Should you prune roses in fall or spring in WNY? Hint: not fall!

rose from Albion garden
Rose in garden of Jeannette Riley and Alma Riley in Albion. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko.

Here’s a question I got from Diane, a reader:

“I would love it if you would settle a long-standing debate regarding roses in the Western New York area.  Cut them down in fall or spring?”

Lillian Stiegler, president of the Western New York Rose Society, responds, “You don’t prune your roses in the fall. The only exception is if it’s exceptionally tall and you’re afraid it will break in the snow.”

If you have climbing roses, you can cut away any dead wood, Stiegler said, but don’t prune any live branches.

You don’t want to prune roses now because you want the plant to go dormant in the fall, not spend energy trying to grow, she explained.

“When spring comes, you can cut it any way you want,” she said.

If you want, you can take steps in the fall to protect your rose plant. At the end of October or in November, when the plant has gone dormant, you can put soil over the crown to protect it. She and her husband never did that and their roses thrived, she noted, but some people find it helpful.

You can learn more about roses at meetings of the Western New York Rose Society, which are held at 7 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month at St. Stephen’s Church, 750 Wehrle Dr., Cheektowaga. (The meeting is downstairs.)

The next meeting is tomorrow, Sept. 21.

Another good way to learn is by helping the society members put the roses to bed for the winter in Delaware Park, Buffalo. For more information on volunteering, contact Steigler at

Get more tips from Steigler on caring for your roses.

2 Comments on “Should you prune roses in fall or spring in WNY? Hint: not fall!

  1. I contacted Lillian Stiegler, and she says rose trees require special care.

    If your rose tree is in the ground, you must dig a trough or ditch six inches deep. Bend the branches over and bury the branches in the trough.

    If your rose tree is in a pot, wait until there’s been a frost and the plant has gone dormant. Water it well and bring it into your garage.

    She said she hopes that works well for you!

  2. Have read your suggestions for wintering roses. Does this also refer to Rose trees, since mine are approx 5.5 feet high.
    Thank you

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