Spring Garden Tips

Winter Damage

I garden in the north. In late winter I went out and took a look at my rose garden. All the stems look brown, no green anywhere even slightly. Are they dead?

A stressful growing season, dry fall, extremely cold winter, fluctuating winter temperatures or any combination of these can cause rose canes to die. Don't give up on your roses. If they are hybrid teas and you planted them with the graft several inches below the soil surface they may be alright. Many years ago we had major rose dieback. The hybrid tea roses died back to the ground but eventually (mid June) sent up new growth from the graft union and eventually flowered. If the graft is killed, new growth often sprouts from the hardy rootstock. It is usually stouter, thornier and may not bloom. If it does bloom the flower is different than the grafted rose you purchased. Shrub roses and hybrid teas on their own roots have been known to dieback to the ground and still recover. This is going to be a spring of wait and see for you. As temperatures remain at or above freezing you can start your pruning. Look at the inside of the canes to determine if they are living or dead. Canes that are brown in the center are dead and can be pruned back to the point where the insides are white. This is also a good time to remove diseased or brittle canes. Then wait and hope for the best.

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