There are several methods of protecting rose plants from being killed or severely damaged due to some of the severe winters we can have in the Miami Valley.
About the middle to the end of December, we need to be putting our winter protection in place for our rose plants. Do not do it earlier than this as the plants need to be totally dormant and the soil needs to start freezing when this is done. All roses need winter protection at the graft or bud union which is close to the ground where the stems attach to the rootstock. Pile a mixture of 1 part topsoil to 3 parts mulch or compost about 12” high and 18” wide at the base around your rose plants. Do not take the topsoil from around your rose bush as disturbing this soil can cause root injury. A wire cage filled with leaves or straw on top of this mulch or compost will also add to the insulation. Remove the mulch the middle to the end of March. The only pruning that should be done in the fall is to remove any branches that are extremely long and will be damaged by strong winds. Complete the pruning in the spring after the plants begin to grow to remove any winter damage and to shape the plant. Normal height after pruning is about 18”.
Another thing that is done to increase the survivability of roses is to make sure they “think” they have done their job of reproduction for the year. By leaving the rose “hips” or seed heads on the plant it signals to the plant that it can stop growing because the end of the season is here and the goal of producing seeds has been accomplished. This is the way nature increases the maturity of the plant tissue so it has a better chance of surviving the winter. DO NOT remove the spent roses from your rose bushes after September 10th so the seeds develop and mature. BTW, birds enjoy the hips.