I always stall when it comes to getting my rose bushes ready for winter. I keep hoping for one last, gorgeous bloom before the winter. But waiting too long can actually be detrimental to roses.
First, decide if you are going to cover them with a cone or wrap the base and leave the branches exposed. Either is a viable method. If you plan on leaving the branches exposed, be sure to cut them back so heavy snow doesn’t break them. Some experts recommend pruning to a length of 12 to 18 inches. Include pruning any dead branches (why waste the winter energy on a dead branch), branches that are thinner than a pencil or that cross each other or the center of the bush. Once you’ve pruned, be sure there are no stray leaves or twigs at the base of the bush. Water the bush and cover the base up to about 3 – 6 inches with dirt or – better yet – peat moss. That way, in the spring you can just turn the covering in to the soil.
If you plan to use a cone, make sure it is wide and tall enough to encase the bush without break any of the branches. (It should also have plenty of holes poked in it for ventilation.) Again, prune the branches back to an appropriate length, add some water, clear away leaves and twigs and cover. Don’t forget to weigh them down – Michigan winters can get pretty windy. Cones should be placed when the temperatures overnight are consistently in the 40s or lower. In the spring, remove the cones if the temps get into the 50s; the temp inside the cone will be much higher.
Let the rose naturally shut down for winter. That usually happens in mid to late November. A perfect project if you’re not interested in watching the Lions on Thanksgiving.