Gardeners in colder climates must prepare their roses for the winter. The best time to make these preparations is late autumn.
Frost, wind, snow and freezing days aren’t enough to stop this blooming beauty, so if you’re putting your garden to bed, wait to tuck your roses in until nights in your area are consistently 26 degrees F. Until then, they’ll continue to bloom even though the weather has us shivering. The growing season has come to an end, but the winter hibernation period for your roses has not yet begun either. Your roses are in a kind of slowing down, holding pattern. If you are a rose gardener, you can wonder what to do with yourself during the months of November and December.
Deadheading blooms in October – where old, spent flowers are removed – should be done without stimulating the plant to grow new shoots. By clipping the blossoms just below the flower, but well above the leaves, you’ll get rid of decaying petals without getting new growth.
Water is very important part of your roses’ winter survival requirements and properly hydrated roots will help them stay protected when the cold weather arrives. Keep an eye on moisture in the soil, watering on warm days above 45 degrees F. In fall, just before our first predicted hard freeze, deep-water roses to protect the roots from drying out, now that we aren’t actively watering the garden.
Stop all pruning and deadheading activity so you do not encourage new growth. You should have stopped applying organics last month, and you don’t want to apply any more fertilizer now either. Your goal is to keep your roses healthy while, at the same time, encouraging them to begin the process of going into dormancy.
Strong canes (branches) help roses survive the winter. Eliminate the weak canes leaving the main sturdy canes late in the fall. Keep the canes bundled, by tying with string, to help promote strength.
This is also a good time to prepare your new rose holes and rose beds for next year’s growing season. They will have time to “mellow” over the winter season and will be ready to accept new bushes in spring. Wait until temperatures are 22 degrees for several nights before mulching over the crown and graft of the rose. Scoop several shovels of soil or a mix of compost and bark mulch up over the crown, burying it eight to ten inches deep. Use an open collar or ring around the plant to hold the mulch in place.
If the plant had insect or disease problems, apply a sanitizing spray of fungicide and insecticide, covering leaves and canes as well as the ground around the bed under the rose. Spider mites are still active during late autumn so keep your eye out for them. Spritz your blooms and foliage with water whenever you see signs of infestation. Aphids are also active now, so have a bottle of soapy water ready to send them packing.
Pick off any diseased leaves and rake away any fallen leaves from your rose beds.
Begin the process of piling mulch around your more delicate varieties such as “St. Patrick”, “Color Magic”, “Oklahoma” and “Signature”. Your hardier varieties can wait until next month.
You worked hard all season to keep your roses healthy and beautiful. If you did everything right, you were probably rewarded with waves and waves of beautiful blooms. Your hard work is almost over for the year, but don’t neglect your roses during these important final months.