One of the most majestic and well recognized plants in the home landscape is the rose.
Though most shrub roses are hardy in Kansas, other types of roses can be more tender. With this in mind, it is now time to put roses down for the winter. Here are some tips to help make this late season chore quick and easy.
Hybrid teas are some of the more common roses planted. As their name implies, they are a mix of several different species. Unfortunately, certain species in their ancestry originate from the warm climate of southern China. The result is a beautiful rose that needs protection to survive Kansas winters. Not only are we trying to protect the plant from the extreme cold, but also from the early spring warmth. Bright sunny days in late winter and early spring can warm the plant and stimulate growth. At night, temperatures drop below freezing killing the tender new growth.
Begin your winter protection program by watering, pruning and a thoroughly cleaning-up the rose garden. A slow deep watering ensures there is adequate moisture for the roots all winter long. Excessively tall canes should be pruned to a height of 36 inches and tied together to prevent them from being whipped by strong winter winds. Wind can damage the crown of the plant or loosen the surrounding soil. Clean up and discard fallen leaves. The two biggest diseases, black spot and powdery mildew, can over winter on infected plant parts. By cleaning up the leaves, you are removing some of the disease pressure for next year.
Next, mound soil, compost or shredded leaves about 8 to 10 inches high on top of and around each plant. If using soil, bring it in from another part of the garden. Do not pull it from between plants because you can damage the rose roots or make them more susceptible to cold. All of this should be completed by Thanksgiving.
In a few weeks, after the ground has frozen, add an additional 4-inch layer of mulch such as straw, leaves or hay. More soil may be spread on top of the mulch to keep these lighter materials in place. Be careful not to add this second layer before the ground has frozen. Mice can move in and feed on the rose bark over the winter.
Finally, sit back and relax knowing that Mother Nature will do the rest. Next spring, simply remove all of the coverings before new growth begins. Wait until after the ground thaws. If you remove the covering too early, the tops will begin growing before the roots can provide water for them.
:quot; Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.