The Q&A Archives: Winter care for Roses

Question: How to prune for winter? Does a rose in a pot require water over winter?

Answer: It is 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 12-18 inches. New stems will emerge from these canes.

In Vancouver, roses typically winter over without any special care. However, if ice storms threaten to arrive, 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. A rose in a pot will not require water over the winter months, providing the soil was moist at the beginning of the winter season. Dormant roses won't need water, but the soil should remain barely damp to keep the roots from completely drying out. If it's convenient, you can sink the pot into the ground over the winter, to further protect the roots from icy cold blasts and to allow natural rainfall to keep the soil moist. Best wishes with your roses!

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