy.
  • Let a hard killing frost hit them first so that their leaves fall off, and before covering you may need to remove leaves to make sure all the leaves are off the stems
  • Trim tall roses back or tie canes together to protect them from wind damage. You may even need to trim them back even as far as 12-18” to facilitate covering.
  • Here’s a couple of ideas for winter protection:
    • Make mounds around the base of the roses:
      • Always make mounds with dry material – wet materials cause rot.
      • First, mound 10-12” soil around the base of the rose.
      • Then mound 12”-16” of mulching material on top of that – ie. dry leaves, or bark mulch.
      • Cover the mound with evergreen branches or straw to increase the insulation factor.
      • Throw snow over the mounds as well to increase the insulation.
    • Place collars or rings around the rose by placing rebar or branches around the rose and then securing chicken or goat wire to the supports around the rose.
      • Follow the above method.
      • You may also pack straw into the ring & then wrap burlap around the ring.
    • Another method suggested by some of our customers:
      • Cut the rose back to about 8” from the ground after the 1st frost.
      • Take an empty pot with a height & diameter of 12” that is full of soil and place that over the stem.
      • For added protection, you may also place mulch over that & cover it generously with snow during the winter.