Roses can and do survive in the winter, but they often need a little help, particularly if the winter is particularly cold or brutal.
Choosing the right roses for your area and winter
The first thing to be aware of is what kind of roses do best for your type of winter. After all, there’s a fundamental difference between winters in Chicago or Minneapolis, and winters in Austin or Salt Lake City,
Generally, if live in the coldest parts for the country for winter, you will want to choose “Old Garden Roses” roses such as:
The reason for choosing these varieties? They are much hardier and have grown and survived for centuries in colder climates compared to many hybrid roses.
If you have any doubts about the best roses to last the winter in your climate, either consult a local nursery, or a local Agricultural Extension office. They will be happy to guide you toward picking the best roses for your home lawn.
Healthy roses survive much better than diseased ones
Next, realize that the better health your roses are, the more likely they will survive throughout the winter. Do this by keeping your garden free from weeds and pests which bring disease, spraying with a mix of baking soda and water, pruning and removing dead
spots, and removing any fallen petals.
Prepare your roses for winter
In the early fall, stop pruning your roses, and also be sure and remove any dead leaves. Your roses should be developing seedpods, which protect them from winter.
Even in late August, completely stop giving your roses fertilizer to be sure they go completely dormant. Be sure and stop cutting your roses in the early fall.
Next, after the first freeze, give the roses a fresh (not scrapped around from the
rose bush) coat of topsoil.
After the first hard freeze, add mulch such as dry, shredded leaves or bark chips
around the mound of topsoil. But be sure to wait till the mound of soil you applied has frozen over, before adding mulch.
To protect the roses, be sure that the hilly soil you put around them is dry. Wet and cool is far more damaging than dry or cool. If the soil is not drained adequately, the chances are great that your rosebush will not survive the winter.
A variation of the hilling and mulching method is to produce a collar with chicken wire or hardware cloth. Around 18 inches high, these collars are then filled with fresh, dry topsoil, allowed to freeze, and then mulch is added after the freeze.
Collars often protect the plant better than the hilling method, although they can
be time-consuming to erect.
An alternative is to use styrofoam cones, designed for the same purpose as collars. Be sure if you use styrofoam cones, however, to read the directions carefully, as if you begin too early, you’ll do more harm than good. Also, styrofoam cones need to be ventilated to prevent heat build-up inside the cone on sunny, winter days.
Climbing and rambler roses offer particular challenges, and often the best solution is to form a small hill with topsoil, let it freeze, add mulch, and then cover the bush with burlap and twine.
In the spring, be sure to prune and remove all the mulch.
Another thing to keep in mind is that winters can be particularly dry for roses, and so you should water, although be sure and not to drown the plants, which can in turn, quickly freeze.