Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I winterize my roses?

When fall arrives it's time to start preparing roses for winter. The method you use now to protect your roses from freezing will most likely determine whether or not they will survive and be healthy plants next season.

Higher water content, typically associated with new or tender growth, can lead to winter damage, so strive to encourage development of more woody type growth in late summer. To do this, stop fertilizing around August 1 and reduce your watering at the same time. In October, instead of pruning spent blooms, allow the hips to form after the final bloom and just remove the petals or let them fall. This slows down growth. These combined steps will begin to "harden off" the plant and condition it for winter.

Next, after the first hard frost of 28 degrees or under begin pruning out dead or weak canes and open up the center of the plant. Prune the height of each plant only enough to prevent the plant from whipping in the wind or the canes breaking off as a result of snow. Generally, hybrid teas and grandifloras will be about 3 feet while floribundas will be about 18-24". Make sure climbers are securely tied back and kept from whipping. After pruning, dispose of clippings and remove all leaves and debris from around the plants.

When pruning is complete and after the second hard freeze of 20 degrees or under, usually around the 1st of December, mound up the soil over the base of the plant with 6 to 8 inches of decomposed manure, topsoil or shredded bark mulch. Leaves and grass clippings are not desirable mulch for this purpose. Pack the mounding material to secure the canes or use rose collars of wire mesh formed in a cylinder to hold the mulching material around the canes. As an alternative to mounding, you can use rose cones. These are made of styrofoam and fit over the pruned plant. Barriers, such as trees, shrubs, or fences, surrounding a rose garden can also provide added protection for your bushes and should be included as part of the garden plan.

Do not be too eager to uncover roses in the spring. Wait until all danger of frost has passed. If you have followed these steps, your roses are now safely put to bed for the winter and you'll have fewer losses and healthier plants.