Protecting your Roses!
There’s nothing in the garden more elegant and beautiful than a healthy rose, but it’s difficult to keep them looking their best in planting zone 6 without a little yearly winter protection. What should you do for your roses?
Start by Stopping:
Are you still fertilizing? Many homeowners use fertilizers on their roses to bolster bloom production all summer long for maximum color and enjoyment. In addition to blooms, fertilized plants will also produce tender green shoots and new leaves that are highly susceptible to winter injury. For best results, homeowners should stop fertilizing in August. Roses will respond to the decrease in nutrients (and soon to come cooler temps!) by focusing their energy on preparing for dormancy. Roses do this by thickening the cell walls of existing stems before the first hard frost.
Long-lived landscape plants such as perennials, shrubs, and trees settle into a dormant state to ‘sleep’ through winter. This is an ideal time to prune most plants as there is less risk of causing shock, and far fewer pests to take advantage of open plant wounds. Once the first hard frost of fall has occurred, it’s time to cut!
Hardy shrub roses such as the Knock Out series are robust growers that can be cut back rather hard – as short as 12 inches tall – to maintain the desired shape and structure for the following year. This yearly trim is also a great time to examine individual plants for signs of damage and to prune out any dead wood or excess canes.
Climbers are better pruned in early spring (but avoid clipping the leader!). Instead, prepare the roses for winter by ensuring all stems are tied securely to prevent them from being caught and damaged by the wind.
Ideal Cuts: When working with roses, the ideal cut is done at a 45 degree angle, about a quarter inch above the bud (growth point). Select buds that face in the direction you’d like the plant to grow, to encourage your desired structure for the following year.
Take a little time to clear away any cuttings, fallen leaves, and other leftover organic matter from around your roses. This kind of debris is an ideal harbor for many disease causing fungi and bacteria to overwinter in. By removing it now, you may be saving your roses (and other plantings) in spring.
Tip: Remove debris from the landscape in late fall and early spring while plants are dormant to decrease the risk of spreading overwintering diseases to vulnerable host plants.
Mulch it Up!
Protect the roots and crowns of roses from winter’s extreme cold by mounding 8-12? of mulch around the base and over their crowns. This organic layer insulates the roots from extreme cold and wild temperature fluctuations typical of spring in this region. For best results, apply after the first or second hard frost of winter to avoid trapping heat (and overheating) sensitive root systems. In spring, remove protective mulch layers after the risk of cold snaps has passed.
Tip: Avoid leaving protective layers of mulch around the base of roses for too long in spring. Excess mulch around the base traps moisture and invites both insects and diseases.