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Protecting Tree Roses

Protecting Tree Roses

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

For more information on protecting roses, read my column in yesterday’s Deseret Morning News.

I often field questions how to help roses survive the winter. The first advice I usually give is to select those types of roses that are cold hardy. The list of hardy roses usually includes shrub roses, many old-fashioned roses, native roses and several other types.

At the bottom of the list in terms of cold hardiness are the tree roses. Tree roses, more correctly called Rose Standards, were thought to have come from Victorian Europe where they were common in royal rose gardens.

Tree roses never grow naturally. They are created by grafting the rootstock to the bottom of the central trunk. Then the desired flower variety is grafted to the top of the trunk to create the “tree.” Typically, the central cane that the hybrid rose is grafted onto is 36 in long and supported by a stake.

Although these beautiful grafted plants are very appealing, the double grafts with long exposed stems make them very susceptible winter kill. The graft tissue and the long cane are susceptible to dehydration and need special protection during the winter.

Since I like to see learn how to successfully keep their plants alive, I stopped by to see Allen Whear. He lives on Main Street in Tooele and I have watched him care for his tree roses for many years. He lives in the home he was born in but his interest in tree roses did not come from living in that home or his life in Tooele.

Whear planted tree roses on either side of his front sidewalk to help landscape his front garden. He selected several varieties including Peace, Barbara Bush and several others. He made the first plantings some ten years ago and has been growing them ever since.

He admits he knew the roses would be harder to grow in Utah but did not know that winter kill might destroy his plants. After learning of their need for protection, he devised a simple process to keep the plants alive.

He makes wire cylinders and put them around each plant this time of year. He start filling them up with leaves this time of year and if he runs out of leaves he gets a bale of straw to finish the job.

Prune the roses back so they fit into the cages. As they grow and bloom they get very large and if you do not trim them, they do not fit inside the cages. He does not take off the leaves because his roses are usually free from harmful diseases. As you trim the roses to make them fit the cages, watch for signs of fungal diseases. Powdery mildew is the most common in our area. Prune off badly infected twigs and remove and destroy badly infected leaves.

He leaves the cages on until the end of February or the first of March. In the spring, he takes the leaves and straw of and puts them on the garden and then till them in.

The question is of course is the work worth it? Whear answers, “In ten years I have never had any serious damage to my roses.”

While there are other ways to keep tree roses from winter kill including digging them up and burying them or bringing them inside, his is the easiest and most effective method I have seen for our area.


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