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Caring for your roses during winter

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Winter seems to arrive unexpectedly sooner this year, doesn't it? Our fall weather is unsually cold and wet - it literally feels like Jan or Feb despite being in November. So it's normal if you're concerned about your roses - especially when you are new to roses. In this blog post, I'll be sharing a few things I've learned through the years including the time we experienced freeze in 2021. Luckily, I didn't lose any to that extreme weather.

how to care for rose during fall and winter
My rose during the freeze in 2021

Great news is that roses tend to love cooler/cold weather over hot weather. With the drought and extra hot summer months we had this year, this weather brings a much relief for our roses. So take a step back and relax :)

Let's talk about what not to do and what to do with your roses in fall and winter.

First thing first, no need to cover your roses even if it snows. They do not have to be protected like tropical plants. Roses love cold weather and snow can act as an insulate to keep them warm. Crazy but true!

*If your rose is super young, still in a nursery pot, you haven't planted it and we're expected to have snow or freeze - you may keep in a garage. Otherwise when the temp is above freezing, your roses will be okay (unless they're weak or something is wrong to begin with).

Left: Plum Perfect under 1 year old | Right: Koko Loko under 1 year old during the 2021 freeze

1) Stop deadheading/cutting flowers: when you deadhead/cut your roses during active growing seasons, it signals your roses to make more flowers (which is fantastic because we want them to be making more flowers for us to enjoy).

However when it gets close to the winter months, it's a great idea for our roses to reserve their energy and go dormant (rest/sleep during winter) so they can be well rested and become even more robust & glorious in spring.

In order to make flowers, roses use a lot of energy to produce and bloom. Producing flowers and putting on new growths during an extreme weather (either too hot or belowing freezing temp) can potentially put their health at risk. Think of our body when we expose to freeze or snow, we want to reserve as much energy as possible in order to survive. The same goes with roses. They need their energy to survive cold months as well.

Cold weather (above freezing) usually doesn't cause any concern as roses like and can tolerate cold weather...even snow. Flowers also open up much slower and last longer on the plant. You just have to remind yourself NOT to deadhead (which is so tempting for me as I like to cut and bring flowers inside!)

Last year, I stopped deadheading and cutting in December. However, with this ususally cold weather, I personally stopped all activities sooner just in case and just let the rest of the buds to develop, open and shatter in their own time. Just look, admire and absorb their beauties. So hard to resist a temptation to cut - that sounds like a personal issue, doesn't it?!?

2) Stop trimming/pruning and fertilizing: the same reasons as mentioned above. If we end up getting freeze or snow, that kind of temperature will kill off new growths or buds anyway. This is why you don't want to encourage new growths/flowers during this time.

If the new growths or buds are already there, just leave them be. Mother nature will take care of it. Let the nature goes through its course.

3) Plant new roses or move existing roses (as long as the ground is not frozen): Fall is a fantastic time to move things around especially if you've been thinking about moving certain roses to their new spots.

Our temperature generally doesn't get below a freezing point or the ground is covered with snow. Therefore, it's safe to plant or move. Replanting during this time can reduce transplant shock as well compared to moving them during hot months.

If you have roses that have been in their nursery pots for months, this is also the time you can plant them in ground.

Alternatively for your brand new small ownroot or band roses (baby roses) that are still very tender and young and you don't want to take a chance in case there's a freeze or snow, you may keep them in a pot (try to get a new pot instead of leaving in a nursery pot as those nursery pots are so thin and whimsy. This pot is what I use to keep my young roses in until they grow bigger.

4) Mulch: mulching acts like a blanket for roses during winter. I don't normally muchl unless we expect to have a freeze or snow. You can put on thick layer of mulch around the base of your rose to help keep them warm.

**Clean up the base of your roses before you spread mulch as well. Pick up fallen/diseased leaves and remove them from your garden.

5) Water if neccessary: usually during winter, we get occassional rain so we don't really need to water. The only exception is if we don't get any rain, the ground is so dry and it's expected to be below freezing, watering is neccessary for both potted and in-ground roses in order to keep the roots hydrated.

Watering is esepcially important for potted roses as temp inside your pots tend to be lower than in-ground roses.

**Do not overwater or water too frequently though. They don't need as much water as they do in warmer months. Once a week may be enough depending how dry the soil is. Just enough to keep them moist to prepare for snow or freeze.

Plum Perfect and Koko Loko in 2022

Do I need to treat for blackspots, other diseases or pests now?

I wouldn't worry about it as growing season is coming to an end. Some old leaves will fall off. Your roses may start having more blackspots than usual now or soon - but it's their normal cycle as they'll be shredding those old leaves in the months to come. Some may not lose their leaves while some may go naked.

You can resume your preventative regimen/schedule again early spring.

What about potted roses?

I have 80% of my roses in pots. Roses are generally safer in ground during extremely cold and hot weather.

"Potted roses" are a tad bit trickier. Temperature inside a pot is much lower than those in-ground in case they sit on a concrete floor during freeze or snow.

If you have potted roses like me and we end up getting freeze/snow, try to move them off your concrete floor so they sit direclty on the grass or soil. Also mulch your potted roses to keep them warm and cozy.

Snow and freeze is not something we expect to get every year in our climate, but it sure can happen given a few unexpected snow days we had over the past few years.

However, you can rest assured that your roses will be okay. Their flowers may make you think they are such delicate little plants. In reality, they are not. They are tough beauties. Roses are incredibly tough and resilient. Cold weather will help them become even more robust and glorious in springtime so embrace the cold :)

Although some of us don't like winter as we can't garden. This winter, I'll be sharing our 2023 rose events, meetups and possibly in-person workshops, both paid and free in different locations next year. Stay tuned.

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving,


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