The best gardening tips for Madison!

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 Winter Rose Protection

Protecting roses is essential if they are to survive Wisconsin winters. Hybrid tea, grandifloras, floribunda and climbing roses all need winter protection.


In general, don’t start to protect your roses too early. Wait for a hard, killing frost, usually after the temperature has dropped to 13-18 degrees Fahrenheit for several nights. Covering too early will encourage rodents to nest in your mounds. Remember, you are covering your rose bushes to keep them frozen, not to keep them warm!


Pruning. We do not advise fall pruning unless your area is exposed to unusually strong winter winds. Prune back to live wood (except climbers) in early spring to approximately a height of 10-12". Always prune to an outward-facing bud so new growth won’t crowd the center of the plant. Climbing roses have long-lived canes producing lateral growth from which flowers arise. Climbers bloom mostly on their old growth, thus severe pruning will reduce flowering.


Mulching. Preferred method! In the fall, while soil can still be easily worked, mound 10-12" of soil around the base of the canes. Using a rose collar will help keep the soil mounded, saving time and soil. We advise using soil from another garden, digging soil from your rose garden often results in damage to the bush’s roots. When the soil mound is frozen solid, usually in early December, pile hay, straw, pine boughs or other loose material over the canes for additional protection. Leaves are not recommended, because they can become matted when wet, smothering the bushes.


Rose cones. Styrofoam rose cones may also be used to protect roses. For best results, the bushes must be mounded first with 10-12" of soil. After this soil is frozen solid (usually late November to early December) set the rose cone over the mounded bush. Cut back the canes only enough, so that they fit inside the rose cone. Styrofoam cones may create warm moist conditions increasing the risk of mold and fungal diseases. To lessen disease problems, rose cones must be set on very late in the fall, and removed very early in the spring.


Climbing roses. The best method to protect climbers is to carefully pull the canes down from the trellis and cover with several inches of soil. After the mound is frozen solid, cover with hay, pine boughs or other loose material. If climbers are planted in a sheltered location, you may be successful wintering them by wrapping the canes in hay or straw and holding the mulch in place with overlapping burlap.


Tree Roses should be uprooted and laid on their sides in a trench, covering the bush with a soil mound and mulch as mentioned with bush roses.


Potted Roses may be stored in an unheated garage, provided they do not have too much temperature fluctuation. Check soil periodically to maintain moisture.


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