Now that we are getting a little chill in the air, I often get questions asking for advice on fall pruning. My simple response often catches people off guard. My advice is, don’t do it. Go take a walk, carve a pumpkin, chase a turkey or just take a nap.
Pruning is crucial to the overall health and longevity of your roses, but pruning in the fall can have some unintended side effects. First and foremost, pruning encourages growth in plants. New growth is much more susceptible to freeze damage and can adversely affect overall health of the plant. Second, I have found on my roses tend to get freeze damage from the tips of canes back toward the base of the plant. Leaving the canes intact gives the rose a die-back buffer in extreme conditions. Finally, many varieties produce gorgeous clusters of red and orange hips (the fertilized seed pod or fruit of the rose). This show is not to be missed. I look forward to rosa glauca’s November hips as much as I enjoy it’s blooms in June.
In most cases, your roses will sleep soundly over the winter without much intervention. One caveat to this guidance is plants that you are concerned about breakage from snow or wind. In this case, I would proscribe cutting your rose back a bit to prevent nature from doing the job for you. Tying canes to a trellis or other support is a great way to protect larger roses. For the most part, let your roses be and enjoy the season.