Frequently Asked Questions

This page is designed to answer basic questions about growing roses. If you have a question that you don’t see answered here, please email us. Thanks to our consulting rosarians for filling in the blanks for us!

When should I remove the winter protection ?

Remove winter protection in the Twin Cities about April 15th. The night temperatures are usually above 20°F after April 15.  File your taxes and work off the aggression by getting your roses ready for spring.  Keep the bushes well watered in the spring to prevent desiccation of canes. Overhead watering is encouraged until leaf-out.

How do I uncover my buried roses?

Just remember that in the early spring the ground is probably frozen so you should remove the leaves (insulation) from over the roses to let the ground thaw before trying to bring the roses up.  Generally if the leaves are removed from the tipping site about 10 days prior to bringing the roses up, the ground will be thawed.  Don’t try to bring the roses up through the frozen ground since the canes will break.

What rose bushes need winter protection?

In the Twin Cities area, all ‘tender’roses  (hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, and miniatures) and all tree roses need heavy winter protection.  Shrub roses listed as “hardy” in the catalogs may need winter protection too.  “Hardy” roses may die-back to the ground and the degree of die-back is variety specific. Contact a consulting rosarian for specific variety information.

In the Twin Cities area when should winter protection be in place?

Winter protection is necessary when the night temperatures go below 20°F.  In the Twin Cities area this is usually about October 15th.  Be sure that the winter protection is complete before the first snowfall or it won’t get done.  The Halloween snowfall of 12 inches a few years ago caught several rose growers without winter protection.

When can I prune climbers?

First of all, do not prune climbers at all for at least the first two years;  just feed them, water them, winter protect them and let them grow,

After that,  April is a good time to prune your climbers, just after they have broken dormancy.  That way, you can see which canes are actively producing buds and which are not.  Remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood and any crossing canes,  and cut non-productive canes to the ground.  Tie the remaining canes to the trellis or arbor.   Feed heavily in May with Bob’s Mix, Osmocote or another granular fertilizer and then every 7 – 10 days with fish emulsion or any foliar feed.  This will encourage a great August -September bloom.

How do I choose the right place for my rose bed?

You need 6 hours of sunlight, and a good sandy loam.  Whenever I look around my back yard, I have no trees that look like they would interfere with my sunlight. In Spring they don’t,  but during the summer, after the trees leaf out and the sun changes its trajectory,  I get shade from my neighbor’s garage and the neighborhood trees.  My advice is to start watching the sun now during all hours of the day.  Look for places that have shadows.  Be aware of how the sun trajectory changes because it is higher in the sky during the summer.

How do I test my soil?

You can pick up a soil kit at most garden centers. or check out Soil Test Lab at the University of Minnesota. (Soil testing lab)  You take dirt from several spots in the rose bed, mix it together and fill the bag with the correct amount of soil.  Fill out the form and send the form and bag to the University of Minnesota.  If you have more than one rose bed, make up a separate bag of soil for each one.

Any special care required?

If we have an unseasonably warm spring, I might start uncovering my bushes (removing the mulch) earlier than normal.  When you do bring your roses up,  or remove their winter cover, remember that the canes are more tender that they were last fall and that the wind can do as much damage to the bushes as the cold winter.  You can spray the canes with water or you might use an anti-transpirant such as Cloud Cover or Wilt-Pruf.

What kind of a hole do I need to plant my rose?

To grow good roses you need to dig big holes – 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep for large rose bushes.  A tip in the ARS magazine suggests using a planting stick to measure the size of the hole.  To make a planting stick, use a dowel about 3 feet long, marking off 18 and 24 inches with pieces of duct tape. Use the stick to measure both the width and the depth of the hole.

Tender, grafted roses ( those with a bud union joining the top and root sections together) should be planted so that the graft is exactly 6 inches below the surface of the rose bed. If the rose is dormant, fill in the hole with  a combination of compost and good quality soil, mixing a cup or so of Bob’s Mix with the soil in the bottom of the hole. You can fill the hole almost completely, leaving a slight saucer depression around the bush to help retain water. When the hole is half-filled, use a hose to fill the entire hole with water and let it drain through.  Once the water has sunk into the ground, finish filling the hole.  The plant will look a little funny – just stubs of canes sticking up out of the ground. But don’t worry – you have just added an entire zone of hardiness to your tender rose  and eliminated the need to use the Minnesota Tip method  to winter protect your plant in the Fall.

If your rose has broken dormancy ( usually potted and well leafed-out), dig the hole and position the rose with the bud union ( graft) six inches below the surface as above.  However, fill the hole only to the level of the soil as it was in the pot, or slightly deeper if the plant’s bud union was exposed when it was in the pot.  Water as above and after the water has drained off, add additional soil if necessary to bring the soil level to just above the graft.  Stop at this point because filling the hole any further will kill the actively- growing plant.  This will also look a little strange, since you’re growing a rose in a hole, but that’s okay. When you mulch the bed, do not fill the hole with mulch – just bring the mulch to the edge of the hole.  In the Fall, when the plant has gone dormant, fill in the hole all the way to the top.

How do I winter protect climbers?

Tender climbers must be removed from their growing supports, the canes either buried or laid on the ground and covered with several inches of mulch and soil.  When burying tall plants (i.e. climbers), if you don’t want to cut the nice long canes back, put several 6 foot long wooden 1×1 stakes in with the canes and tie the canes to them.   When you bring the roses up in the spring, the stakes help support the canes and you won’t break any long canes, or not as many.

Hardy climbers such as Above and Beyond, John Cabot, Capt. Samuel Holland, Hope for Humanity,  Cape Diamond or Canadian shrub roses which can act like climbers, like John Davis, do not require winter protection after the first year.

What should I do to protect roses I’ve just uncovered?

In the spring when you uncover your roses, spray them with an anti-transpirant such as WiltPruf as soon as you bring them up and have washed off all the dirt from the canes.  It helps keep your rose canes from drying out in the sun and wind before they start to develop leaves.  I even apply a fungicide before I spray them with Wilt-Pruf. It is okay to use a sprinkler to water the roses until they leaf out, since this also helps the canes to maintain moisture.