Preparing Knock Outs for Winter

north_ca_rose(9b)September 8, 2012

While visiting my parents in Lancaster County, PA (zone 6b) this summer, my husband and I pruned my mother's roses. She has a few polyanthas, climbing roses, and many Knock Outs. The roses responded well to the pruning as we removed lots of dead wood, and they now look so much better (I've seen pictures).

She has now asked me how she should prepare the Knock Outs for the winter. As I garden in Northern Ca, I have no experience with preparing roses for the winter. Does she cut them back before winter? If so, how much? Advice from northern gardeners would be very much appreciated.



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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

She ignores them.

Knock Outs in particular seem to be prone to winter canker problems if they are fussed with in the fall. I wouldn't cut them back then, and absolutely, under no circumstances would I put any sort of 'winter protection' over them. Then in the spring, prune them like the floribundas they are.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:58PM
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Karolina11(6b Central PA)

I am not far from them (state college, pa) and I have had knockouts for years. I put about three inches of mulch down but make sure not to touch the rose due to canker sores. The one time I pruned back in the fall, I had the most amount of winter damage so now I just prune dead wood in the spring. Besides that one time, I have never experienced huge cane loss in the the winter. I have canes over seven feey tall thay only lose tips. I also have had no need to water them through the winter since we get enough rain.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:33AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Right, in the East, don't prune in fall unless something is badly in the way and creating a nuisance. I too have had canker (probably botrytis cane blight) start in pruning cuts when I topped some plants in November. It ran down the canes a foot or two, not a catastrophe. I would top again if we have a heavy ice storm predicted, but that's once a decade.

Apparently her roses are hardy enough that basal winter protection is not needed. It would probably do more harm than good. You may have heard various tips for cultural practices that increase winter hardiness, but none of them are proven to work. I treat my roses the same in fall as I do in summer.

So, she should enjoy the roses while they last and then forget about them until spring. Her pruning time would be around April 1.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 12:28PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I agree, no fall pruning necessary and they don't need to be winter protected. I don't even pull the leaves anymore. Most of them disappear over winter and what's left usually gets pruned off in the spring anyway.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:18PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Hi Karolina11... I'm from Tyrone Pa about 25 miles from you over there in State College. I have doctors located in SC.

I do not protect knockouts here and I notice nobody else does either around here in our zone 5b-6A town...
I prune in the Spring. I do use about 2" - 3" of wood mulch but it's around the roses all the time.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Thanks so much for the advice. What a simple and easy approach. I'll let my mother know...

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:42PM
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