How to Prepare Potted Roses for the Winter

Some rose bushes don’t need special winter care. Most rose bushes can survive the winter months growing right in the ground without covering. Some roses require you to wrap them in burlap, or cover them with straw to protect them from the winter elements. If your rose-bush is growing in a pot, you will need to move the potted rose to a protected place.

Find the Right Location

Resist the urge to take your rose bush into the house. Roses need to go through a winter dormancy period; otherwise they will bloom throughout the year. Yes, rose flowers are beautiful and it is so tempting to try growing one indoors for that reason. If you do try, remember this will eventually wear the rose-bush out and it will die a premature death. As the rose bushes go through dormancy, they need to rest, so when spring arrives, they will have enough energy stored up to give you bigger and better blooms.


In the fall, feel the soil of your potted rose-bush. If it is dry to the touch, it is time to water your potted rose. This is the beginning preparation for the winter protection.


Inspect the rose-bush for dead or diseased branches and then cut them out. You don’t want to prune your rosebush any more than that. When you prune, it stimulates the rose-bush and it begins growing. It also causes undue stress to the plant before it enters dormancy.


When the leaves have dropped, feed your rose-bush one last time. Use a fertilizer that has low nitrogen content. If you use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, it will promote plant growth and you don’t want that.

Allow the Rose to Freeze

Leave the rosebush where it is until after the first frost. This signals the plant that it is time to go into dormancy. Do not leave the potted plant where it is if the frost forecast is expected to last three or more nights. Now it is time to find a place to store your potted rose for the rest of the winter. A cold garage will work well for this. If your garage is like mine and you don’t have room, you can store the rose bush in the house as long as you have a room that remains cool and dry. The basement or an unheated porch or room will also work.

Remove the Leaves

Before you shut the rose away for the winter, remove all the leaves that have not yet fallen. If there are any flowers, cut them off also. If your potted rose-bush is stored with the leaves left on, the plant is more susceptible to disease or mold formation.

Apply Mulch

Once you have your potted rose-bush in the room you want, add 3 to 4 inches of mulch over the top of the soil. Protect the roots of your rose bush by wrapping it with layers of burlap or bubble wrap.

After Care

Every month or every other month, pour a little water over the soil. This keeps the roots hydrated. Don’t give it too much water or the roots will rot.

Next spring, unwrap the layers of burlap or bubble wrap and move it outdoors again. Water the soil and begin fertilizing with a rose fertilizer.


Rose File: Roses for Every Garden

Dot Com Women: Winter Care for Roses

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