Seil...... Wintering Pots

JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)September 18, 2012

I gotta question for winterizing.. I have 2 roses in pots right now that are not going in the ground and I know you like to push zones ( I think its you that does that) and I was just wondering how would you go about preparing a potted rose for winter.


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seil zone 6b MI

Hi Jessica,

Do you have an UNheated garage? That would be the best and easiest way to winter them. Keep them watered and outside until they have gone completely dormant and the soil in the pot is frozen. Then move them into the garage up on blocks or something so they're not sitting on the concrete. Through out the winter you want to water them about once a month. It doesn't have to be a lot but they need some water. I usually just put a shovel of snow on the top of the pot every time we shovel and that works well because it will slowly soak into the pot as the temps fluctuate in the garage.

Spring is when you need to be the most careful. When the temps start to get warm in the day time but are still freezing at night you can move them out during the day but back in at night if you wish. The thing you want to avoid is having them leaf out with all that white growth from lack of sunlight. Once your night time temps are consistently above freezing take them out for good. Roses can take temps down to around 28 degrees without suffering much damage but anything lower will kill off the new growth and that's bad for the plant. They only have so much stored energy to come back with in the spring and you don't want them to waste any of it.

If you have any questions just let me know!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 1:05PM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

No we don't have a garage or a shed. But we do have a little greenhouse (I don't know how long its gonna stay up, but it doesn't look that good anymore hehe) would it be to cold for the roses to stay in there? What I have in pots right now is Baronne Henriette Snoy (tea) and Archiduchesse Elizabeth d'Autriche (Hybrid Perpetual)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 1:17PM
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seil zone 6b MI

The greenhouse should work fine but you'll have to keep a close watch on them. Inside there it could get a lot warmer and they may not go dormant at all and will continue to grow all winter so keep them watered. And in the spring you'll have to be especially careful on warm days that they don't cook inside there. Even if the temperature outside is in the 40s, on a bright sunny day my little free standing greenhouse that I keep my seedlings in for winter can get as high as 90 degrees inside. I have a thermometer inside and keep watch and if the temps start to climb I'll open the flaps and cool it down and then seal it back up for night time.

The only other thing I could suggest if you want them to go dormant is to put them in a very protected area and bury them in leaves. This is what I do with my whole pot garden of 40 some roses. They go up against the back, south facing, wall of the house. I put stakes and burlap around the whole thing and then pack it all in with leaves. It's worked very well for about 5 winters now.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 7:29PM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

As ventilation we have built the top to lift open. I do know it can get pretty hot in there if closed, right now we have the door and top open always. I was thinking about buying those lawn paper bags and open the bottom and fill with leaves but I figured that we have a GH I could just use that as long as I keep it cool. Do you think that will work or should I just do the leaf thing.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 7:52PM
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TNY78(7a-East TN)

That looks like a really nice way to build a greenhouse without having to buy an expensive pre-fab one. What type of plastic did you use for the sides? I need to put this on my husband's honey-do list :)


    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:37PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)


A friend is bringing me about 10 roses in 2 gal pots sometime in October from southern California. My day temps can drop from high 90s to 40s within a few days. The night temps will be hovering around the mid to low 30s in October. I plan to over winter the roses in a friend's unheated greenhouse.

I have two concerns:

1) Socal temps, both day and night, are a lot warmer than what I experience up here and there will be a "climate shock" to the plants. Will that cause problems because the plants won't be naturally hardened off for a colder climate ? ; and

2) Is a 2 gal container too small to over winter the roses in an unheated greenhouse ?


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 12:55AM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

Tammy we got the plastic sheeting at lowes and I think it was the 4 mil. It wasn't the thickest or the thinest but the one in the middle :^). He used 2x2 for the wood.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 7:36AM
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rideauroselad E.Ont4b

Hi Jessica,

I winter as many as 15 pots in my unheated garage every winter. My temperatures go to -30C (-19F), every winter. I agree with all Seil said and think though your little green house will not insulate from cold temperatures, it will defiinitely protect the plants from wind chill and lessen desication. Desication is often a bigger killer than the cold.

In my experience, most OGR and Shrub roses and many less tender HTs and Floribundas will winter low temperatures down to about -20C (0F), and many two or three degrees colder without any cane damage at all. So it will depend on how cold your coldest winter temperatures are. In severe winters, where it gets to -30C (-19F), for more than a few days, I always loose a few, even in the garage. But in normal winters I seldom loose any.

The one thing I do differently than Seil is take my pots out as soon as the low temperatures are reliably above -10C (17F). Roses are tougher than we sometimes think. You list your zone as 5-6, so I suspect that you will winter your pots without a problem if you follow Seil's advice.

Cheers, Rick

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 8:33AM
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Terry Crawford

Seil, do you cover the pots with anything in the garage to block any light coming in to prevent them from growing?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 1:44PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Jessica, since you do have good ventilation in the greenhouse then go ahead and use it. The plastic walls will certainly help with protecting the canes from the drying winds. Do get a thermometer to put inside (I got a small inexpensive aquarium one from Walmarts) and you will still need to water them occasionally through the winter since they won't get snowed on inside there.

Lyn, I wish I knew for sure that they won't go into shock but it's really hard to say. However, if they're healthy to begin with even if they do they should recover. For the most part roses are pretty hardy and you're not in a super frigid zone. In an unheated garage that protects them from the wind they should be OK.

The 2 gallon pots will be fine for a dormant rose over winter but you'll need to up pot or plant them fairly quick in the spring when they do start to grow. You really don't want to up pot them in October because that will probably just encourage them to start growing when you really need them to go dormant. And it will just create more shock.

Thanks, Rick! Where were you when I started my potted rose experiment? Every where I posted the idea they told me I was nuts, lol! That you couldn't winter roses in pots in cold zones. I do agree with you too that they are much tougher than we give them credit for. You're also right about the dessication. That's why I never recommend bringing roses inside! The air in most homes is just too, too dry for them. No one would want to live in a house damp enough to make a rose happy!

No, you don't need to cover them, Terry. Most garages, even with a window in it, are fairly dark anyway and as long as the garage is cold and you don't have them sitting in the window they should stay dormant until early spring. Spring time is always the iffy part. The yo-yoing of temperatures is the real problem. It gets warm during the day and you get a nice spring like week or so and then boom, the bottom falls out and you go back down into freezing temps again for a few weeks. In the mean time the roses started to bud out while it was warm and then they freeze and lose all those new buds. They can only take that a couple of times before they use up all the energy they stored last fall to come back with in the spring. So the trick is to keep them from budding out in the spring for as long as possible until the temps are going to stay reliably above freezing.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 6:03PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

Thanks for the input, Seil.

My first frost date is about mid-November, so I may have a few weeks to harden the roses off before I have to put them in my friend's greenhouse.

My day temps never go below freezing and generally my night temps run between 10 to 20 degrees F. It's enough to freeze a pot if it is left outside during the winter, but not nearly as cold as your climate.

Last year, I left a rose outside in a 7 gal squat and it froze and stayed frozen until March. The rose survived with little die back, but really didn't come back from that cold stress well this season, so it's still in the pot. It didn't have a large enough root mass for me to plant it out. That's why I decided to find a place where I could over winter roses inside.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 12:43AM
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JessicaBe(5-6 Central Ohio)

Ok well the top of my GH ripped off over the weekend during a really windy day Saturday so would it still be suitable to use it during the winter if we don't get it fixed?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 12:05PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Do you get a lot of snow? My worry is that that plastic sheeting won't hold up under the weight with out a lot more support for it. Maybe like a mesh screening and then the plastic.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Hmmm... I didn't realize what was needed to protect my rose bushes that are in cement pots at the front of the porch. They are sitting on the ground and we are in zone 5...probably the lower part of zone 5. Winters vary GREATLY from 0-40 degrees with lower wind chill. Now that I read these posts, I am wondering what to do. The plants are still blooming. We are too old (sigh) to do a lot of moving of pots. Straw bales? Burlap?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:11PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi jsd47: I read over Rick's excellent post. He's rideauroselad 4b/5a Ontario. I also checked rosarian Karl Baspt, zone 5a, post on wintering pots. The biggest enemy is drying out of pots, rather than frozen. Two choices:

1) Fluffy stuff that rain/ melted snow can penetrate. I've seen my neighbor piled up mulch around her HTs, all survived since melted snow can get through easily. I tried winterizing rosemary in full sun for many years but failed, until I found a shady spot and dumped fluffy leaves to keep its roots moist through the winter.

2) Thick stuff like a heavy car-cover, a thick thermal blanket, but one that you can uncover easily to water your pots twice a month. This is less messy.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 10:24AM
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I grow several minis in pots each year & I winter protect them by digging a trench in my veg. garden an inch or 2 deeper that the height of the pot. I set the potted rose upright in the trench & backfill around the pot. The pic below shows my minis at this point in their covering. You see I have some extra soil to th sides that was displaced by the pots, this will be push on to the canes shortly to complete my winter protection. The tips of the canes won't be covered but I usually prune them off in the spring anyway & the rest of therose survives just fine. I used to pull the minis out of the pots & lay them on their sides in the trench covering them with 6" of soil but it was a lot of work to uncover in the spring. Leaving them in the pots made it much easier to uncover.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:55AM
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seil zone 6b MI

I've trenched small pots the same way, Steve. Usually seedlings and one year rooted cuttings and it works really well. But for large pots it would be too big of an undertaking to dig that trench deep enough.

jsd, you say these roses are in large concrete planters so I'm assuming they are not movable. My suggestion would be to wrap them, pots and all, in burlap to create a kind of bag that can be filled with mulch of some kind right down to the ground around the pots. This should insulate them fairly well and also protect them from drying winds some what without cutting off all air circulation. And if you do not get much rain or snow on them do water them through the winter.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:14PM
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Thank all of you for suggestions. I could use some of the ideas from all. Yes, Seil, they are a little large for digging a trench or moving to a garden area. We did very successful bucket gardening this year so there will not be a garden bed in future years. But, the containers are small enough that we can roll them to a more protected area in the front flower bed and will follow your info using our ABUNDANCE of leaves for protection. We always use leaves for the flower bed anyway. It is hard to pre-judge as winters as we are on the edge of the jet steam flow and it can make a world of difference in our winters from moderate to NOT so moderate. I am so glad I found this forum and related forums! Thanks. Next, I am off to find the grape vine forum .....

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:04PM
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