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How to Trim Rose Bushes Before Winter

pink rose image by maureen dainty from

Roses require pruning in the fall in preparation for winter, particularly in colder climates. The bulk of rose pruning for shape and size should be conducted in the spring, according to Ohio State University Extension. Fall pruning ensures the rose plant makes it through the winter healthy and in the best condition possible. Trim rose bushes in the early to mid-fall after blooming and at least six weeks before the first hard frost.

Deadhead rose shrubs by removing the spent rose flowers, cutting back each individual stem on the bias with clean, sharp secateurs 1/4 inch above an outward facing leaf axil with five full leaves attached. This prevents the plant from expending energy for rosehip development and removes dead tissue that can cause sanitation problems over the winter months, even in warm climates.

Remove all noticeably damaged, diseased, dead or dying canes or foliage or any plant tissue that appear compromised. Cut back any canes that are crossing and abrading one another. Make cuts on the bias and cut back to a point of healthy, white woody tissue removing all cane with brown or discolored interiors.

Cut roses growing in cold and windy climates down to roughly 30 inches tall before tying the canes together to prevent them from breaking. Lower pruning heights may be needed if using preformed rose cones or other winter shelter mechanisms for roses. Cut the canes so that they just fit under the protections without being forced into a stressed or flexed position.

Mulch the roses.


Remove every bit of dropped foliage, cane cuttings and rose petals and any other plant litter from beneath the rose in the fall so that you have a clean soil surface. This material is a breeding ground for insects, bacteria and fungal spores that can damage the plants.

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