I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Temperatures can get to -10 F and wind chills to -50 F. I have tea rose plants, both in the ground and in containers. How should I go about protecting them from winter? My wife wants me to put them behind the house near either the dryer exhaust vent or furnace vents and wrap them in burlap. What do you suggest? Thank You, Bill
Answer: For your roses in the ground you will want to focus on protecting the graft area of the plant. All hybrid roses are grafted to the root stock of a hardier rose and this union is the part that can freeze and die back the easiest. The canes of the plant will almost always die back, so just go ahead and cut them back to about a foot or so. For the roses in the ground the best way to protect them is once you’ve had several good freezes and the chance of warm temperatures have passed, mound mulch up around the base of the plants. Give them a good 6-8 inches deep of protection. Use a physical barrier to encircle the plants and keep mulch and leaves in place during the winter winds. Once the weather starts to warm up consistently, shortly before the last frost date, gradually remove this mulch. You should start to see some new growth coming up from the base. Whatever you use to hold the protection in place, make sure you pin it down well: You don’t want your poor roses exposed in the bitter winter wind.
For roses in pots, if you have a barn or space in an unheated garage you could just store them in there, just making sure the soil doesn’t become too dry (adding just a moderate amount of water once or twice when nights are not going to be sub-freezing). If you want to store them outside, lay the pots on their side. This will keep water from standing on top of the soil and freezing the crowns (grafts) of the plants. If you have the space, you can dig a trench and lay them in that, cover them up with the dirt and some leaves and maybe use burlap to hold these in place. Or just lay them beside the house and cover with leaves. However, do not lay them near the dryer vents. This might cause them to start to bud too early and then freeze and die. Dryer vents do create a micro-climate but for plants that need dormancy, this is not a good thing. You can put them on the south side of the house, the warmest side. Generally, any protected area is fine; they are dormant and don’t require sunshine. Once you have snow, mound some of the snow up over them as well. It’s a great insulator.
Good luck with the roses! Karen