Roses and Winter in Georgia
Below are a few basic tasks which should be done in the winter.
- Pruning: - In general, we should do very little pruning in the winter until
we do our annual pruning in early to mid March (topic addressed later). You
should remove dead or diseased canes and for larger roses you can prune them
to about 4-5 feet high or remove the long, high canes to help prevent damage.
This is not true of climbers, but longer canes should be secured to the
structure so they will not be destroyed by the winter winds.
- Fertilizing: - Since the roses are dormant, there is no need to fertilize.
December is a good time to add lime as our soils are typically
acidic. However, before adding lime it is best to do a soil test, especially
if one has not been done in a few years. Indicate that the testing is for a rose
garden, and the analysis will done for roses. If required, application of lime is
generally about a cup for a larger rose and about 1/3 of a cup for small roses
such as small miniatures. For clay soils you can also add about a cup of
gypsum for larger roses and 1/3 for small roses. This is an especially good
time to add lime, since it takes several months to seep into the soil to the
root zone. Thus, the lime will be where it needs to be come Spring.
- Spraying: - As long as the weather stays warm such as this year, we should
continue our fungal spray program. Once cooler temperatures arrive, this can
be stopped. There is, however, one additional spraying we can do for our
roses in winter. When the weather is cool and freezing weather is not
predicted for the night, we should apply lime-sulfur to the entire plant and
the mulch/soil below them. This will help prevent fungal diseases from
returning the following spring. Recommended time is late December to mid
January. Roses should be dormant. Also note that the lime-sulfur will kill
any new growth; that is the primary reason for doing it in early winter.
- Watering: - Although roses are obviously not growing, they still need some water
to help prevent the canes from drying up in the winter. Thus, watering may be
required if there is no rain for long time; I'd say over three weeks assuming
you have a good layer of mulch.
- Mulching: - Mulching in the winter has the usual benefits of preventing weeds,
maintaining moisture and soil temperature. However, it is also critical to
help prevent freezing weather from affecting the graft on our grafted roses.
There are also two schools of thought regarding the old mulch. Some say
remove all dead leaves and mulch to help prevent from spreading disease.
However, if you have a large rose garden or many rose gardens, this can be
an arduous task. I would say if you had a lot of disease problems this year
and want to take all the precautions possible, remove the old mulch and
leaves; otherwise you may put mulch just on top of the old. As mentioned one
additional critical item is the prevention of the graft union from freezing.
For this you will need an airy mulch such as wood chips, but with little fine
organic matter. You should apply the mulch in late December when we have had
some colder, but not seriously cold weather, not below 20 degrees. This will
allow the mulch to help maintain the soil at a cooler temperature. You will
need about 3 -4 inches of mulch above the graft union to prevent freezing. In
recent years our winters have been quite mild. You may wish to apply a normal
mulch level of a couple of inches and if very cold weather (below about 20
degrees) is predicted, apply mulch above the graft union. Note that most
freeze/cold damage to roses occurs in March when we have started or done our
annual pruning and fertilizing. The weather has started to warm up and we get
hit with cold weather in late March. Many rosarians, including myself, have
lost roses due to late freezes.
- Rose Review/Selection: - Review what you did during the past year and decide
what you want to change and keep as your gardening practices. In addition,
look over your roses; now is the best time to decide if a rose should be
shovel pruned (removed) or if you want to add a few or many roses to your
landscape. Look over the catalogs and pick out roses you think you want to
add to your garden. If you want to add roses, but do not want to increase the
effort required consider
"Earthkind Roses". These roses were selected after
many years of surveying roses to determine what roses will survive with
little or no care, but still produce good blooming throughout the summer.
This includes no spraying for fungal diseases. The ARS Handbook for
Selecting Roses, which is published each year, also help provide a good
indication of the performance of the rose. A list of lower maintenance roses
will be added to the website in a few weeks.
- Annual "Spring" Pruning and fertilizing: - At the start of each growing season
we prune our roses except for OGR's or any rose which only blooms in the
Spring. Roses which only bloom in the Spring should, like forsythia, be
pruned after they bloom. Forsythia can also be used as an indicator - prune
when the forsythia in your yard or neighborhood is in full bloom. If no
freezing/cold weather is predicted for one
week after the first week in March, I'll start pruning my roses. If cold
weather is forcasted, I put off the pruning; otherwise, I could have serious
damage to many of the roses. After pruning you need to fertilize and mulch
the plants. Pruning will help force the rose to put on new growth and it
needs the fertilizer to maintain vigorous, healthy growth. If indicated by a
soil test and if you did not
apply lime in December, you can
to apply it now. I also apply a good organic fertilizer such as Purely
Organic or Mills Magic. These are excellent, balanced fertilizers. Non-organic
fertilizers can also be used, but the organic fertilizer will help maintain
the tilth and health of the soil. If you find that the soil is becoming
compacted which often happens with clay soils, use an organic fertilizer and
organic mulch especially compost or a composted manure. This will not only
help fertilize the plants. but also improve the soil. I want to do everything
to improve the soil; by doing that, I can improve the health of the roses.