Roses might grow right up to winterizing time


Is it too early to cover roses?

We've had snow, but we also still have days when it hits almost 50F, like today. - D.C. -


If you're competitive about clipping the last rose of the season, winterizing your roses now may ruin your chances for a best-ever. Even after several snows this year, we've seen roses still budding up.

Picked a beautiful pink rose on Thursday, December 9th, from a small bush in the front yard. It was beyond a bud but not fully opened and hasn't opened any farther, but hey, in December!!!
- F.H., zone 5 Michigan -


However, if you don't care to harvest any more cut flowers, go ahead and put your roses to bed. They needed time and triggers -- short days and freezing weather -- in order to harden off naturally. What they do internally during that natural hardening process means more toward winter survival than anything we do to protect them. Now, they've had weeks of long nights and cold days.

Some rose growers would say you must wait until the weather absolutely stops the plant dead. That's okay for purists. For us, once into December we know the point of no return is nigh... for us! That is, if we wait until it's truly frigid, we might just pass on the chore entirely.

So we've chosen early protection over no protection plenty of times. We've cut and covered still-green roses and buried rose trees with flowers still coming. Sometimes we lose roses over winter but as far as we can tell we've had the same live/loss rate with those we've rushed under cover as any others.


It wasn't even December when Janet decided to go ahead and bury the rose tree from a garden she and Deb Hall were tending. (Arrow points to the rose tree, pretty much as it looked moments before burial!)


Here's Deb staging a joking protest, muttering something about 'still beating heart' and 'Edgar Allan Poe'. The rose's root ball is in the foreground.

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That rose wintered wonderfully, coming out of its "grave" the next April with foliage intact and looking like we'd buried it just moments before.


Then, Janet cut every branch back by two feet so it looked like a hand with knuckles but no fingers, telling the plant as she clipped, "If you thought we were mean to you last fall, how about this!"