‘It spells disaster!’ What to avoid when preparing roses for winter to prevent ‘damage’


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Roses are one of the most beloved perennials of all in gardens. Whether gardeners are growing a hybrid tea rose, floribunda rose, shrub rose or one of the many other types of roses that can be found, a little protection from winter can go a long way toward how well it performs next year. How roses need to be prepared for winter all depends on the type of rose that is being grown and your winter climate. A gardening expert from This Is My Garden has shared how to prepare for each type.

They said: “In general, depending on the variety and your location, the more harsh your winter, the more you will need to have additional protection for your roses.” With that in mind, here is a look at the basics of preparing your rose bushes for the upcoming snow, ice and cold.


When it comes to pruning rose bushes, autumn is “not the time for action”, says the expert. In fact, unless there is a damaged or broken limb, nothing at all should be removed from roses.

They explained: “Pruning is a signal to plants to regenerate and sprout new growth. Then, when this happens in late summer or early autumn, it spells disaster for plants as they head into the long, cold winter.

“Any new late season growth puts the rose bush at risk for damage. The tender new shoots and stems take power from the plant as they grow. 

“Then, when the hard frosts and freezes begin, not only is the new growth killed off, but the entire bush is vulnerable to freezing out.”

READ MORE: ‘Golden rule’ for pruning lavender before winter – what to ‘never’ do

Instead, wait to prune until late winter or just before spring, when the rose bush is fully dormant. At this point, the rose bush will not attempt to generate any new foliage or growth until the warmth of spring is in the air.

If gardeners do need to prune out any damage, always use a sharp, clean pair of pruners as clean cuts will heal more quickly and are less likely to cause an issue for the rose bush.

Autumn fertilising 

Fertilising of roses should only occur in the early spring and summer months. The gardening expert pointed out: “Once late summer and early autumn have arrived, fertilising at this point causes far more damage than good.

“Fertilising, just as with pruning, can force rose bushes into tender, late season growth. This fragile growth can be both above ground and within the rose bushes root structure. Late season growth like this creates a vulnerable position for the rose as winter arrives.”

When it comes to providing protection for roses from the constant thawing and freezing winter can bring, the type of protection will depend on the type of rose bush being grown. Here is a look at how to protect each of the common rose bush styles:

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Hybrid and tea roses

Hybrid and tea roses are among the most popular of rose bushes, and just so happen to require the most protection.

The gardening pro explained: “Once mid-autumn has settled in, rake back the leaves that have fallen and gathered around the base of the rose bush. Allowing the leaves to remain is asking for trouble. Unfortunately, those leaves can harbour both insects and disease, so getting them out of the way is a must.”

Once the base area has been cleared, apply a heavy six inch layer of sawdust around the limbs at the base of the rose bush. When it comes to hybrid and tea roses, this is where the grafts or stem unions are located.

By covering these, gardeners protect the most susceptible part of the rose bush from dying out. For those who don’t have sawdust, use compost. Compost helps to insulate and provide nutrients, and is a great choice for protecting roses.

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Climbing roses

Climbing roses tend to have more issues with wintertime damage from wind than cold. Although their roots are usually fairly well established, their tall canes can be whipped by the wind. They can also sustain damage from heavy loads of snow and ice.

The expert advised: “If your climbing roses are attached to a pergola or trellis, tie them off securely to the structure. This will keep any strong winter weather from breaking them off or injuring the canes. If your climbing roses are not clinging to any structure, the process is a bit different. Simply tying them up will not provide enough support or protection.

“Instead, gather the canes together, and using a rope, tie them together. Next, lay the bundle down on the ground, covering the canes with six inches of straw, sawdust or compost. This will keep the canes strong from any damaging winter weather.”

Shrub roses

When it comes to winter preparation of rose bushes, shrub roses are by far the easiest variety. The expert said: “With a strong root structure, shrub roses tend to be extremely tolerant of cold weather. As long as you don’t live in an area with severe winter weather, little is needed to keep them safe.”

To prepare shrub roses for winter, rake away any leaves around the base that have fallen from the rose. Much like with the other varieties, rose leaves just have too much potential to carry disease and hide pests.

Once the plant has fallen into dormancy, the pro advised applying a three to four inch layer of compost around the base of the plant. They explained: “This will help protect the base from constant freezing and thawing, and provide nutrients as it decomposes into next spring.”



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