Protecting rose bushes for the winter is imperative if you want the roses to flourish in the spring. Protecting them not only helps keep the roots and the graft union from freezing, but it keeps the canes from breaking and becoming otherwise damaged. Protecting rose bushes in for the winter also ensures that you will have beautiful plants in the spring every year.
Prune the roses for dead and decaying wood and plant matter in the last weeks of August. Do not prune after the end of August, especially if the frosts come early in your area of the country. Pruning encourages new growth and new growth is not strong enough to withstand the winter temperatures.
Spread the mulch or compost around the base of the rose bush. You need to cover all the roots, so spread it out at least 18 inches around all sides of the rose bush. The mulch or compost must also be deep enough to cover the graft union near the bottom of the stem. Wait for the first two frosts to pass before going to Step 3.
Cut the canes to no higher than 4 feet in height after the first two major frosts. Carefully and loosely tie the canes in groups with the twine or ribbon. This prevents the canes from suffering wind damage and damage from heavy snow and ice.
Add more mulch or compost if needed to keep the graft union covered. There is no need to spread the mulch or compost out all the way around the rose bush unless the first layer blew away or settled into the ground. Just make sure the graft union is covered.
Things You Will Need
- Mulch or compost
- Twine or ribbon
- Stop fertilizing in early September or at least six weeks prior to the first frost so as not to encourage new growth. New growth is fragile and cannot handle the cold temperatures.
- Water less often in the winter. Dormant rose bushes do not need as much water as they do in the growing season.