Winter Care for Roses — You Betcha

December 3, 2008 | By | Comments (2)

The Grump is about to pontificate about how to care for roses in winter. But first, a question from a devoted reader:

“I live in southern West Virginia and planted my first ‘Knockout’ rose bush early this summer.  It has done wonderfully well with many blossoms all summer. What do I do with it now that the weather is turning cold?
Donna Jones”

Rose growers who live in the South (and I consider southern West Virginia to be part of it) are lucky they live where they do. What do Southerners need to do for a rose bush in winter? If it is growing in the ground, absolutely nothing. It is completely hardy where you live and requires no special care. Cut it back in early spring by 6-8 inches or so to keep it compact and bushy. I wish mothers-in-law were so easy.

Now for you Northerners up there in Minnesota and Wisconsin, life is harder, you betcha. Not only does winter last from November pretty much into May (kinda like Moscow really), it gets so freakin’ cold it will kill most grafted roses, like hybrid teas and grandifloras. So what do Northern rose growers do? They bury their roses in fall.

I’m not kidding. I actually watched a gardening show produced in Minnesota where the hosts did this. Beside each rose bush, they dug a long trench. Then they dug up the rose, laid it sideways in the trench, and buried it for the winter. It reminded me of Koreans making kimchee (fermented cabbage buried in the ground — yum!)

I have visions of buried rose zombies rising from the ground in spring and tearing at the flesh of Minnesota gardeners. Bury me, will you? Frankly, if I had to inter roses in underground bunkers every fall, I’d come up with a better idea. Like plant plastic roses. Less trouble, eh?


  1. Grumpy Gardener

    Well, I can beat that! We have this guy in town who grows these humongous camellias in the yard. Invariably, his camellias start to bloom in late winter just before a freeze. To save them, he encloses each one inside a giant plastic bag. From a distance, it looks like the KKK is camped on the lawn. What’s up with that?

    December 4, 2008 at 1:18 pm
  2. Holly Muller

    Yo Grumpy, speaking of knockout roses, my neighbors planted a whole mess of them last summer and they surrounded them with chicken wire and then topped the whole thing off with netting. I can’t make this stuff up. I have never seen anything like it, but they told me it was to keep rabbits from eating them? What’s up with this?

    December 4, 2008 at 12:46 pm

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