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Mulching Roses

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Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Thanksgiving Point Office

Several weeks ago, our tip was on the fall preparation of roses. At that time, we mentioned to delay the final winterizing until it got cold. Since we had our baptism of Artic air, you can now safely prepare your roses for winter

The perils of the next few months are hazardous to the plants. Taking a few simple precautions helps them survive and be more attractive next season. Rose bushes should not receive the final pruning until next spring.

If you have not already done so, selectively prune the tops of the plants to keeps them from breaking down with the snow and whipping in the wind. These types of damage are often just as devastating as the cold temperatures. Remove the top branches where the blooms were formed. The candelabras as they are called are likely to catch the snow and blow in the wind. This uproots the plants or breaks the canes.

Cut the plants back to about four feet high but delay the final pruning until buds swell next spring. In high wind areas, tie the canes together with twine. Form mulch mounds over the roses to prevent severe winter damage.

Roses vary in their hardiness with tree roses being the most tender while some shrub roses are completely hardy in all areas of Utah. Winter protection lessens the effects of freezing and thawing. It also keeps branches from whipping in the wind that causes the roots to loosen. Use winter protection of some sort is needed where temperatures go below 20oF.

Prevent serious winter damage by mulching plants now that the temperatures have dropped. Pile a cone of soil, compost or other organic matter over the center of the plant. The easiest way to solve the problem is to use material that can be raked back and left as mulch next spring. Loose leaves are not satisfactory because they will blow away. Mulching protects the plants from drying out and from temperature extremes.

Use soil, compost, wood chips, bark, or other material. Do not use straw that contains grain as it may attract mice that feed on the canes. Mound the mulch up over the top of the plant to protect the crown and bud areas. Colder winter temperatures require deeper mounds.

Some gardeners use Styrofoam cones, baskets or other methods to completely enclose the plants. In areas with extremely cold temperatures, remove climbers from their trellises, and cover them with a mulch material. Remove foliage from the plant and surrounding soil to reduce overwintering diseases.

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