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How to Care for Roses in the Fall

Caring For Garden Roses In The Fall Will Prepare You For a Beautiful Spring 


IS FALL A GOOD TIME TO ADD NEW ROSE PLANTS?

Yes, Fall is a great time to add rose plants depending on your growing zone. In zones 8-10 it’s perfect weather for planting all kinds of perennials especially garden roses. Aim to get fall potted roses in the ground 6 weeks before your first expected frost so they have time to root. Don’t apply any fertilizer at planting. You don’t want them pumping out blooms, you want them to root and them get ready for a short Winter’s nap.

If you don’t love in a zone with warmer Fall weather (zones-7-4), use this time to prepare a new bed by marking off the area and then adding compost. You can use any compost whether it be manure, bags from your local nursery store or shredded leaves (avoid using any sterilized compost). This process will give the soil a chance to fully come to life over the winter months. By Spring, your soil will be rich and ready for new roses!

 

CAN ROSE BUSHES BE PRUNED IN THE FALL?

You’ll want to avoid major pruning cuts on roses in the fall. As with deadheading, pruning any type of rose plant spurs more growth. So if you live in an area where the weather gets colder, your roses will begin to move their energy reserves into their roots (dormancy) which will help them survive the winter. If you keep pruning throughout fall, this process will stop and your rose plants may not fare well in the colder months. A good rule of thumb to follow is to stop any deep pruning about 6 weeks before your first expected frost.

 

SHOULD I DEADHEAD ROSES IN THE FALL?

The process of removing wilted blooms is called deadheading. By removing the old blooms, you are stopping the plant from putting energy into developing seeds which encourages your rose plants to produce new flowers. Just like pruning I recommend stopping your deadheading about 6 weeks before your first frost date. Here on the farm in zone 9b of Northern California I stop deadheading in early December and give the roses a break until the first of January when we begin our winter dormant pruning.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE ROSES FOR WINTER?

A number of factors will determine how well your roses will fare in the winter: The variety of rose plant (some are hardier than others); the location of the plant in your garden (for example, its proximity to the house will keep it warmer); the growing zone in which you live (temperate zones are easier on roses in the winter months). Here on the farm I don’t do any winter protection because our winters are so mild.

For zones where the ground freezes, stop cutting roses in early fall and let plants form hips (seedpods) as they get ready for winter. Pile fresh topsoil or compost over the base of the plant cover the bud union to about 1/3 of the way up the canes. This will help protect the plants from possible damage caused by freezing and thawing cycles. You can add dry shredded leaves or bark chips on the mounds after the first hard freeze for more protection.

You may need to take extra precautions in growing zones where winter brings sub-zero temperatures and frigid winds, like moving your roses indoors or covering with a low plastic tunnel. I recommend choosing varieties that will naturally survive harsh winters without protection as snow can act as an insulator.

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