Winterizing hybrid tea roses

(Question)

We live in the Woodstock area of Ontario, and have 50+ hybrid tea roses in our garden. We’re concerned about proper winterizing, and would like to know how much to prune our roses to prepare for the cold weather. We have heard that it’s best to cut the roses down to 6″ above the soil line. Is this correct?

 

(Answer)

Thank you for calling with this very timely question regarding preparing your collection of tea roses for the winter: as Hallowe’en approaches, gardeners are compelled to roll up their sleeves to “winterize” their gardens — but in the process, often inadvertently cut back, and prune down, valuable plant material.  There are distinct differences between the practices of “winterizing” and “pruning”, and the two are not always synonymous. In anticipation of cold weather, think more in terms of putting your plants “to bed”, and focus on insulating the base surfaces of your roses with comfy layers of protective straw, needles or leaves.

There is one special reference to rose pruning on the  TMG site,  related to rose propagation:  “As far as winterizing roses, again there are many schools of thought.  Most wild roses, and some native species, are quite capable of handling the cold and wind during the winter months, with many temperature swings. Hybrid tea roses, on the other hand, are not. The general guidelines are:

  • Hill up the plants with dirt (pile it around the base of the plant), brought from outside the rose garden, to the desired height. It should cover the center of the plant. Don’t pull the dirt away from the plants as you may expose crowns or roots. Adding mulch in the form of straw, leaves, pine needles or boughs on top of the dirt further protects the plants from any temperature swings. (We don’t want the plants to freeze and thaw as the temperatures change over the winter, and early spring months.)
  • Trim long canes showing disease. (An anti-desiccant can be sprayed on the roses to help seal in moisture.)
  • In the spring, when the ground has thawed, remove the mulch and dirt, and prune back any dead plant material. “

Come spring, in the “TMG Guide: Pruning Roses“,  you can read, “Roses should be pruned in early spring, at the end of the dormant season. In Toronto, this is usually in April or May, just before new growth begins and as the buds begin to swell. Wait until the danger of a hard frost is past, or newly pruned tips may be killed. Prune climbers and ramblers lightly after flowering.”

And, lastly, the very valuable Toronto Master Gardening Guide: Putting The Garden To Bed. is a must-read for all gardeners.  All the very best to you, as you prepare your valuable garden roses to snuggle down for their winter’s nap !