image by Barbara Raskauskas
Climbing roses need special care when grown in northern states where winter temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit can last for weeks. The objective is to protect the cane against the ravages of snow and ice, particularly if the plant suffers from disease or is experiencing its first year in the ground. The way you protect climbing roses over the winter is different than how you care for bush roses.
Stop fertilizing the roses by mid-August and stop deadheading blooms by mid-September. The existing blooms may then form rose hips, which are red pods of seeds. These changes in care help to ensure the plant will go dormant.
Disconnect the cane from the structure (like an arbor or trellis) before the first hard freeze or by the end of October. If you used wire to hold the cane to the structure, the wire can be twisted back in the same location on the structure, making it easier to re-attach the cane next spring.
Secure the canes to the ground using U-shaped landscape pins. As an alternative to using landscape pins, you can use canvas. Hold the canes down and throw a canvas across the canes. The cane can then be weighted down with bricks or rocks placed periodically around the perimeter.
Cover the canes (or canvas-covered canes) with 6 inches of soil, and then top that with 2 to 3 inches of mulch or leaves, which will protect climbing roses over the winter.
Remove the dirt and mulch in early spring, and then recover the cane lightly with mulch. Keep the cane on the ground until buds are seen. Once buds appear, the cane can be re-attached to the structure.