Do you prune roses in the Fall?

gardenbug(8b)October 19, 2012

Zone 8b. British Columbia

I have both climbing roses and tea roses. I would like to know if I should prune these now or wait until spring? We have fairly mild winters here. Some of the canes on the tea rose are quite long, with finished blooms and the leaves have Powdery Mildew and some Black Spot on them. Should I remove the infected leaves. Thanks.

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My newbie's guess is that you should in an ideal world, but it might not matter much either way.

I did not prune, but "my" deer just did yesterday, leaves, buds and all.:)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:33PM
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Meant to say that my newbie's guess is you should PICK OFF THE DISEASED LEAVES in an ideal world on the theory that the fungi don't overwinter near your rose. I don't know whether it is too late to prune in your zone. I am in Z6b, and I understand that here we are supposed to prune in the spring.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:39PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I don't prune in the fall. After we get a hard frost (usually November) I do cut back tall canes that may blow around in the winter winds. I also do spray once or twice during the dormant season to try to prevent any outbreaks if the weather gets warm. You can also use a dormant spray to kill spores.

Do you get hard frosts and do your roses get dormant? If so, that's why you can cut back long canes, but not do a full prune until February/March.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I'm way, way south of you, in Houston, and the Houston Rose Society says to prune in February. Valentine's day, they say, to make it easy to remember. If you prune now, your roses will start putting on new growth, and if you have a freeze this winter, those new, tender canes will be damaged or killed. I don't know if you get freezes in your winter or not, but if you do, it would be best to wait until early spring.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 9:05AM
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I do light prune my roses in the fall because I'm still getting flushes and will for at least another month. And my first frost doesn't usually occur until later December.

You can always remove dead/diseased leaves, and finished blooms. My gut for your climate says that light pruning is fine and heavy pruning should wait until spring.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 9:05AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

The latest word on black spot, at least, is that once the spotted leaves are off the plant they are no longer transmitters of disease. This must be very annoying to rose growers who have dutifully picked off every diseased leaf from the bush and ground. It certainly works for me. I don't believe mildew is transmitted from rose to rose since it's a result of weather conditions, but don't quote me on that one.

I prune the roses that need it (I have a lot of antique roses that don't) in late January or early February but I live in southern California so that won't help you. I lived in your beautiful province for five years, part of the time on Vancouver Island, and have cherished memories of that time.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 11:59AM
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seil zone 6b MI

Do you mean "tea" or "hybrid tea" roses? There is a difference. And they have very different pruning needs. In general, if they are nice bushy plants with fuller, old rose looking blooms they are probably "tea" roses. If they are more upright and less bushy in growth and the blooms look like the ones you buy at florist shops they are probably "hybrid teas". I don't know a great deal about the tea roses because they are winter tender and don't grow here but I believe that they don't particularly like to be pruned much at all. They need to build up a twiggy base to grow and bloom well. I'm sure someone with more knowledge about them will correct me if I'm wrong about that. Hybrid teas, on the other hand, thrive on pruning. Pruning them will always stimulate new growth and bloom.

I don't prune until spring. I want as much cane length as I can get to hold nutrients over the winter for the rose to use when it breaks dormancy. And here that could be two or three times in the spring before it sticks, lol. So I want that extra stored energy. You can shorten anything that is really huge to a manageable height but don't cut it down low. I do stake and tie my taller roses for the winter so they won't whip in the winds. No matter how mild or severe your winters are you will still lose some cane length. If you cut them way back now by spring you'll only have stubs to work with. My worst rose season ever was the year I dutifully cut my roses down to 18 inches in the fall as I was told by someone "knowledgeable" in my society. The next spring I had roses about 2 or 3 inches tall after pruning and some of them never recovered right from it. Some lovely big bushes suddenly became one cane wonders. In the spring the rose itself will generally tell you how far it needs to be pruned to by the new growth it starts to put out. Observe and listen to your roses and they'll tell you how they like to grow and be pruned.

I don't pick off leaves either. Spotted or not it doesn't make any difference. In more recent articles it's been noted that once the leaves are dead any spores on them will die also so picking them up or off the plant does not prevent further outbreaks. Fungal spores are just out there everywhere, in the soil and air, and if the conditions are right they grow no matter what you do unless you want to spray regularly. I leave the leaves on the bushes. They provide some wind and sun protection (yes, cane sunburn can happen in the winter too) for a time. Usually by spring most of them have come off on their own with out my having to get stabbed pulling them off. What's left is usually in the zones that end up getting pruned off so I don't have to pull them. Protects and saves time and energy, you can't beat that!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 12:31PM
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Seil is right - very important to know if you mean "tea" roses (which are old, bloom almost all year if you let them, and form very large bushes), or "hybrid tea" roses (which are modern, stiff upright bushes with large flowers). Tea roses DO NOT like to be pruned at all, except to control their size if you must. Hybrid teas, here in zone 9, usually get pruned in January, when they are as "dormant" as they are going to get.

Climbing roses, of course, can be of many different kinds. If you are talking about "large flowered climbers", which are really climbing hybrid teas, and modern, we prune them in Jan here, but not hard - just to shape, take off dead growth, and keep them under control!

If you do not know what kind of climbing roses you have (there are lots of other kinds) please post a picture, and I am sure we can figure it out.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 12:41PM
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Honestly I've done both and haven't seen much difference the following summer. I live in Seattle which is similar to your climate. When I prune in the fall, I cut the canes back to about 12 inches and clean off all the leaves. Then I put grass clippings around the base of each bush. The following spring/summer my bushes get about 3-4 feet tall and fairly bushy. If I don't prune in the fall the bushes seem to be taller and more gangly the following spring/summer. I've read rule of thumb is prune in the Spring. Either way, I've never lost a rose to cold winters. I just like that the roses look clean and tidy when I prune them in the fall.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:42PM
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My climbing rose is called polka. It is suppose to be disease resistant but it does have some blackspot on the leaves. I just wanted to re-tie the canes to make them more horizontal, and prune off a couple of dead branches. There are some rose buds still on the canes but they are balling up and will never open now because it's getting too cold. Should I remove any of those roses or leave them?

The other is either a either a hybrid or a tea rose. I'm sorry but I don't know which it is. Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 9:06PM
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Brittie - La Porte, TX 9a

I have both antique roses and modern and I prune pretty much anytime they look like they need it (the antiques rarely need it though unless there's a weird stray branch that I don't like). The hybrid teas tend turn into eight foot monsters if I don't wack them back to 4ft once or twice during the growing season. I've never cut any of my roses down below two feet, even in spring, but I'm in a warmer zone and don't get much die back.

Cadence (that's my daughter's name by the way), I don't see any reason why you can't cut back the dead branches and I would leave the buds. Don't think they'll hurt anything.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 10:25AM
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seil zone 6b MI

You can cut out dead wood anytime of year and it doesn't matter. And go ahead and tie up your climber the way you want it as well. You want to get it positioned now for next spring's bloom and it will help keep it secure through winter. Just leave the buds and blooms now. Cutting them will only encourage new growth that won't have any chance of surviving winter anyway. Come spring post some pictures of them and we'll help you ID them!

Oh, Brittie, I wish mine were 8 foot monsters, lol! No chance of that with my winters though.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 4:11PM
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lagomorphmom(z10Coastal and z8Mtn CA)

No, NO and NOOOOO!!!!

Basically, what seil said is the best advice. You and I don't get cold enough for drastic measures. Your mileage may vary. We (hopefully) get one to two 3-4' dumps, the rest is (hopefully) several I have an 8b place as well but in the SoCalif Mtns and I would add also to prune them in spring when the forsythia bloom, do NOT prune in Jan or Feb. This will only encourage new growth, especially if your temps rise into the 40s or more in the daytime. Some roses, often labeled 'protect from frost' or similar are especially prone to damage if they leaf out from pruning and you get a hard frost to the point that the whole cane may actually die.

This year we had an early spring and the roses were leafing out all over so I cut them back *as needed* anyway (see above) figuring that we wouldn't get *that* hard a frost and they were putting too much energy into canes and foliage that I would be trimming back anyway.

Good question! The hardware store in the same town has some HT's that look woodier and shorter every year because I can't convince them not to cut them down to 6-12" every winter.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:52PM
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I'll just tie them up as horizontally as I can get them and wait til' the forsythia's bloom in spring before I do anything to them.

As always, I appreciate everyone's help.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:51PM
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lagomorphmom(z10Coastal and z8Mtn CA)


Did we get excited? ;-)

It's the Heloise principle!!! I think it goes to show that when one finds a solution to what one has been doing that didn't work out well, one can't wait to share and save someone the grief.

Good luck this winter,

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:33PM
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lol. Thanks for saving me from grief Kerin!!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:37PM
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