Winterizing Roses

Andrea Burns
K-State Research & Extension

If you haven’t done so already, you might want to take advantage of the nice weekend to winterize your roses.

Though most shrub roses are hardy in Kansas, other types of roses can be more tender. For example, the hybrid teas have certain species in their ancestry that originated in the warm climate of southern China. These roses need protection to reliably survive Kansas winters.

To winterize your roses, mound soil or compost about 8 to 10 inches high around each plant.

If using soil, bring it in from another part of the garden. Do not pull it from between plants because this can damage the rose roots or make them more susceptible to cold.

Mounding is normally finished by Thanksgiving.

After the ground has frozen, add a 4-inch mulch of straw, leaves or hay for further protection. More soil may be spread on top of the mulch to keep it in place.

Do not add the mulch before the ground freezes or mice may invade and feed on the roses over the winter. The purpose of these coverings is not only to moderate the cold, but also to prevent warm days during the winter or early spring from stimulating growth that is tender to returning cold weather.

You might need to do some pruning before you winterize.

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.

Next spring, remove coverings before new growth starts. If soil was used for mounding, remove from the area so that the level of soil stays constant from year to year. Compost can be spread out around the plant and used as a mulch.

Wait until after the ground thaws, or the tops may begin growing before the roots can provide water.

For more information on growing roses, contact the Ford County Extension Office or e-mail me at

Have a great weekend!