When to Prepare Roses for Winter in Iowa
The time to prepare roses for winter is arriving earlier than usual in 2020. It’s best to wait until there has been a hard freeze, meaning temperatures dropping to 28F or below for at least two hours, assuring that the roses are in dormancy. In central Iowa, we usually see our first hard freeze in early to mid November, but forecasters are predicting a hard freeze in the latter part of October this year.
Winterizing Shrub Roses
Shrub roses that are hardy in zone 5 might be fine without any winter protection at all, especially if they are in a sheltered location. However, it’s best to provide several inches of mulch (shredded fall leaves work fine) to protect them from the effects of freezing and thawing. For an extra layer of protection, begin by mounding 6 to 8 inches of soil or compost over the crown, followed by the leaf mulch.
A collar of chicken wire or something similar may be used to hold the mulch in place throughout the winter months. Fall is not the time to prune your roses, as the moisture in the stems help fortify the plant during the dry winter months. However, lanky roses can be whipped around by winter winds and suffer damage at the base, so trim those back to 24 inches or so if they are in an exposed location. For roses that are hardy in zone 4 or below, no winter protection should be necessary.
You can read more about the Rose Garden at Demonstration Garden and view our rose gallery.
Need more information? Visit Iowa State Extension for Publications on Care of Roses -Pruning and Planting, Roses for the Home, and download the Caring for Roses (Free PDF).