Freeze Protection for Roses in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

We are lucky here in Houston because we don't hve to worry much about freeze damage to our roses. Still, if the temperature drops below 26 degrees F. there is a chance of such damage. The easiest solution is to add about three inches of mulch to your rose beds in the winter. That is probably all that is needed for most roses except the grafted ones.

Grafted roses are those that are not growing on their own roots. Almost all hybrid teas and floribundas are grafted. Miniature roses and Old Garden Roses are seldom grafted.

On a grafted rose there will be a bud union near ground level where the graft was made. It looks like a scar that bulges out. That graft union must be protected. Pile the mulch up around the bud union high enough to cover the bud union by about three inches. That is in addition to the extra mulch you have spread over the beds in general. Covering the bud union won't take as much mulch as you think because you only have to extend the mulch out around four inches or so from the bud union. Please remember that when the temperatures warm back up you will need to go out and pull the mulch away from the bud union until the next freeze. You may have to repeat this cycle several times over the winter. Do not simple leave the bud union covered.

Also, don't forget to water your roses during the winter. Even though they are dormant, they still need water. Watch your rain gauge and if we have not recieved at least one inch of rain per week during the winter, add water. Also, watering your plants the evening before a hard freeze will help protect them.

There is no need to prune canes at the start of winter in Houston. Save your pruning for February 14th. Also, we do not have to "heel over" our roses as they do way up north. However, to help your roses go into dormancy, please do not cut flowers from the bushes after around mid November. Alright, you can cut a few for Thanksgiving, and one for Christmas but let the rest lose their petals on the bushes. This will help prepare your roses for Winter.

Last revised November 14, 1997

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