A rose is covered by snow in winter

How to Protect Roses in Winter in Canada?

In Canada, winter weather conditions can be harsh and challenging for many plants, including rose bushes. The cold temperatures and heavy snow cover can lead to what gardeners term winter kill – the death or severe damage of plants.

The vulnerability of roses, particularly hybrid teas, climbing, and tree roses, increases in these cold climates.

Wearing a winter jacket is a fundamental aspect of dressing appropriately for cold weather, and winter protection is crucial if we want to see our beloved roses bloom again in early spring.

To protect roses, it’s necessary to winterize roses before the ground freezes. This involves practices like covering roses with mulch or other protective materials.

By doing so, we can help the roses withstand the winter and bloom beautifully once the weather warms up again. This not only preserves the beauty of our gardens but also saves the time and cost of replacing the plants affected by the harsh winter.

As we gear up to safeguard our rose bushes from harsh winters, let’s start by discussing the first essential step – pre-winter care. This initial step is foundational to our winter protection strategy and can determine how well our roses, including climbing roses and shrub roses, fare through the cold months.

Pre-winter Care

Pre-winter care involves crucial tasks like fertilizing, pruning, and watering. For example, it’s important to stop fertilizing in early fall to prevent tender new growth that could be easily damaged by frost.

Pruning should be limited to removing dead or diseased wood and any dead leaves that may harbor disease over the winter. Watering, however, should be continued until the ground freezes to ensure the entire plant stays hydrated.

Watering a rose bush from watering can

Now let’s talk about the ideal timing for these tasks. Typically, it would be best to start thinking about winter preparation once nighttime temperatures consistently drop below 20 degrees Celsius (around 68 degrees Fahrenheit).

A good trick is to mound soil around the base of the rose bushes, especially over the bud union in grafted roses, about six weeks before the first hard frost is expected. You can use chicken wire to hold the soil in place.

It’s also essential to plant roses in well-drained soil to avoid winter damage caused by waterlogged soils during freeze and thaw cycles. So, timing your care practices well can give your roses a head start in enduring the frosty months.

Winterizing Techniques

We employ a range of winterizing techniques to prepare roses for the onslaught of a harsh Canadian winter. These methods encourage dormancy, protect roses from first frost and freezing temperatures, and shield them from wind damage.


Mounding is a technique where soil or compost is heaped around the base of the plant to insulate the roots. This can help the plant survive in the harsh northern areas by providing extra protection against a freeze.

After the fall, when the ground begins to cool, start mounding the soil around the base of the rose, covering any grafted part of the plant.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Mounding

  • Prune the rose lightly to reduce its size.
  • Mound up to 12 inches of soil or compost over the base of the plant.
  • If the rose is a bush type, lay some canes on the ground and cover them with soil.
  • Wait until spring for the soil to thaw before removing the mound.


Mulching involves placing organic material like straw or dry leaves on the soil surface around the plants. This method protects the roots from frost and minimizes water loss and drying winds that can cause winter desiccation.

Instructions for Mulching Roses

  • After mounding, add a 4-6 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant.
  • Extend the mulch outwards to cover the area underneath the bushes.
  • Do not remove the mulch until new growth appears in the spring.

Mulching rose bushes with wooden sawdust and stems


Wrapping is particularly useful to prevent wind damage and the freeze-thaw cycle that can split the stems. It’s especially beneficial in locations with little snow cover, as snow can be a natural insulator.

Procedure for Wrapping Roses

  • After mounding and mulching, surround the rose with a cylinder of chicken wire or burlap.
  • Fill the interior with insulating material such as straw or dry leaves.
  • Secure the top to protect against drying winds, but ensure some air can still circulate.

Using Rose Cones

Rose cones are special coverings, often made of styrofoam, designed to fit over rose bushes. They are particularly beneficial in providing insulation and protection in freezing climates.

Instructions on Using Rose Cones

  • Prune the rose to fit inside the cone.
  • After the first hard frost, place the cone over the rose and secure it to the ground.
  • In spring, remove the cone to allow new growth once the danger of hard frost has passed.


Navigating the harsh Canadian winters might seem challenging for your roses, but your garden can continue to thrive with the proper protective measures.

Mounding, mulching, wrapping, and using rose cones shield your roses from winter’s icy grip. Applying these methods ensures our roses’ survival and sets the stage for a magnificent burst of blooms in spring.

As winter descends, remember that the care you provide today lays the foundation for tomorrow’s flourishing garden. Thus, protecting roses in winter becomes a testament to our resilience and the promise of renewal that spring always brings.

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