The Q&A Archives: High Desert care of roses

Questioner's Location: Del Sur, CA
Date: November 8, 2005

Question: How soon I prune and prepare my rose bushes for hard winter times?

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 your gardening region, roses typically winter over without any special care. However, if ice storms threaten, you'll want to protect the graft area of your roses by mounding up shredded leaves or compost over the graft. In my high desert 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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