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Roses, the queen of flowers, enchant every garden year after year. For a lush sea of flowers, however, there are a few things to consider. Especially very cold winters can put a lot of rose shoots.

In a nutshell

  • Frost hardiness of the individual varieties is quite different
  • Frozen rose shoots are brown to black in color and dry
  • Roses are not always frozen, they are also dried up
  • Winter protection is advisable
  • Prune roses properly in spring

Frost hardiness genetically determined

The frost hardiness of the different rose varieties is always genetically determined by the breeding work. Roses with an ADR rating (General German Rose Novelty Test) are generally more disease-resistant, bloom more vigorously and are more frost hardy. Various factors have an impact on how the roses survive the winter and, consequently, how severe the frost damage to the plants is. These include, among others:

  • weather conditions during the winter
  • dry autumn has a favorable effect on the end of shoots and the ripening of young rose shoots
  • rainy and warm autumn delays the ripening process of the shoots
  • Frost damage increases
  • diseased roses more susceptible to frost damage than healthy plants
  • Nutrient deficiencies, over-fertilization, late application of fertilizer in the year reduce frost hardiness

Notice: Compared to a grafted rose, wild forms such as the dog rose (Rosa canina) are far less sensitive to frost. They don't need a lot of winter protection in winter and the shoots rarely freeze, even in the coldest weather.

Recognizing frost damage correctly

The full extent of a cold winter, the more or less existing damage caused by frost, only becomes apparent in spring. By the end of April to mid-May at the latest, it should then be clear whether the roses are still "alive" and have survived the winter with more or less damage. Signs of frostbite are:

  • dark brown to black colored rose shoots
  • these show no budding
  • usually only individual shoots are affected
  • in particularly strong winters it is also possible to freeze back down to ground level

As a rule, a rose that has appropriate winter protection is less likely to show such frost damage. More on that later. Sometimes, however, not all damage is immediately recognizable. Late damage can also occur after the new shoot has started. These are expressed as follows:

  • yellow to brownish discoloration of the leaves during the first phase of growth
  • Rose shoots do not continue to grow

This phenomenon is due to the fact that the roses use the nutrients stored in the shoots to grow. The ducts of the shoots and roots were damaged by frost and the roses are then no longer able to absorb nutrients from the soil. Only a strong pruning down to the ground can help here. With a lot of luck and patience, the affected rose can regenerate and form new rose shoots at the grafting point.

Measures in the event of frost damage

If rose shoots have frozen over the winter, there is only one thing left to do: pruning. Brown or black colored shoots are dead and can no longer be saved. Depending on the damage that occurs to the rose:

  • Cut back into the green and living wood
  • with completely frozen rose shoots, cut back to the ground
  • shoots are possible again if the grafting point is below ground
  • Plant must still show life
  • New growth takes a few weeks
  • depending on the weather
  • administration of nettle manure to strengthen plants
  • Mixing ratio with water 1:10
  • alternatively field horsetail broth possible
  • Broths can be made by yourself
  • also available in garden shops
nettle manure

If you are not sure whether a shoot is still alive, simply scratch the bark very carefully with your thumbnail. If there is juicy, green tissue underneath, then the rose shoot is not frozen.

Tip: When the forsythia blooms in March/April, the actual pruning of the roses can take place. This should be avoided in the fall.

Often dried up

Sometimes in spring after a more or less severe winter it seems that the rose has frozen. Rose shoots that are exposed to the sun and wind in winter are usually affected here. Shoots left in the ground are usually hardly damaged and also show a beautiful green color. However, the roses can not only be frozen during periods of frost, but there is also the possibility that they will simply dry up. This can easily happen during very severe frosts. The water contained in the soil freezes to ice. In this case it is no longer possible for the roses to absorb enough water for their supply. In the spring they usually dry up. The shoots suffer from drought damage, also known as frost drought. There are no measures to really help the plant. It can then only be exchanged for a new one.

Notice: In autumn, roses should be watered sufficiently before the start of winter so that they can get through the critical period well.

Prepare for winter

In order for a rose to survive the winter unscathed, some preparation is required. Proper planting is part of preventing frost damage. For this purpose, the finishing point is set five centimeters deep in the ground, then there is already a certain protection against severe frost. In addition, the "Queen of Flowers" should be thoroughly prepared in autumn for the approaching winter in order to avoid damage from frost as far as possible. The following measures are necessary:

  • water thoroughly before the onset of frost
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • collect all fallen leaves
  • Fungal spores overwinter in the soil
  • source of fungal diseases
  • thereby weakening the rose, more susceptible to frost damage
  • only shorten long and thin shoots by one to two thirds
  • remove any remaining flowers
  • remove dead plant parts
  • form foci for rot, fungus and infection
  • Discontinue nitrogen fertilization in early July
  • this allows rose shoots to properly harden by fall
  • are then winterized
  • Use of potash fertilizers such as patent potash
  • Available late July to mid-August
  • promotes ripening of the shoots, twigs become woody
  • Fertilizer is enriched in the cell sap
  • protects plant cells from freezing

Notice: A pruning should not be done in autumn, only long and dead shoots, the cuts would not close in time. Frost can then penetrate deep and cause great damage. The best time to cut back is March/April.

Application of winter protection

In winter, the rose is doomed not only by frost or cold winds, but also by intense sunlight during the day and then again by the sharp drop in temperature at night. Mainly the transition from frost to thaw in the months of January and February does not make it easy for the plants. Special protective measures are necessary here in particular. Of course, snow would be an excellent protection against frost here. However, nowadays it is in short supply in many parts of the country. Appropriate winter protection is then essential to prevent damage. However, a few things should be taken into account:

  • Do not apply winter protection too early
  • Rose shoots need time to mature
  • Choose a time between mid-November and December
  • weather dependent
  • piling up garden soil is ideal
  • alternatively compost
  • pile them up 10 to 20 cm high
  • thereby protecting the lower buds (eyes)
  • possibly spread a layer of leaves on top for additional insulation
  • Protect shoots from sun and wind
  • apply pins and needles to it
  • Removal of winter protection in spring
  • Shooting should then be at least 10 cm high
  • Simply spread the soil around the rose
  • Discard needlesticks
Prepare rose shoots for winter

Winter protection should be applied to shrub, climbing and standard roses. Even a rose in a tub needs protection during the winter.

Tip: Do not use peat or bark mulch for piling up. The peat stores moisture, but at the same time the soil becomes acidic. Bark mulch can also cause damage, as it removes the vital nitrogen from the soil.

frequently asked Questions

Why not prune a rose in the fall?

Pruning back in the fall can do more harm than good to the rose over the winter. The resulting cut surfaces can no longer be closed sufficiently until winter. The frost then penetrates and damages the rose shoots. Depending on the severity of the frost, the frostbite can be more or less severe. The best time is when the forsythia is in bloom.

How to cut back a rose in spring

First of all it is important to have sharp scissors so that smooth cuts are created and the penetration of pathogens is prevented. The actual cut should always be made 5 mm above an outward-pointing eye (bud). It is always cut slightly at an angle. This prevents water from collecting and preventing pathogens from entering the wound. Furthermore, diseased, dead and weak shoots must be removed at the base.

What protection do climbing roses need during the winter?

Again, the grafting point must be 5 cm deep under the ground. The rose is also piled up 10 to 20 cm high. In addition, the shoots must then be protected with needle brushwood, reed mats or shade linen. It is best to coat them properly. They should be properly wrapped to prevent premature budding.

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