Winterizing Roses Using the “Minnesota Tip”
By: Julie Day
Gardeners in extremely cold climates work hard to protect their precious rose bushes from the harsh northern winters. They often go to great lengths to protect the plants they love, and for some, a newly-opening rose bud is the epitome of garden perfection.
Many cultivated varieties of roses are not hardy below 10º- 20º F, yet older, established rose bushes have a grace and beauty that can’t be equaled by annually-planted ones. To preserve the splendor of the rose garden, many gardeners are brave enough to try a technique called the “Minnesota Tip.” Using this method, the entire plants are actually tipped over and buried.
The Minnesota Tip is said to have been developed in the 1950s by Jerry Olson, a Minnesota gardener known as “Mr. Rose,” in collaboration with Master Grower Albert Nelson. It was quickly adopted as the recommended method for winterizing tender roses in cold climates.
The Minnesota Tip protects roses from:
- Extreme cold
- Warm spells that could break dormancy
- Breakage from winds and ice
- Drying and withering from sun, wind, and dry air
Minnesota Tip Step-By-Step
- Water well for a couple of days if the soil is dry – the moisture will make the soil and roots more workable.
- Prepare your roses by making sure they are healthy, free from disease, and cleared of fallen leaves and debris. Remove any remaining leaves from the canes.
- Prune minimally to get the plant to a manageable size. For added protection, you can seal the cut ends of pruned branches with wax or white wood glue.
- You may also want to treat the plant with a dormant spray or fungicide to protect against fungus and disease. Dormant sprays are available at most horticultural centers. Do this the day before you plan to tip the rose.
- “Lace up” your plants using a non-degradable twine, beginning at the bottom and working your way up, tying the canes together in a bundle. Leave a long piece of twine at the end – you’ll use this as a marker to find your plant in the spring.
- Dig a trench on one side of the plant, long and wide enough for your plant to fit. If possible, plan your trench so that the rose will bend toward the side where the graft bud is attached, to help protect against breaking.
The graft bud is where the main stem was grafted onto the root stock. Bend your rose toward this bud if possible.
- Using your hands, remove the soil from the shank, which is the part just below the bud union before the roots begin to branch out.
- Then, using a garden fork, very carefully loosen the soil around the other side of the rose, being careful not to damage major roots.
- Carefully tip the entire plant into the trench, taking advantage of the plant’s flexibility. Don’t completely dig up the plant – as much of the roots should remain settled as possible.
- Since the rose is bent, you’ll need to hold it or weight it down until it’s buried.
- Cover the entire plant with soil. Make sure the end of your twine sticks out, or use a marker to find your plant in the spring.
- Water well to settle the soil.
- As you rake leaves after the ground freezes, apply a nice thick blanket to your buried rose, about 12”- 18” deep. Or, if you prefer, you can use leaves in bags.
Follow these steps to revive your buried roses in the spring:
- When the ground begins to thaw, around early April, remove the leaf cover from the roses.
- By mid-month, you can remove the soil and stand your plants back upright. Be sure the soil is thawed and loose, or you’ll damage the canes.
- Replant your rose, and rinse off the soil with a gentle spray of water.
- Keep your roses well watered until they are re-established.
Using this method, you can grow the most tender roses in the harshest of climates!