The Q&A Archives: pruning rose bushes for winter

Question: I live in Vancouver WA and I would like to know when should I prune my rose bushes for the winter season. Also, how tall should the rose bushes be when pruned for winter and should they have any special fertilizer or plant protector on them? Thank you for your help.

Answer: It's best for your roses to stop cutting flowers off and stop cutting stems back around the first of October. The last flowers on your shrub will develop rose hips, which helps signal your rose bush that it's time to slow and eventually stop growing in preparation for winter dormancy. Major pruning is typically done in March, just as the buds begin to swell on the canes. At that time you can prune away all but the strongest 3-5 canes, and shorten those to about 18". New stems will emerge from these. In Vancouver, roses typically winter over without any special care. However, if ice storms threaten to arrive from Portland, you'll want to protect the graft area of your roses by mounding up shredded leaves or compost over the graft. In my Seattle area garden, I place wire cylinders over my roses and fill the cylinders with straw, leaves or compost when ice storms threaten. Best wishes with your roses!

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