By Noelle Johnson, Houzz
As we head into autumn, our spring- and summer-blooming roses require some help getting ready for cooler weather. For those who live in cold-winter climates, fall is a good time to get roses ready for sleeping through the winter. For those growing roses in warmer regions, it’s time to get them ready for another flush of blooms. No matter where you grow your roses, let’s get them ready for fall.
The New York Botanical Garden, original photo on Houzz
All roses go through a dormant season in winter, when growth stops and they go through a period of rest. In cold-winter regions, USDA Zone 7 and below, the preparation for winter begins early in the fall, while in warmer zones you can use fall to prepare roses for their next bloom cycle.
The Todd Group, original photo on Houzz
Fall Rose Care for Cold-Winter Regions: Zone 7 and Below
1. Stop deadheading roses eight weeks before the first frost date. This signals the rosebush to slow down in preparation for cool weather ahead, as it will stop producing new blooms and focus instead on forming seeds, which are contained within a fruit called a rose hip.
2. Apply fertilizer for the last time no later than six weeks before the average forecasted frost date. New rose growth is extremely susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. With the approach of winter, the goal is to slow the growth down. Ceasing fertilizing helps your roses to harden off, allowing them to better handle cooler temperatures.
Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz
3. Once you have experienced a couple of hard frosts, lightly prune back tall roses so that they are 4 to 5 feet tall. This helps keep the wind from breaking the canes (rose stems). In addition, remove any crossed branches and any small branches that can rub against others, causing wounds. Avoid any hard pruning at this time of year.
Don’t prune back climbing roses in terms of height. Instead, bundle the canes together and wrap them with burlap or tie straw around them. Alternatively, you can remove them from their upright support and lay them on the ground, staked and covered with mulch to help protect them from the winter cold.
Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting, original photo on Houzz
Rose foliage infected with black spot
4. Clip off any diseased foliage. Fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, can overwinter and reinfect plants the next spring.
5. Rake away fallen leaves and other rose debris, which can also harbor harmful fungal diseases and insects. Don’t compost any leaves, as the fungal diseases will still survive.
6. Water well after the first hard frost, as this may be the last deep watering your rosebush receives before the ground freezes.
7. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost around the root zone, which will act as a mulch that also helps to enrich the soil. This will help to protect the roots from fluctuating temperatures as well as protect the bud union (where the rosebush and root stock connect) from cold-winter damage.
In areas that experience severe winter cold, cover rosebushes with 1 foot of mulch, mounded around the base.
Fall Rose Care for Mild-Winter Regions: Zone 8 and Above
In areas that experience mild winters, fall is a season to celebrate another round of rose blooms. Often, roses in these regions are subjected to hot summer temperatures, which leaves them a little worse for wear. There are a few steps to take to get them ready for their autumn show.
1. In late August through mid-September, lightly prune back the roses, removing up to one-third of their outer growth. This helps to remove sunburned leaves and stimulate new growth. Prune to an outward bud at a 45-degree angle. Clip off any diseased leaves.
2. Remove all rose debris, including fallen leaves, to help protect roses against being infected by any fungal diseases or damaging insects.
3. Apply rose fertilizer at the same time, working it into the top inch of soil around the root zone. Water well before and after applying the fertilizer to help ensure that it is well-distributed. Apply fertilizer for the last time no later than six weeks before the first average frost date for your area.
4. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost to help conserve soil moisture, prevent weeds and add nutrients to the soil.
Steinert Gartenmanufaktur, original photo on Houzz
5. Deadhead flowers to promote the production of new roses through the fall.
Related: A How-To Guide for Deadheading Roses
6. Keep an eye out for any fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, and treat accordingly.