Roses in winter: expert tips for overwintering roses in pots & beds

Sabine
Sabine
Sabine
Sabine

I am currently studying agricultural and food economics. As a keen hobby gardener, plants take up most of my free time. A few years ago, I got especially interested in herbs, which is why I completed my studies to become a certified herbalist in 2018.

Favourite fruit: apples, cherries
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, fennel

The fragile rose needs special protection in the cold season. Here you will learn how to successfully overwinter your roses in beds and pots.

Frost covered yellow rose
Without protection, the rose cannot survive the cold temperatures in winter [Photo: wjarek/ Shutterstock.com]

Roses (Rosa) grow best in areas with warmer climates. In harsher climates, therefore, special winter protection measures may be necessary to ensure that your rose survives the cold months well. In particular, you should protect the delicate grafting site and the shoot base with buds for the coming growing season from cold temperatures and winter sun. In this article, we explain what to do with your roses in winter.

Roses in winter

When will it be too cold for my roses without protection? How do I go about overwintering outdoors and what is there to consider with potted roses? We have summarised the answers to these questions for you in the following.

When does it get too cold for roses?

Most varieties of roses are not frost-hardy, so you should think about appropriate protective measures early on. However, it is best to let the rose shoots mature and apply winter protection only when a frost period is forecast.

Overwintering roses in a bed

First, remove all the withered flowerheads and leaves. In addition, you should remove the fallen leaves on the ground to prevent fungal diseases. Then, pile the rose with soil to a height of about 20 cm, so that about three to four buds are covered. You should only cut back your rose in the spring. You can also place decorative greenery between the higher shoots that are still peeking out to provide them with shelter. The same also applies to climbing roses, where decorative greenery can be placed along the trellis between the shoots.

Rose bed covered in fir branches and snow
Fir greenery adds extra protection to the roses in the bed [Photo: Kaichankava Larysa/ Shutterstock.com]

High trunk roses, on the contrary, require special frost protection. Here, too, first remove the foliage from the crown and from the ground. Then carefully bend down young stems. Be sure to pay attention to the direction of bending, so that the trunk does not break off. Then fasten the trunk to the ground with the help of hooks. The crown should thereby lie flat and be covered with garden soil. Compost soil is not suitable for this, otherwise the crown will begin to rot over the winter. Additional protection for the grafting point is also provided by a sheathing of straw or decorative greenery.

Older high-trunk roses do not need to be bent over. It is best to wrap the crown with straw or decorative greenery and place an air-permeable cover over it – for example, a jute bag or a fleece hood. In addition, you can create a mound around the rose at the grafting site and if necessary, apply a suitable stem protection.

Summary of overwintering roses in a bed:

  1. Apply winter protection only when frost period is imminent
  2. Remove old flowerheads and leaves
  3. Remove leaves from the ground
  4. Mound with soil about 20 cm high
  5. Put decorative greenery between the shoots

Potted roses in winter

Here, above all, additional protection of the roots is of great importance. As in the open ground, roses in a pot or container should first be mounded to protect the grafting site. In addition, the rose bush can be covered with decorative greenery. You can also again provide additional crown cushioning for high-stem roses. Finally, wrap the pot with jute bags or bamboo mats and tie them tightly. Feel free to be generous: the thicker the protective layer, the better the insulation from the cold.

Roses wrapped in jute sacks in snow
In the bed and in the pot, the crowns of highbush roses need special protection [Photo: helfei/ Shutterstock.com]

To ensure that the rose is also protected from ground cold, we recommend that you place the pot on a wooden or styrofoam plate in order to avoid direct contact with the ground. Once you have then also selected a location that protects your rose from wind and weather, nothing will stand in the way of successful overwintering outside in the garden, on the balcony or terrace. However, in the event of prolonged permafrost, it is recommended to bring potted roses indoors and put them in an unheated room – for example, in the basement.

Summary of overwintering potted roses:

  1. Choose a protected location
  2. Remove flowerheads and leaves
  3. Pile with soil
  4. Put decorative greenery between the shoots
  5. If necessary, attach crown cushioning
  6. Wrap pot with insulation material
  7. Place on polystyrene plate
  8. Bring indoors during permafrost

Expert tip: Even during winter dormancy, when cultivating potted roses, make sure that the plant does not dry out completely. However, you should water only on frost-free days so that the roots do not become damaged.

Rose care after the winter

If no more heavy frosts are expected, you can remove the decorative greenery and mounded soil again at the end of March / beginning of April. Standard trees should then also be re-erected and crown cushioning removed if necessary. After that, it is then time for maintenance pruning. We explain again in detail in our special article how best to proceed and what else to consider when caring for roses throughout the year.

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