Deadheading – Fall Maintenance for Hardy Roses

  • Post published:09/23/2013
  • Post comments:5 Comments
The Fairy

People often ask me when  do I cut back my hardy roses in the fall, do I protect them in the winter and what is the best way they can protect their own roses. I have simple answers.

First, I remind people that I only grow hardy roses, that are trouble free. Of course, sometimes I only find out that I have  bought non-hardy roses when they die, but that’s the way it goes. I do not cut back my roses in the fall. I do deadhead the roses to some extent, but often not as much as they could be deadheaded, because I run out of time or energy. I want to make the point that deadheading is not cutting back.  Deadheading is cutting off the dead blossom or spray of hips back to the first 5 leaf stem.  I always have some winterkill so it seems counter productive to cut back any more than I have to because I will just just have to cut back still more in the spring to remove the winterkilled branches.

The only protection I provide my roses is a shovelful of soil or compost (when I have it) over the  roots of the rose. I especially do this with roses that were planted that first spring. Or the second.  I have noticed that Carol, the head gardener of the Bridge of Flowers protects the roots of newly planted shrubs, and  the more tender plants this way every fall. Fortunately, she has a good supply of compost to use.

The last question is impossible to answer because I don’t know what kind of roses my questioner might have, and they can rarely identify them for me.  My non-gardening son, who bought a house with a row of roses, told his non-gardening daughter ,who  bought a house with a couple of rose bushes by the front steps, that she should just but them back in the spring as he did to good effect. I will take her aside and explain that he has a very different type of rose, and that her roses, which I think are Knock-outs, should only be cut back in the spring to remove winterkill, and trimmed to keep them from resting on the railing on the front steps. No one wants to grab a handful of thorns when tripping on a step.

What hardy roses to I grow? I grow rugosas like Mount Blanc and Pink Grootendorst. I grow Griffith Buck roses like Applejack and Quietness.  I grow Earth-Kind roses like Carefree Beauty and The Fairy.  You can see most of my roses on my Virtual Rose Viewing

Applejack in June


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Flaneur

    Again, thank you, Pat! I need to be reminded (prodded, really) to recall that I have every intention of someday planting EarthKind roses (the Ducher, medium bush). What makes this post so inspiring is your matter-of-factness and absence of scolding and pedantry: do as much as one can, deadhead and be realistic about nature and cutting back, use the compost you should have on hand, and take not a cavalier but a restrained (yet thoughtful) approach to roses. This more hands-off approach could easily be recommended to parents of kids these days – one would almost guess you’ve also had some experience in the child-rearing department. Ever approach a room filled with unruly, boisterous children and announce you’re there to do some deadheading?

  2. Lisa at Greenbow

    I don’t grow many roses at all but I love climbers. I don’t really know what to do with them. I just cut out dead wood and cut them back when they get unruly. So far so good.

  3. Rose

    Excellent advice, Pat. I have a climbing rose that is growing like crazy, and it’s so tempting to cut it back now. But I learned from a Master Gardener that fall is not a good time for this. So I coralled as many of the canes as possible and tied them to the trellis. Come spring, I need to do some serious thinning.

  4. Jason

    I’ve become more interested in roses in recent years, and have gotten more comfortable with the cycle of maintenance. I’m still a little intimidated by the spring pruning. Hardy roses with good disease resistance are always my first choice. I have Darlow’s Enigma, Cassie, and Sally Holmes. I also grow the wild Prairie Rose, and just purchased Strike It Rich.

  5. Pat

    Flaneur – I have found that some children’s activities need some pruning. Timing is all, in the garden and in the playroom.
    Lisa – We all need to pay attention to our own experience with our own plants.
    Rose – I have one rose that has gone totally wild this year, but also am resisting the urge to cut it back, though I expect there will be substantial winterkill this year.
    Jason, You are certainly beginning quite a lovely collection.

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