Making sure your roses are pretty in 2013


Do you have a few roses around your landscape? This is a good time to do some late fall maintenance to keep them looking lovely for next season.

Basic chores

You don't need to do a whole lot of pruning right now. Keep the canes long because it will keep the plant alive for next year. The ends might die off, but you can prune that part off in the spring. The healthy wood closer to the crown of the plant is what you want to protect. That will be the most actively growing part of the plant next spring.

Many small landscape roses shrubs are pretty tough and can take the winter brutality. Keep watering them before the ground freezes and add an extra three inches of mulch around their feet.

Your hybrid tea roses are a bit more fragile. I learned many years ago from our friends at the Toledo Rose Society, to put a fresh bag of composted manure around the base of each of your large roses. This will keep their grafted base protected from winter freezing and thawing and also give them a gourmet meal first thing in the spring, right when they need it.

Climbers are the most vulnerable in the winter. Since they are hanging on a wall or trellis, they are fair game for the drying winter wind. If there is an easy way to take the trellis out of the ground or off the wall and gently lay the entire plant on the ground, then do that. If that is impossible, then cut the canes back to 24 to 36 inches if possible and put a couple bags of composted manure and mulch around the base of the plant. If it is in a really windy spot, cover it with burlap through the winter months.

Bottoms Up

If you want to move a shrub rose, or take one out of the ground to live in a pot for a while, this is a good time to do it. Water around the shrub a day or two before you plan on digging around it. This will help loosen the soil, making it easier to dig and also giving the roots some moisture. Cut back the long canes on the shrub to about 24 to 36 inches. This will help the plant conserve energy through the winter because it won't have to work that hard to take care of a long cane. It will also put less stress on its root system and prevent winter damage from wind.

If it will be tough for you to get under the shrub, gently tie the canes with twine. It is almost like pulling long hair back into a ponytail. It keeps it in good shape and you are able to get down to business without the loose ends getting in the way.

When you dig it up, start with a sharp spade. Dig around the root ball, staying about a foot away from the center of the plant. The sharp spade will cut through the smaller roots that are farther than a foot from the crown of the plant. As you pull the root ball out of the hole you have created, keep as much of the soil intact. If you don't plan on putting it in a container right now, you can keep it alive by wrapping it in a tarp or thick burlap.

If you put it in a pot, make sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom. Drop the rootball into a pot or hole in the ground. It should sit a couple inches below the top of the pot and fill around it with soil. Give it a thorough watering. You can pull the twine off if it is in a protected area. If not, keep the twine on. Add some burlap around the plant before winter to protect the canes from wind.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at