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How to Care for Roses In Winter

Chris VanCleave
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roses, courtesy Chris VanCleave

* As part of our ongoing Stretch Gardening series, we have invited some of our favorite garden bloggers to contribute to the Garden Club. This week we welcome Chris VanCleave, of The Redneck Rosarian, to share his tips on caring for your roses over the winter. *

By now old man winter has reached our gardens and it’s a good time to take a few minutes for winter rose care. My grandmother always used to say, it’s better to “prepare and prevent than to repair and repent”. I think that’s true in the garden as well. A few preventative measures during the winter months will position your roses for optimum bloom and growth come spring.

roses, courtesy Chris VanCleave

General Clean Up


By this time of year, roses have grown quite tall. If you haven’t already done so, trim them down to about waist high. Try to make cuts just above a 5-leafset that faces outward. This practice will produce new growth in spring that will grow outward from the center of the bush, thus increasing air flow at the center of the shrub and reducing the likelihood of disease.  Clear away any dropped leaves or other debris from around your rose beds. While you’re there, also remove any weeds that have grown up around your roses. A clean garden helps to hold down disease and promotes growth. If you see diseased leaves on your roses, remove them. Many rose diseases are fungal and will overwinter in your garden and greet you in spring. Prevention is the key.



Trim & Shape


Now is a great time to shape your bush. If the growth has become unwieldy, begin by stepping back and look at the overall shape of the shrub. Make adjustments as needed to give your bush the shape you desire. This is also a good time to remove any dead or diseased wood and any canes that have not reached the size of a #2 pencil. Canes that are smaller than this size will likely not produce a bloom at all and often interfere with air circulation and growth of other stronger canes. Once your trimming and shaping are done, clear away all cuttings. You don’t want to harbor the fungal disease I noted above so never place any rose cuttings in the compost bin. Always dispose of them elsewhere.



courtesy Chris VanCleave

An Ounce of Prevention
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I then spray roses with lime sulfur. This spray should only be applied in winter when roses are dormant. I spray the entire shrub and the ground around them. This will kill any remaining mold spores on contact and will give you a disease free bed for spring.  Check the mulch level in your garden beds. A good 2-3″ layer of mulch will keep weeds down and aide moisture retention at the roots where it is most needed. This is also a great time to clean up your gardening tools. I’ve been meaning to wash my shovel all year. Now is also the time to sharpen and oil your pruners and other gardening tools.  Come spring, you’ll be ready for a new growing season and a load of beautiful blooms!  

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!