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Winter Covers for Roses

Rose gardening represents the ultimate in flower gardening. After cultivating a rose garden it is important to protect your plants during the cool winter season so that they are not damaged by winter freezing. Some old fashioned rose plants have a tolerance to cold weather; the freezing and thawing cycle will cause long term damage, however, to hybrid teas and other rose cultivars.

Hill-Up or Mound

According to the University of Illinois Extension Service, one of the most common ways to cover rose plants for the winter is the hill-up method. This method includes providing a mixture of well-drained soil and compost around the plant at least 10 inches from the base of the plant. This insulates the rose root system. “A variety of hilling materials can be used, but the key is to be sure the material is well drained. Wet and cold is far more damaging than dry and cold,” UIES states. After the first freeze, cover the entire plant with evergreen branches, straw or hardwood leaves to insulate the plant and keep the soil frozen.

The Minnesota Tip

The Wisconsin Master Gardeners describe how to use this method. The Minnesota Tip essentially includes burying the rose canes to ensure they stay covered all winter long. To do this WMG says to tie the canes in a tight bundle. Then, dig a trench from the base of the plant out and loosen the soil around the other side of the rose bush with a spading fork. Gently bend the canes into the trench and cover with soil. Water the soil to help the soil stay in place. “When the ground is slightly frozen, cover with a 3-5 inch layer of leaves,” UMG states. This method allows the plant to remain frozen with the soil.

Cones, Mesh or Cylinders

The University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program suggests using some form of mesh cage, rose cone, basket or burlap to cover rose plants. According to URILH, some gardeners prefer to cover the plant and then fill the cage with wood chips, sawdust, shredded hardwood, straw, leaves, pine bark or similar material mounded 15 to 18 inches high. Circulation holes should be provided if the cone or burlap is completely covering the plant. This provides the maximum amount of winter protection for bush roses, URILH asserts.

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