Prepare your roses for winter

Published 8:13 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In recent years, many lovers of tea roses have had problems with overwintering their plants. The best way to prepare these roses for the coming season is to stop fertilizing now, if you haven’t already.

Once you fertilize past August, a flush of new growth happens when your plant should be winding down preparing for winter dormancy.

Deadheading, which we usually recommend, stops now letting those blooms stay intact and form seed pods, or “hips.” The rose has been signaled by the hip formation to stop growing so that it will be dormant before very cold weather arrives. This is when winter protection begins.

Clean up the rose bed by removing all leaf litter and the top inch of mulch. Many diseases overwinter in leaf litter, so good housecleaning in the fall is essential. Now give the plants a big gulp of water before they nod off for an enjoyable winter snooze.

To protect the roses there are two options. The first is to cut the canes back 2- to 3- feet tall after dormancy and cover the crown with a 1- foot deep layer of bark mulch. This will protect the crown and allow the air to circulate. Do not use soil, leaves or grass clippings as rot can occur by holding too much water in the soil using these coverings.

Now wrap the canes with burlap, which will protect them from drying winds.

The second option is to purchase rose cones. Although the cones cost more and need to be anchored, they are more convenient.

Give your roses a treat for a healthy winter vacation. You’ll be glad you did.

Gwen holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.