Winterizing Roses Using the “Minnesota Tip”

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

  1. Water well for a couple of days if the soil is dry – the moisture will make the soil and roots more workable.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. “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.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Then, using a garden fork, very carefully loosen the soil around the other side of the rose, being careful not to damage major roots.
  3. 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.
  4. Since the rose is bent, you’ll need to hold it or weight it down until it’s buried.
  5. 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.
  6. Water well to settle the soil.
  7. 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.

Spring Revival

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!

Further Information


  1. Hi!
    I sure hope you can help me. Why won’t my rose bushes take
    root. Every spring I usually have to dig them out because they are dead. I have tried many,many different types, and species. I have soaked them overnight,planted to a “T”. I have watered,fed,sprayed,cut off the new buds and covered them for the winter. What am I doing wrong? I live in zone 3 (North Dakota) Thanks

  2. The last feeding should be August 15 or so, and not right before you winter the roses. Without knowing the exact variety of rose you have, it is hard to speculate why they always die. Tea roses must be Minnesota tipped in ND or they will die over winter. A zone 3 hardy rose—and this could be your biggest problem—-not many roses are zone 3 hardy—should survive the winter with nothing more than several inches of hay, straw or leaves over the plant. I have Winnipeg Park and My Girl rose bushes in zone 4 near Minneapolis and they survive the winter with mulch on top. They are zone 4 hardy varieties however.

  3. Moved to Owatonna from Oregon. Bringing my Grandmother’s roses. They were Portland’s Rose Festival winners in early 1950’s. Have moved them five times in the last 35 years. Winter here scares me. I do not want to use the tip method unless I have to. Concidering the cones. Do you recomend these. Any other suggestions?


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