Winter preparation for roses and more

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

I have had several questions regarding pruning roses in preparation for winter. The recommendation is don’t prune them until next spring.

The recommendation for winter preparation for roses has been the same for a long time, longer than I have been in this business. (That’s a very loooooong time!)

Roses should be left alone after the first of October for them to store sugars in preparation for winter. This allows for hardening off and good winter hardiness.

The only time that you might prune a rose in the fall is if the canes are broken or damaged. Remove these but leave the rest.

Rose should be pruned in the spring. Canes that are damaged from winter should be pruned. Typically, the plants are pruned back by about one-third. In addition, canes that grow inward towards the middle of the plant can be removed to open the plant to the sun.

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Climbing roses can be loosely tied to the trellis or support to prevent whipping and wind breakage over the winter. In the spring, remove any dead wood.

Winter care for roses has gotten a lot easier with the new varieties, particularly the varieties of shrub roses. These tend to be winter hardy and experience some stem dieback.

Hybrid tea, multiflora, and floribunda roses are also easy to care for. Some like to cover the plants with rose cones to protect the canes. For me, this is too much work. Plants in my garden are on their own over the winter.

There is one exception to this. I didn’t get all the plants that I bought during this season planted until recently, in fact, I am still planting!

Anything that is planted this late in the season should be mulched for the winter to prevent the heaving of the soil.

Plants that just went into the ground have not had sufficient time to develop a root system to secure them in the ground. Winter freezing and thawing of the soil leads to heaving and the root system being pushed out of the ground.

The exposed roots are likely to dry out or freeze, leading to the death of the plant Therefore, prevent this by piling a loose layer of mulch on the ground around the plant, up to about eight to ten inches around the crown.

This keeps soil temperatures moderate and prevents heaving. Remove the mulch in the early spring (March) so that plants can begin new spring growth.

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Don’t mulch the plants, however, until later in November, when the soil is cold and closer to freezing. Mulching too early keeps the soil warm.

If you are like me and don’t get everything planted this fall, heel the plants in to protect them for winter. I simply lump them all together in a tight mass and mulch the entire group of plants, ensuring that mulch is in the cracks and crevices between the pots.

I pile the mulch up around the top of the pots to keep the temperatures moderate through the winter and protect the roots.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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