Prepare Your Roses For Spring
8 Important Steps For A Healthier Rose Next Season
- Rake up and destroy 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. Removing this material will reduce problems the following spring.
- Clip off diseased leaves from the bush. Pulling leaves off can create small tears along the stem and provide an entry point for disease.
- Prune off failed buds (called balling) that did not open due to rainy conditions. This will help to prevent botrytis die-back.
- Review all roses for crossed or thin canes that can whip against each other, causing stem wounds from thorns. Remove as needed.
- 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 wind throw risk. In colder climates, the combination of rocking in the wind with freeze/thaw cycles can uproot the rose from the ground.
- 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- to 3- inch layer is sufficient in most areas.
- 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.
- Cut tall roses to 4-5 feet and then thin to reduce wind damage.
Using Mulch To Protect & Insulate
Mulching provides valuable nutrients, as well as an insulating layer that will protect roses during cold snaps. A 2" to 3" layer is sufficient in most areas.
- Soil Amendment
Soil conditions can vary greatly and become depleted of nutrients over time. If your soil has a lot of clay, a mulch can help with drainage to discourage water sitting at the roots. If your soil is sandy, mulch will actually help to retain water. Mulch helps to aerate the soil, keeping air moving which is important in the fight against disease.
- Water Conservation
Mulch can help to conserve up to half of the water in your rose beds. I is also effective in reducing the temperature of the soil from by up to 20 degrees. This becomes very beneficial, if not crucial, during the hot summer months. Areas that are prone to drought conditions, can greatly benefit from using mulch.
- Weed Control
No one likes weeds in their rose garden. A nice thick layer of mulch will actually help to fight weeds and cut down on the maintenance needed to remove them. Existing weed seeds will be buried too deep below the mulch to germinate. Any weeds that may pop up towards the surface of the mulch can easily be removed as they are not rooted into compacted soil.
- Disease and Insect Control
Mulch may control some insects and fungal diseases in your rose beds. For example, mulch can reduce the splashing of fungal spores such as Blackspot off hard ground surfaces and back up onto the rose plant.
Types of Mulch
There are various types of mulch that can be used for roses. You can buy large bags of mulch at garden supply centers and nurseries. This type of mulch will reduce soil compaction, plus provides extra nitrogen.
- Bulk Mulch - If you have more than 50 rose bushes, you might want to consider buying your mulch in bulk from a local soil company. Gromulch can be purchased in bulk container boxes from home improvement stores and some nurseries.
- Newspaper - Shredded newspaper is probably the least expensive type of mulch, although it is not particularly attractive. You can also lay down entire sheets of newspaper, if you anchor the edges with moist soil.
- Organic Compost - Compost is one of the most beneficial types of mulch. Starting a small compost pile in your backyard can be very effective. Dried organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, newspaper, and coffee grounds make a wonderful mulch.
When and How Much to Mulch the Garden
You can apply mulch to your roses any time of year but it is best in early spring and then again in late summer to early fall. A 2” layer would be considered the minimum application, but a thicker application will need to be applied less often. We suggest a layer of 2”-4” for best results.
Seasonal Rose Pruning
Rejuvenate your roses with a hard annual pruning. Prune to shape and clean out dead wood, and worn out, weak, or spent canes. Spring is the time to correct problems with overall form, or reduce the height of roses that are outgrowing their space. Most roses bloom on new wood, and tend to have reduced bloom on old canes. Let the "Rule of Thumb" be your guide: New growth about the diameter of your thumb make the best canes. If the branch is bigger than your ordinary loppers can tackle (1-1/2 inches or larger), it should be removed.
For most rose bushes, leaving 6 to 8 strong, healthy canes is ideal to produce a full, shapely plant, without overcrowding. Floribundas or shrub roses tend to have more branches by nature, so you may want to leave more canes on those types of roses. For most roses, spring pruning should reduce the overall height of the bush to 18 to 24 inches. The shorter you prune, the fewer blooms you will have, but the blooms will be larger. Leaving taller canes will produce smaller blooms in more abundance. Remove all dead, damaged, and diseased canes, crossing branches, and thin the plant so the bush is open and ready to accommodate new growth.
Spring pruning is really dependent on the weather. Most people in the Pacific Northwest prune their roses in either late February or early March. California growers typically "spring prune" in January. Midwest patrons may have to wait until early May. Keep an eye on your plants and the temperatures; time your pruning just as the new growth starts, usually after your last frost. You generally don't want to prune if there is still a chance of a hard frost, which would damage the tender new growth. If new growth is damaged by temperatures below 25 degrees, you may have to re-prune shorter, but this shouldn't happen very often.
Click this link to view our easy guide to pruning!