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How to Care for Rose Bushes in the Fall

Without proper care for rose bushes in the fall, especially in colder climates, the roses may not survive. There are a series of steps to prepare roses for winter, depending on the location you are in. Some steps vary according to your particular climate. For example, tying off the canes helps to protect them from breakage due to freezing, especially if there is a heavy layer of ice and snow on them. If you are in a warmer location, the canes may not have to be tied off.

Water the rose bushes with an inch of water every week until the ground freezes. Fertilize only until six weeks prior to the first frost. If you are new to a location that gets frost, you can find out the average time of the first frost by asking neighbors or reading the "Farmer's Almanac." If you continue to feed them, you will risk damage to the plant because the new growth will not have time to harden off before the first frost.

Layer 1 foot of heavy mulch over the base of the rose bushes after the first two hard freezes. Piling the mulch a foot up the plant ensures that the graft union is covered and protected. If the graft union is left exposed, the plant will freeze and die.

Cut the canes to 4 - foot lengths. Tie the canes together; this prevents breakage under the weight of the snow and ice. Tie the canes loosely enough so there is no pressure on them, yet tightly enough so they cannot easily move with the additional snow and ice on them. Use rope that will not disintegrate over the winter, such as twine or hemp rope.

Remove the ties and the mulch mound in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.


If you live in a milder climate where snow and ice are not common, you should still mulch to protect the graft union, but tying off the canes is not necessary. The canes should still be cut to 4-foot lengths. You may also water the rose bushes once per month throughout the winter, but do not fertilize during the dormant season. Regardless of the weather in your location, prune the rose bushes when the buds start to swell in the spring. Do not prune in the fall or before the last frost of the season.

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