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Winterizing Roses in Zones 2-5

By Rosarian Chris Larson


The goal in winterizing roses is to prevent your rose bushes from freezing and thawing.  This freezing and thawing is very damaging to them.  There are a lot of different ideas on how to winterize roses.  The following tips are a summary of what I feel is some of the best information for winterizing roses.

  1. Water your roses well in the fall until the ground freezes.

  2. Do nothing if you have hardy roses that are labelled for your zone.  They should not need any special treatment as long as they are mulched well and not out in the open and subjected to cold winter winds.

  3. Wait to winterize your roses after there have been a couple of hard freezes.  This advice may be difficult to follow some years as the snow may fall before the ground is frozen.

    1. Hill up loose soil around the base of the plants in really cold zones especially if your rose is not hardy for your zone.  Do not scrape the soil from around the plant, bring in extra soil.  Soil should cover the center of the rose and form a mound.  The mound can be covered with mulch, peat moss or crushed leaves. 

    2. Or Set a large pot or tub without a bottom over the rose to protect it.  You can fill the pot or tub with leaves but be aware that rodents are attracted to these cozy spots and they like to chew on roses.  Sprinkling rodent deterrent granules in with the leaves or mulch should help keep them away.  Peat moss or mulch could be used also.

    3.  Snow can be piled up on top of your roses.  It’s a great insulator and can help keep the plant from freezing and thawing.

  4.  Climbers and larger shrub roses are more of a challenge to protect especially if they are not hardy to your zone.  In very cold areas climbers may need to be detached from their support and bent to the ground, and covered with soil or mulch or straw.  This is often called the Minnesota Tip method.  If the canes need to be left on their structure, straw and burlap can be placed around the canes and then the entire structure wrapped and tied.  This is a lot of work so keep it in mind when purchasing your roses.

  5. Roses that are grown outside in a pot will need to be planted into the ground in order to survive the winter outdoors.  This should be done in the early fall or about a month before it freezes hard.  The rose can gently be removed from the pot with its root ball intact and planted deeply in the soil of your garden or left in the pot and the whole pot planted deeply.  In the spring it should be dug up and replanted or f it was left in its pot you should water and fertilize it as normal.


Another way is to bring the pot into an unheated garage or building for the winter.Water them sparingly.

  1. Spring uncovering is one of the most important steps of successfully over-wintering the roses that are pushing the zone. Once the night low temperatures start to consistently become warmer than 50ºF it’s time to start removing the peat moss. Do this a little at a time.     

  2. The best piece of advice is to buy roses hardy to your area.  They should be labelled for your zone or a zone colder.  They will be a lot less work for you.    



Winterizing roses in Zone 3 gardens - Bing video


How to Winterize Roses - Today's Homeowner (



References: American Rose Society.

Heirloom Roses

National Gardening Association

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