If you live in the northern part of the United States, you have probably noticed that the temperatures are starting to drop at night. Here in Vermont, the leaves on our trees are beginning to change colors and fall to the ground. The temperatures are in the 40s when I wake up in the morning. I know that any day now, I will wake up and see frost on the ground. That means that it’s time to start thinking about garden clean up including overwintering your rosebushes.

If you don’t take steps to overwinter your rosebushes, you risk them not returning next year. Since our rosebushes are one of my favorite summer flowers, it’s important to me that I protect them from the cold weather and snow. Here is what I do each year to take care of them.

Stop picking the roses in the early part of the fall. This will let your rosebush being to form rosehips (seedpods). They’ll need this as the winter approaches.

After the first frost of the year, protect the base of your rosebush up to the bud union for about two feet. You can either use fresh compost or topsoil. If you don’t have your own, you can purchase it from your local garden center. Don’t take the soil from around your rosebush. This risks exposing the roots to frost and damaging temperatures. Instead, find topsoil from another area of your yard.

Prune back any long canes. This prevents the wind from damaging your rosebush.

After the first hard freeze, it is time to get serious about protecting your rosebush. Mound up dead leaves and mulch around the entire base of your rosebush over the existing topsoil or mulch. When it is springtime, you can remove it and spread it around the base of the rosebush to prevent weeds.

If you are in a climate where winter temperatures drop below zero, you will need to take extra steps to protect your rosebush. Very gently dig up the roots. Then, dig a trench in front of the rosebush. Lay the rosebush down flat in the trench and cover the entire plant with at least 2 inches of dead leaves. Then, in the spring, you can uncover it and replant it again after the danger of frost.