Winter watering of container roses.

SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)November 11, 2013

Okay I am having a hard time wrapping my head around watering potted roses during the winter in my zone. Hopefully somebody can enlighten me.

I can understand watering in zones where the pot will not be totally frozen all winter or maybe won't freeze thoroughly, but here they are going to be ice cubes from now till march. Last week I lightly watered my pots and while the soil absorbed a slight amount the rest froze on the top. So my question is what is adding more water going to do for the rest of the winter other than add ice?

I have also heard comments that the roses get water from the soil when they are planted in the ground but within a few weeks we will have over 2' of frost and average 3-4' every winter. Those roses, too, will be ice cubes until March.

I can't figure out what I am missing.



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I only water the ones I bring in the garage
, and only once a month. I have never had luck leaving potted roses outside in my zone. I think they freeze all the way through, roots and all.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 5:53PM
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seil zone 6b MI

If the roses are outside and exposed to rain and snow they don't need to be watered by you. Mother Nature will take care of it.

If they're inside a shed or garage they won't get any precipitation so you have to give them some water. You have to think of them as sleeping not dead even though they kind of look like it. When you're asleep you get thirsty. It wakes you up and you get a glass of water. The roses need a glass of water once in a while too. Cold winter weather usually has very low humidities and causes dehydration in the roses. Dehydration is just as big a rose killer as extreme cold and freeze and thaw cycles.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 11:31PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

I don't remember what you have in pots, and why.

However, the reason many people keep roses in pots is to overwinter varieties that aren't going to be hardy in the ground. Since the ideal temperature for overwintering those types is slightly above freezing, the idea is to keep them somewhere that will cycle around freezing, but never get tooo cold. When the pots are above freezing, water will evaporate and the rose will use some up. So that should be replaced.

When I'm overwintering potted gallica suckers, those stay outside in leaf piles. They get the same precipitation as things in the ground, and can be ignored.

Generally, my large tender potted roses go into the garage very wet (and heavy). They don't need water until they break dormancy, but that is often very early. Once they do break dormancy, they need a lot of water. That can happen as early as early February here.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 7:38AM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Thanks for the responses all.

Susan I would be interested in what roses you successfully over winter?

Seil, as always, thanks for sharing your experience with a new rose gardener like me.


I have quite a variety in pots that I am over wintering. Every thing from Explorer series to HT's. I am doing so for a variety of reasons. First, the plants were on sale late in the season and I came to a conclusion that I would possibly have a lower mortality rate if I had them in a controlled environment. I also didn't have a complete plan of where they were going to be planted. Lastly and especially with the HT's, I was told whether in a pot or ground they wouldn't survive the winter. Who doesn't like a challenge when the roses are only rated a half to full zone warmer, depending on where you look?

Thanks for the explantation. I had a feeling I was way overthinking it. I couldn't figure out why people would water frozen pots forgetting that most of the members here live in warmer climates.

I, too, kept my pots wet till they froze so the plant isn't dehydrated when it starts to thaw.

Thanks again everyone.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 1:32PM
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I successfully overwinter :
Diana, POW, Sweetness, Easter. Basket, burgundy iceberg, majesty, ebb tide
Liv tyler, white licorice, a few I cannot remember their These are all tree roses.
Regulars are Cherry parfait, Diana, pow, Gemini, jubilee celebration, papa meilland, lavender lassie, and a few more I cannot remember.
Roses I cannot get to survive anywhere under any circumstances are JUST Joey and PJP 2..... No matter WHAT I do! And thank goodness for the rolling plant trolleys !

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 7:06PM
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SCG, hope this helps. I do love being able to nurse a zone 7 thru a zone 5 winter and see them live, year after year.
It is essential to protect the tree roses as their grafts are up in the elements. The regular HTs are just so much bigger the next year when the have less winter kill.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 7:11PM
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