Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

Caring for roses in winter

Their show might be over, but if you give your roses some care in November they will get safely through the winter, coming back healthy, vigorous and full of flowers next year. Autumn is also a good time to plant a rose.

Even though it is a tough thing to do, in many areas we need to let our rose bushes take their winter nap.

To make sure they go through the winter well and come back strong the following spring, there are a few things to do and keep in mind.

The key jobs are tidying up, getting rid of any spent blooms or diseased foliage, and some judicious pruning

Proper care of roses in winter actually starts in summer. It is not necessary to feed roses any further granular fertiliser after September. Stopping fertilising is a kind of winter protection for roses.

Also you need to stop deadheading or removing the old blooms by the end of summer.

This too helps give a message to the rose bushes that it is time to slow down and put some energy into their winter reserves. 

Most roses produce new shoots from the base. Train these new shiny stems in now (while they are still pliable) and cut out some of the older ones. 

You may want to spread the branches wide and peg them to a wall, or you may want to twine them around a support to create a spiral framework, or loop them along a pergola. 

Gravity-defying training makes the sap flow more slowly, which in turn encourages the production of more flower buds. 

Mulch RosesPruning

Prune in the second half of winter with sharp secateurs, removing the dead, dying and diseased wood. Hybrid tea roses are cut down low to strong outward-facing buds. Rose blooms tend to get very soggy in the damp days of November, so remove any balled flowers to prevent fungal diseases. 

Floribundas should be reduced to roughly 18 inches and old-fashioned roses are reduced by one third. The latter are never pruned hard.

This is the time to prune the canes on all the rose bushes, except the climbing roses, down to about half their height. 

This helps keep the canes from being broken over badly by heavy winter snows or those nasty whipping winter winds.

winter rosesTidy up and feed

Once cold weather sets in, the leaves soon fall. Tidy them up meticulously, feed your roses with bonemeal and mulch with well-rotted organic matter or good-quality bark, making sure that the soil is damp and warm. 

This protective layer will prevent black spot spores from being splashed back up onto the rose during winter. Feed with Vitax Q4 in spring: it contains potash to encourage flower. The temperature fluctuating between hot and cold can confuse the rose bushes and cause them to think it is time to grow while still winter. Starting to grow too soon and then getting hit by a hard freeze will spell death for the rose bush that has started to grow early. The climbing rose bushes should be mounded as well; however, since some climbers bloom on the old wood or last year’s growth only, you would not want to prune them back.

Watering in winter

Winter is not the time to forget about the rose bushes needing water. Watering roses is an important part of roses’ winter care. Some winters are very dry, thus the available soil moisture is quickly depleted. On the warmer days during the winter, check the soil and water lightly as needed. You do not want to soak them; just give them a little drink and check the soil moisture again to see that it has improved. 

Winter is a time for our roses to rest a bit, but we cannot totally forget them or there will be much to replace in the spring. 

Autumn is a good time to transplant any rose bushes that are in the wrong position. You can also plant new ones, as they’ll have time to get established before winter arrives. These are available as container-grown plants, or as bare-root plants from November through to March

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