Sunday, November 8, 2009

Preparing Roses for Winter

Roses can be tricky to grow here in Northern Illinois. Selecting the proper type of rose is one way to ensure success in growing roses. Proper care is essential.

I have grown hybrid tea roses in the past but not very successfully. I’d always lose one or two over the winter. I did notice that the shrub roses I had required little care and always came back the next spring. Shrub roses are much hardier than hybrid teas and though you do sacrifice bloom size you make up for it in sheer quantity of blooms. Most climbing roses perform similarly. I have a chain link fence on one side of my garden and a couple years ago decided to plant a climbing rose to help hide the fence. I chose a zephirine drouhin, which is from a very old class of roses and very fragrant. It only blooms once a season but it also tolerates some shade.

Proper pruning in preparation for winter is key to rose growing success. Pruning any plant encourages new growth. This new growth will be very weak and will not survive over the winter. It will add stress to the plant and could end up killing the entire plant. It is important to wait until the rose is fully dormant before doing any pruning, such as you might do to fit a rose cone over it.
Yesterday I was planting some bulbs around my climber and I was stunned to see how much new growth has occurred this fall. There are new lateral branches emerging from the main canes as well as 6-8 inches of new growth at the end of the main canes. This rose is now where near dormant.

Winter Pruning Tip: Wait until all the leaves have fallen from the rose before pruning. If you use rose cones don’t put them on until the plant is fully dormant and can be safely pruned to fit under the cone. Some years this may not occur until late December! Alternatively, you can use rose collars. These are tall strips of plastic that wrap around the base of the plant and allow you to backfill with top soil or garden soil to protect the rose. Also, remember, the purpose of winter protection is not to keep the rose from freezing but rather to keep the rose in a chilled state and avoid the temperature fluctuations from mid-winter warm ups.

If you have shrub roses, you really don’t have to do much to prepare them for winter. You’ll never get them to fit under a cone or get a rose collar around them. They really don’t need the protection anyway. Next spring just prune out any dead canes or branches and give it a good shaping.

Most climbing roses bloom on old wood from last year’s growth so you don’t want to prune in the fall. You can selectively prune out dead canes in the spring or if you have to cut them back do it right after they have bloomed

If you have questions about what kind of rose you have, check with the Countryside greenhouse staff.

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