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Protect roses for winter’s chill November 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Homes & Gardens.

For most hybrid tea roses, a little protection from winter chill is necessary. However, preparing tea roses for winter is not as overwhelming as it may seem.

Most old-fashioned shrub roses don’t need this kind of winter preparation. A hybrid tea rose (Rosa) does because it actually is two plants grafted together. The top part of the tea rose was developed for the flowers’ attributes, such as size, fragrance, color, form and petal count. Hybrid tea roses have a single flower, usually large, at the end of each stem.

With tea roses, all the improvements go into the flower, leaving that portion of the plant weak when it comes to hardiness. So, it is grafted onto a hardy rose rootstock. The rootstock can withstand the cold, but the graft union is very susceptible to winter damage, even though it is 6 to 8 inches below the soil surface. When the graft union is damaged, the plant reverts to the rootstock, which will be a completely different rose than what you thought you bought.

Here are some tips for winterizing hybrid tea roses >

  • Stop fertilizing the rose (and most other plants) in late August.
  • The rose should be dormant and have dropped most of its leaves before applying the winter mulch. A lot of rosarians perform this task between late November and Christmas. Mulching too early may encourage new growth, which would be damaged by cold temperatures.
  • One way to trigger the dormancy process is to stop removing the spent flowers (called deadheading) in late September or early October and allow the plant to form rose hips, large red-orange seed heads that are used in teas, jellies and herbal remedies.
  • Minor pruning is all right, such as cutting back rose stems that are tall and susceptible to damage from being whipped around by winter winds. However, too much pruning late in the season will encourage new growth, which will likely be damaged by winter temperatures. Roses are best pruned in spring as new growth develops.
  • Mound 10 to 12 inches of chopped leaves, grass clippings, topsoil, straw or compost over the base on the plant. The topsoil is probably the easiest, especially if you buy inexpensive bags at a garden center. It is not recommended that you dig dirt from around the plant for this process.
  • Another alternative is to place a sleeve made from newspaper, chicken wire or hardware cloth around the rose and fill it with the mulches listed above. There also are commercially made foam rose cones and other protectors at garden centers.
  • Always read and follow the directions that come with the product.
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