Winter Care for West Coast Roses
- Tie climbers: If your climbers have long shoots, tie them in for winter so they are not whipping around during our winter storms.
- Stake your trees: It is critical that tree roses be well-staked as they are far more sensitive to winter injury than shrubs. I also find that a piece of foam pipe insulation covering the main stem works wonders in winter and is easy to apply.
If the winter is very very cold for a long period of time, you risk losing hybrid teas that are grafted as trees. If they are predicting temperatures below -10ºC it would be a good idea to wrap the top of the tree as well. Shrub style roses grafted as trees are very winter hardy and would not need this same fussy protection... I just wish I could convince more of you to buy shrub roses grafted as trees!
- Hill up the bases: If your roses are planted high, or if you have a garden that is full of hybrid tea roses, they will benefit from "hilling" up the base of the rose with 12 inches of extra mulch.
I never do this unless I know the rose is very tender and it's a favorite of mine. If you have planted your roses deep (graft below soil level) and have mulched your beds, then you are well ahead of the winter game.
More on Winter Care
We have the best success when we try to work with Mother Nature, not against her! That's why almost all the roses we sell at Select Roses are chosen because they will survive "normal" winters in Coastal British Columbia.
There are varying degrees of winter hardiness in roses, which can help you choose the risk you want to take in your garden. This is important to know if you live in colder climates. Many of the new hybrids such as the Kordes Fairy Tale or Vigorosa roses are far more hardy than your typical hybrid tea. Rugosa roses and many old garden type roses are hardy to -20ºC and much colder. The large hybrid tea roses that so many of us love, tend to be more winter tender and if the cold dips below -10ºC for any length of time, you will have some die-back.
After a cold winter I have pruned many roses down to 1-2 inches above the ground and have been amazed how they recover in just one season. Most people fuss far too much in winter. But if you are in a cold, wind-swept area, taking some precautions during a cold winter is a great idea.
- Do not strip the foliage of your roses in winter. Roses should be allowed to experience a "normal" winter dormancy. Stripping of foliage, in our mild West Coast climate, causes roses to break dormancy rather than enjoying winter's rest. Removing the foliage from the plant is something that Mother Nature should do and we help her complete this in spring once the winter is over.
You will not control any disease be stripping fall foliage from roses. Rose diseases need certain temperatures to germinate and spread, and as long as you remove all of last year's foliage at spring pruning, you will have achieved the very same level of disease control without damaging the plant. Do clean up any foliage that has naturally fallen from the bush in fall.
- Do not hard prune in fall. Prune only the tops of roses off in fall, as a rose that is left with most of its growth will have far more energy to re-grow in spring, and will handle cold temperatures much better than a rose that is hard-pruned in fall. If your rose is very tall you may want to cut a foot or two from the top to prevent winter wind rock.
When a Cold Snap Hits BEFORE Dormancy
There is a dilemma when we have a drastic dip in temperature, before our plants have approached dormancy. This sudden temperature change can be very hard on our plants. Cold weather in winter, once our roses have time to adjust, is not generally a serious issue (see above).
Here's what I recommend when you expect an early cold snap:
- Bring containerized roses (and other tender plants) to an unheated but sheltered spot. Think garage, carport, under the overhang near the house...
- Consider sinking some potted plants (pot and all) into the ground for added insulation.
- Stake your tree roses, and wrap their trunks with burlap or foam pipe insulation.
- If you have chosen to grow tender hybrid teas, it would be ideal if you hilled up some soil or mulch around the bases.