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Winter Care for Potted Roses

Image by, courtesy of Ray Tibbitts

Potted roses require different care than their garden-bound cousins. Container gardens as a rule require more water, fertilizer and careful monitoring of growing conditions to protect tender plants. Winter care for potted roses requires careful monitoring of weather conditions to allow the plant to go dormant for the season while still protecting the plant from permanent damage.


Winter care for potted roses involves choosing the correct time to move the plant to a sheltered location. Roses need to transition to a dormant stage each fall, allowing time for the plant to adjust to cooler temperatures. This care involves pruning, watering, cleaning the pot of dead leaves and choosing a good location to winter the potted rose.


Water potted roses through the fall period when the soil becomes dry to the touch. Root growth still occurs during colder periods of the year. Root growth demands adequate moisture, especially in the confined environment of a planter. Water sparingly but evenly to disperse water through the soil and to help the rose transition to the dormancy period. After dormancy, water the plant every 1 to 2 months to maintain some moisture in the planter, protecting the plant from the drying winter sun and wind.

Transitioning Roses for Winter

It sounds rather odd to expose the potted rose to frost when the object lies in protecting the plant. However, roses must have encouragement to go dormant for the winter. Exposure to a few good frosts tells the plant to stop active growth for the winter. Don't leave the planter outside during an extended cold snap. Two to three nights should encourage the plant to go to sleep for the winter. If you're concerned about dormancy, leave the potted rose outside but move it to a sheltered location. The cooler temperatures will help the plant adjust gradually without excessive exposure to frost.


Winter preparation may involve some pruning but pre-winter care should never involve a major trim to the potted rose plant. Pruning stimulates the plant to produce new growth and this can weaken a plant heading into a dormant period. Clip off dead branches carefully, removing the smallest amount of cane possible to limit stress to the plant. Save heavy pruning to shape the plant until the middle of the growing period.


Protect the potted rose by removing all spent flower petals, cut canes and debris from the top of the flowerpot. This reduces the incidence of mold formation and the spread of disease. Potted plants need appropriate protection from cool winter temperatures that reach entirely around the pot area. Select a sheltered location such as a garage, shed or enclosed porch to protect the plant. Potted roses face rapid freezing and thawing that can break roots easily. A 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch on the top of the soil surface will protect the plant. Wrap the planter in bubble wrap for additional protection.

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