How To Prepare Rose Bushes For Winter

We get asked every year on: “How to prepare rose bushes for winter?”

There are many different types of winter weather you can get in the northern part of the country, making it hard for roses to grow and reach their full potential during the growing season.

Depending on location you can use a variety of ways to get roses through the winter season, but you need to start early.

From covering your rose bushes with leaves, to growing them in large tree containers and moving them inside for the winter. For tips and tricks to get roses ready for winter, read the rest of the article below.

how to prepare rose bushes for winter

Rose Question:

My rose plants did not come through last winter very well. It was a battle all year to help them recover. This winter I’d like to better prepare. What and how do I prepare rose bushes for winter?  Megan, Minn

Answer: How To Prepare Rose Bushes For Winter?

Megan, a great variety of winter weather found in northern areas of the United States presents rose growers with a great problem, so do not feel alone – in fact, it could be the hardest part of rose growing.

Some years, winter sets in following a very dry fall. Other times winter arrives with an abnormal amount of snow when the ground is only barely frozen. Then again, a winter season with little or no snow may have severely cold, below normal temperatures. Or, any combination of these conditions.

Before covering roses for winter, make sure the beds have plenty of moisture in them before the heavy freeze or before the time that covering gets under way usually about November 10, depending on conditions of the season.


Do not spare the water, for it surely helps bring roses through the varied weather they deal with in northern areas.

Varied Methods Of Winter Rose Bush Care & Protection

Northern rose gardening employs varied methods of caring for roses through the winter.

Some mound the plant with dirt, entirely covering it, and then use a light covering of hay or straw; others hill the plant with dirt up only four or five inches from the base, using a greater amount of hay or straw for covering.

Some even build wooden housings to cover the plants after filling with dirt and covering with hay. These practices have been used for many years and all used with success.

Mildew & Mounding Roses

When using earth for mounding rose plants, some growers have had problems with mildew on the main stems. The mildew damages the stems and slows up the “comeback” for vigorous growth.

The cause of the appearance of mildew is rather hard to explain. I believe the chief reason for the mildew is not removing the covering early enough in the spring.

Unless extremely subnormal weather conditions prevail, remove the covering no later than the first week of April – even earlier if possible.  The rose grower must take each year’s weather in stride.

Covering With Leaves

Leaves are another kind of covering for winter rose bush protection – but not rose leaves. Many rose growers in northern areas use leaves alone for winter protection. True, it takes a great amount of leaves to give ample protection for roses – more leaves usually, than the average rose growers property has.

When using leaves, place them well around the plants, and put plenty on top, also.

It will be necessary to use some material to hold the leaves in place. A coarse grade of chicken wire is rather inexpensive and will do the job adequately for many years. Even if some snow falls before the roses are covered, go ahead and cover over the snow.


In the spring the removed leaves will make excellent material for the compost pile. Some growers prune their roses bushes in the fall before putting them to bed. Others do not prune until spring, after new growth begins to develop.

For covering pillar or climbing roses, lay all canes on the ground and use any of the suggested ways for the bush roses. Removing climbers and pillar roses from their trellises or fences gives you an opportunity to inspect and repair supports when necessary.

Tree Roses

Some gardeners grow tree roses in large containers and move them inside for the winter. One method used some tree rose growers is to loosen the dirt around three sides of the plant and gradually bend the entire tree over to the ground, pinning it down with stakes. Then use the same method as for climbers and bush roses.

Taking the time to prepare your roses for winter will pay dividends when the warm spring weather arrives – and so do the blooms!

Image:  | Pink Sherbet

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