Fall Care for Roses

With autumn’s arrival, your roses will begin to prepare for the dormancy of winter. While gardeners begin to close up their gardens, it is important to provide fall care for your plants to ensure a healthy start next spring.

Here are your Fall Preparation Tasks:

1. Rake up and discard all leaves at the base of roses. Do not compost, as this could spread pathogens. Many fungal diseases that affect roses overwinter on the rose or as litter on the ground so removing this material will reduce problems next spring.

2. Clip off diseased leaves from the bush. Pulling leaves off can create small tears along the stem and provide an entry point for disease, so clip carefully instead.

3. Prune off failed buds that did not open due to rainy conditions. This is called balling and will help to prevent botrytis die-back.

4. Review all roses for crossed or thin canes that can whip against each other, causing stem wounds from thorns. Remove as needed.

5. Prune off overgrowth on Climbing Roses and tie securely to structures to prevent top-heavy canes from breaking in the wind.  Top off taller Hybrid Teas or Shrub Roses at 4 to 5 feet to reduce windthrow risk. This is especially important in colder climates as the combination of rocking in the wind with freeze/thaw cycles can uproot the rose from the ground.

6. Apply compost or mulch around the base of roses. Mulching provides valuable nutrients as well as an insulating layer that will protect roses during cold snaps.  A 2-3 inch layer is sufficient in most areas.

7. Mound compost around the base of roses in extremely cold zones. In spring, spread the mulch out into the bed, away from the base of the plant.

8. Cut tall roses to 4-5 feet and then thin to reduce wind damage.

That’s it! Those simple steps will tidy up your rose garden and prepare your plants for a healthy headstart come spring.