Just because they’re pampered, smell good, and look great with a tuxedo-clad guy doesn’t mean this princess is a pushover. In fact, when it comes to hanging tough once the weather gets ugly, the rose proves it’s about as delicate as Mac truck.
Frost, wind, snow and chilly days aren’t enough to stop this blooming beauty, so if you’re putting your garden to bed this month, wait to tuck your roses in until nights in your area are consistently 26 degrees F. Until then, they’ll continue to bloom even though the weather has us shivering.
“Don’t put winter protection on too soon,” says Joan Franson, an American Rose Society Master Rosarian, “roses will keep blooming in temperatures down to 30, 28, or 27, but even the dumbest ones know it’s time to go to sleep at 26 degrees.” Monitor the weather at your house instead of relying on temperatures recorded at the airport, she says, “you’re not growing roses there.”
To become a Master Rosarian, Franson spent over 10 years consulting with rose gardeners in Colorado on how to get the most from their plants. With her mix of humor and good advice, your roses will survive the winter and be the beauty of the garden for years to come.
– Begin cutting back on their water now to slow them down, she says, which will also help them harden off. But do this slowly over the next two to three weeks – going cold turkey is sure to shock them.
– Wait until temperatures are 22 degrees for several nights before mulching over the crown and graft of the rose. Scoop several shovels of soil or a mix of compost and bark mulch up over the crown, burying it eight to ten inches deep. Use an open collar or ring around the plant to hold the mulch in place.
Canadian hardy roses and shrub roses are tough enough that they don’t need mulching, unless they were planted this past season and are still getting established. Hybrids need the extra blanket mulch provides to get through Colorado’s rollercoaster winter temperatures.
– Deadheading blooms in October – where old, spent flowers are removed – should be done without stimulating the plant to grow new shoots. By clipping the blossoms just below the flower, but well above the leaves, you’ll get rid of decaying petals without getting new growth.
In most cases, canes shouldn’t be pruned until spring; our dry winters cause a bit of cane die back and if you’ve clipped your stems, you’ll have less that survives the season. But if your plant grew vigorously this year and canes are very tall, cut them back by one-third to keep them from being whipped around and damaged by wind.
– If the plant had insect or disease problems, apply a sanitizing spray of fungicide and insecticide, covering leaves and canes as well as the ground around the bed under the rose. This helps suppress spores and bugs that might over winter.
When we have the warm up so common in January or early February, apply a second dose of this spray to the rose to keep problems at bay. Safer soaps or horticultural oils also work for this purpose in organic gardens.
– As our ground freezes and winter sets in, keep an eye on moisture in the soil, watering on warm days above 45 degrees F. In fall, just before our first predicted hard freeze, deep-water roses to protect the roots from drying out, now that we aren’t actively watering the garden.
(Note to readers: today’s post first appeared as one of my weekly gardening columns in northern Colorado newspapers. But Master Rosarian Joan Franson assures me the information is useful no matter where you live, just adjust the timing to match your local conditions. To read more of my columns, please see the Boulder Camera, Longmont Times-Call, or Loveland Reporter-Herald.)