Rose depicting how to protect roses in winter

How to Protect Roses in Winter: Gardening Tips

Rose depicting how to protect roses in winter

Are you looking for ways to protect roses during the winter months?

This week, we are looking at a few tricks and tips to save your beautiful rose garden from winter’s cold temperatures. Whether you are expanding your current rose garden, looking for tips on how to take care of the roses you already have, or are new to rose gardening, this is an excellent guide for you.

Roses are one of the most popular flowers for a reason. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. Their hue is consistent, and their petals are silky.

Of course, many of them smell heavenly. The experience of walking in a well-maintained rose garden is memorable. Who wouldn’t want one in their yard?

If you have done any rose care, you know that they come by their expensive price-point at the store honestly. They do require a bit of care and finesse.

Garden roses bred for your hardiness zone will do the best through cold weather. However, with a little extra care, you can preserve many types of roses from permanent damage through even the harshest winter weather.

What Damages a Rose Bush the Most Through Winter?

The answer is not freezing; it’s trying to survive the effects of temperature variations through the cold season.

The goal of protecting your roses for harsh winters is to reduce the impact of freezing and thawing. Protection can be done effectively in several ways. However, each of these requires some work as temperatures hit freezing.

It will be well worth the effort when your plants bounce back better than ever next year!

Own Root vs. Budded Roses

Do you know what kind of rose bush you have? Did you know there was a difference?

There are two ways to propagate roses, and the two methods are useful for different things.

Own root rose bushes are grown whole from a leaf cutting. They typically take longer to grow to their mature size, and some varieties can be finicky about soil type and temperature.

Budded or grafted rose bushes are grafted onto a rootstock that is more mature and more able to support a full growth in the first few seasons. You can also get some cultivars to grow where they usually wouldn’t with hardier roots from a different plant.

If you have a budded rosebush, you will be able to see it by its grafting knot near the base. You will probably have many canes growing from this knot.

The trouble with overwintering this type of rosebush can be that the roots have different hardiness from the canes. Own root roses have the same cold tolerance down through their root system.

Be sure to ask about this if you are purchasing new roses. For best success, buy a plant that can tolerate down to the coldest temperature you are likely to get.

Tips on How to Protect Roses in Winter

Stop Fertilizing, Cutting & Deadheading

Make sure your roses are fully dormant by the time cold weather hits.

You can help this process along by not fertilizing any later than the middle of August. Stop cutting or deadheading flowers after the beginning of October to allow your plant to form hips.

Prune Your Roses

Cutting very long canes down to prevent wind damage can be helpful. It can also make them easier to manage. However, remember you may need to prune away dead and damaged canes in the spring, so be mindful as you prune.

Before you prune, make sure to clear away any debris or foliage that could harbor disease on your plant. Then tie the canes together with twine to keep them safer from the wind.

Cover Your Roses

The next step is to cover your roses.

There are several methods for this, including the use of styrofoam rose “cones” made for the purpose. Some gardeners cut off the top of a cone and stuff it with hay.

You need to drill ventilation holes in these cones, or your roses may heat up and break dormancy before it is time.

The other popular method is to pile loose soil or compost around each plant, up to 12 inches high. Then, cover that hill with a layer of straw, hay, evergreen boughs, or leaf mulch.

Make sure you are using new soil brought in from somewhere else to prevent scraping up dirt from around the plant. This practice can damage the roots.

A variation of the mound method is to create a collar around each plant with chicken wire and fill it with dirt and then straw. This method prevents the gradual erosion of your hill, which could expose your plants at an inopportune time.

Make sure not to cover your plants too early or too densely. The goal is to make sure your plants are not continually freezing and thawing. However, if they are sitting in a wet environment all winter, it will kill them.

Mounding the bushes just before freezing weather sets in will ensure the soil freezes and then you can cover them with insulating material up to 12 inches thick.

Make Sure Your Roses Are Healthy

Healthy roses are much more likely to make it unscathed through a severe winter. The best thing you can do for them is to make sure they go into winter healthy and not weakened by disease, pests, nutrient deficiencies, or drought.

Experts agree that you should monitor soil moisture during the winter. Check the soil on warmer days. If the soil is dry, water lightly. Keep in mind; you do not need to soak them.

Remove Mounds in Spring

Once spring has come, carefully remove the mounds, prune away any damaged or dead canes and enjoy!


Making sure your rose plants are prepared to go through the winter will help them come back strong the following spring. By using these practical tips to protect roses in winter, you will be able to enjoy your roses year after year.

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  • Toni October 26, 2019  

    In one of your final paragraphs you write “…now you can cover them with insulating material up to twelve inches thick…”

    I understood that once you had the new dirt piled up on the rose plants with the collar around them and hay on top of the dirt, it was a done deal. Suddenly you mention insulating material?

    What does this step involve?

    • Rootwell Products Inc. October 27, 2019  

      Hi Toni,

      We are referring to hay or whatever you use as extra insulation.

      ~ Jeff