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Winter protection for roses

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Protective cones for roses.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Jean-Pierre Bellemare)  

Winter protection is a way of sheltering your plants from abrupt temperature variations (freezing and thawing). Native and naturalized roses as well as most modern shrub roses do not require any protection apart from a good layer of snow. Less hardy or grafted roses (hybrid teas, floribundas, etc.) must be protected if they are to survive the winter.

  • Before installing winter protection, cut the canes back to 30-35 cm above the soil.
  • Place all leaves and pruning debris in the garbage (do not compost).

Mounding

If planting in autumn, mound soil up around the base of hardy plants. This will protect them from the autumn cold and from sunburn in spring. After all risk of spring frosts is past, gently remove the mound of soil and lightly spray the canes with a hose to clean them.

Rose cones

Prune canes, remove leaves and mound soil up around the base of the plant to a depth of 20-25 cm. Anchor the cone firmly with a brick or stakes. In our climate, the efficiency of such cones depends on the snow cover (40 cm is ideal).

Insulating fabric

Such fabric, a sheet of Styrofoam covered in opaque white plastic, will help protect your plants by keeping the temperature constant. It is well suited to mass plantings, climbers and standard or tree roses. There is no need to mound or bury the plants beforehand.

Installing insulating fabric

Remove the leaves from the plants and clean all dead leaves from beds to prevent fungal diseases. First build a frame out of stakes or chicken wire. Then wrap the fabric around the frame and attach it firmly.

When?

Install the protection in autumn (mid- or late November) when the plants are dormant and after a few days of –5ºC to –10ºC temperatures. Remove the protection in spring, around mid-April, once the soil thaws.

Climbers

Remove the leaves and untie the branches. Lay them delicately on the ground to form an arch and tie them together. Build a frame over the plant and cover with the insulating fabric.

Tree roses

Dig out the bush with the basket. Lay on the soil and mound the roots. Build a frame and cover with the insulating fabric.

Rose bushes in pots

Keeping rose bushes in pots on a balcony in the wintertime is risky. Snow accumulation plays a major role in plant survival. Exposure to cold winds and extreme variations of temperature (freezing and thawing) often cause the death of poorly protected plants. If you don’t have the choice, prune the rose bush and remove the leaves. Place it in a Styrofoam insulated box and fill it with dry leaves. Place the box near the wall and cover it with snow, the best winter protection.

Remove winter protection and tie in climbing roses

Remove winter protection as soon as the weather permits, because plants may get overheated under insulating cones and fabric. Moisture build-up underneath can also promote certain fungal diseases. Whenever possible, choose a cloudy day or wait until late in the day. Buds that have spent the winter under protection are easily burned or dried out by a sudden change in conditions. Keep protective covers handy and replace them if there is a threat of late frost.

Wait a few days before tying climbing roses to supports. The stems will be more flexible once they have had a chance to adapt to the new weather conditions.

Grafted roses that were buried in a trench for the winter should be replanted once the ground has thawed sufficiently. Choose a sunny site and rich, well-drained soil. Don’t forget to stake the plant on the prevailing-wind side.

Wait about 10 days before pruning your roses. Any buds that are unable to survive the transition will have time to show signs of dieback.

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