Winter Damage

My Own Root Rose Seems Damaged

When we have an especially harsh winter here in the Spokane area, our roses can look like this in the spring. The good news is that "own root roses" can survive harsher-than-normal winters. 

1. If your rose was healthy last season, it has a very good chance that it survived the harsh winter. It may not send out shoots until early summer. Give it time.

2. Is this rose the correct rose for your climatic zone? Having the wrong rose in your climate will not work.

3. If your rose was not healthy or if it was diseased, it may not have made it through the winter. There still is a chance it may come back later in summer.

My Grafted Rose Seems Damaged

If the graft union is killed by freezing, this rose is a lost cause. Any shoots not coming from the graft union are root stock and will not bloom properly. Give it time, but grafted roses should have new growth from above the graft union by the time other roses in your area are in their first bloom of the season.

Why Some Roses Die in the Winter

Roses do not hibernate, they are not true deciduous plants. When temperatures get lower, their metabolism slows. Depending on the rose variety and the temperature, freezing of canes will damage the live cells by causing them to "burst open" as ice expands inside the cell.

Some rose varieties can go easily into negative Fahrenheit temperatures others cannot take temperatures in the teens [Fahrenheit]. Additionally, if the plant begins growing as temperatures rise, and a late winter or spring freeze comes, plants that normally would winter well can be damaged as new shoots freeze and die.

Winter damage can be light, only the tips of canes die back or, severe killing the plant to the ground level.

This own root rose has wintered well and is already forming buds. This rose is more appropriate for Spokane climate zone than the first rose above. 

How to Protect Roses for the Winter

1. Choose roses that grow in your climatic zone. Roses that cannot take the temperatures experienced in your area will eventually die when the weather is extreme.

2. Strong root systems and good growth help a plant winter better. Healthy plants survive.

3. Grafted roses can be killed if the graft is frozen. The only growth from this plant will be from the root stock, and this growth is called "suckers" which do not produce desirable blooms.

4. Purchasing Own Root Roses allows the plant to come back to life from the roots and bloom the original bloom. If your rose was healthy the year before and is the proper rose for your climatic zone, then it most likely will be able to come back from the root system.

5. Roses will winter better if protected for the harsh winter. Check with your local rosarians, your agricultural extension service, or the American Rose Society to learn how best to protect roses in your area.