Roses – Prepping For Winter

Everyone loves a rose, whether it’s a gift for a birthday or an accent plant in the landscape.  Here in eastern Nebraska, roses need a little care getting them ready to endure a typical winter…whatever may come our way.  Each type of rose has its own set of prepping steps:

cut back roses for winter

Hybrid Tea Roses – Usually considered the most floral, aromatic and (unfortunately) the most trouble in terms of pests and hardiness.  Get them ready for winter by cutting off stems at about the 15 to 18 inch off the ground height and covering them with a sturdy but airy mulch such as wood chips, corncobs, pine needles or pine cones.  Rose cones and top soil are not recommended, as they lack the dead air space that keeps the temperatures around the canes stable.


Landscape Roses – Including the popular cultivar ‘Knockout Red’, not much needs to be done with landscape roses.  A little trimming and reduction in height to prevent excessive wind whipping will suffice, which is one of their attractive features.


Floribundas and Grandifloras – A little more hardy than hybrid tea roses (but not much), these roses a choice – either treat them with tender loving care or leave them be.  It just depends on how much of a gambler you are as to which is the best approach, the cut and cover or just trim up.  If you’re expecting a cold windy winter, it would behoove you to treat them as hybrid teas.


Climbing Roses – This is a multi-step process, starting with loosening the soil around the roots.  Next comes taking the canes off of the trellis and bending them to the ground.  Once bent over, they should be held in place with a croquet hoop or wooden X, or just about anything else that holds them in place.  Finally, a covering of mulch similar to what is recommended for hybrid teas, except covering the entire cane instead of just he crown of the plant.


Whichever the type of rose you have in the landscape, a little care in December will go a long way towards success in the landscape.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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