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Winter Care Tips

Although Central Texas winters are not extremely harsh, roses will benefit from winter protection. A little extra effort on the rosarian's part may get more rose plants through the winter.


The first step in avoiding winter injury is to keep your roses healthy during the growing season, Roses that have been sprayed and property nourished are more likely to escape winter damage than plants that have lost their leaves because of disease, insects or nutrient deficiencies.


In mid-November, make your last harvest of blooms. At the same time, cut tall stems back to 4 feet high, if necessary, to prevent canes from whipping in the winter winds and loosening the root system. Do not prune the roses again until February 14th. Spent blooms that develop after mid-November should be removed at the peduncle to prevent insects from over-wintering in the withered bloom.


As new blooms cease to form, the starch content of stems and canes is increased. This tends to protect the plant from winter cold. In contrast, stems supporting new growth have a high sugar content and can be damaged easily by cold. This conversion of sugars to starches is part of what is meant by roses going dormant for the winter.


The entire rose plant does not have to be protected in the winter. If the leaves haven't fallen off naturally, strip the bottom 12 inches. Then, bring in mulch or loose (sandy) soil to mound to about 6 to 8 inches above the bud union. This will protect the bud union from freezing and create a stable temperature zone that doesn't fluctuate from hot to cold. Temperatures under 20 F can kill rose bushes.


Do not scrape soil from between the rose bushes to create the mounds-- you'll be stripping away the protective layer over the root system.


Protect the root system from killing cold by keeping the soil moist. Water rose beds every one or two weeks if it hasn't rained, and be sure to soak beds thoroughly before a predicted freeze.


Another idea is to spray foliage (if you have any) with "Cloud Cover" or a similar product, which reduces moisture loss through the leaves. If you have foliage remaining on the plants, keep it healthy by protecting with fungicides. Leaves that remain on the plant are still working to maintain a sturdy root system.