With the approach of fall weather, it’s time to think about making sure your roses are set for the remainder of the year and right into early spring. Some rose cultivars may still be blooming, some may need some maintenance pruning ahead of winter, and you can also plant or move roses this time of year. Here are some tips to make sure your roses are ready for the cold weather ahead and start off strong next spring.
September is the last month to feed roses but do so lightly to avoid encouraging tender new growth that won’t make it through the winter. You can feed the larger rose bushes a bit more than the smaller ones, and they will all continue to require water throughout the dry fall weather. Potted roses can be planted up to six weeks prior to the first frost (and even later with a very generous application of mulch). FYI, bare root roses are generally available only during the spring and should be planted just after the last frost.
If you’ve been keeping up on deadheading your roses, you should stop about a month before the first expected frost in your area. Here in zone 7ish Georgia, that date usually falls between October 30 and November 5. Fall is also a good time to clean up any debris and diseased material on and around your rose plants. Remember to never incorporate diseased plant material into your compost pile. If you have roses that set hips, decide whether you want hips, and stop deadheading toward the end of the blooming season. For single bloom hipsetters, just don’t deadhead at all (unless you have a cultivar whose dead flowers never, ever drop on their own, then you just carefully remove the dead petals from the developing hips).
Opinions vary on this, but in general grafted roses can be planted with the graft joint about one to two inches above the soil or at ground level in warmer regions, or below ground level in regions with long cold winters. The argument for planting the graft above soil level is that it allows better identification of shoots that originate below the graft joint so you can remove them. The argument for planting the graft below the soil level is that it protects the graft joint from damaging cold temperatures. Here in the south, mounded soil or mulch can be used to protect the graft joint during unusually cold weather. If you decide to plant some potted roses this fall, dig a large hole that allows for their roots to be spread out when the plant is set into the ground. After filling the hole, water well to allow the soil to settle in around the plant. Roses may be transplanted in either fall or spring. In any case, cut large canes back by up to two thirds, and smaller canes to within 6-12 inches from ground level before digging out of their present location. Remember that mulching and regular watering are important during a rose’s first year after being transplanted. There are some helpful resources below for both planting and transplanting roses during the fall.
With all the wet weather we’ve had this year, it’s important to continue applying fungicide to treat black spot and powdery mildew. While it’s best to start spraying regularly for these conditions in early spring, if you didn’t, spraying now probably won’t drastically improve the condition of your roses, but it will help control the spread. In addition to removing infected debris and mulch, spraying fungicide on the ground around the base of the rose as well may give them a cleaner start next spring.
If the aphids and thrips are still munching the roses, treat those appropriately. If you need guidance as to which solutions might work best for you, we can help you choose from our offerings here at the nursery.
Even though the roses may start looking like they’re ready to be pruned, hold off on any major pruning until next February. You can still do some light shaping and removal of dead or diseased branches but hold off on until early next spring for any major pruning. Ramblers that bloom on old wood are an exception to that rule, and up to a third of large canes can be removed, along with dead ones, during the fall. If there are canes crossing each other that can damage each other by rubbing, or canes that could cause damage by whipping around during windy weather, remove or shorten them. Ditto for long, large canes that could be broken by the wind. Before the ground freezes, be sure to add mulch or compost around the base of your rose plants.
Hopefully this helps, and if you have any questions that aren’t answered by the resources below, be sure to ask us. We’ll do our best to help you get the most enjoyment out of your roses.
This link provides a tutorial on rose selection and care specifically for Georgia: