Should you cut back roses in autumn?

Photo courtesy Bonnie Vitale

After reading a previous article about roses, a reader asked a follow-up question:

“Hello! I was always told to cut back rose bushes in the fall. That’s wrong?”

Here is the response from Bonnie Vitale, president of the Western New York Rose Society:

Save the hard pruning for spring.

In the fall, cut off any broken stems.

Some gardeners like to cut their rose bushes down to a height of 18-24 inches in the fall to prevent wind and snow damage. They also remove the leaves because the weight of snow on the leaves can cause the stems to break.

If you want to do any cutting of your roses in autumn, wait until after the first hard frost (temperature below 25 degrees Fahrenheit overnight). If you cut back before the first hard frost, it may send a signal to the roses to grow when they should be going dormant.

After the first hard frost, mound six to eight inches of mulch around the base of each rose plant. The mulch protects the stems from the wind and snow. It’s okay for the mulch to touch the stem. 

In the spring we do a hard pruning. Prune each plant down to green stem, leaving only 3-5 stems about the width of a pencil or larger. Sometimes you will need to cut down pretty far.

Spread about two inches of mulch around your roses, leaving about two inches of space around the base of the plant. 

20 Comments on “Should you cut back roses in autumn?

  1. What month is the best time to trim back rosebushes in northern California? Sacramento, Nevada city area.

  2. Hi Barbara, it’s up to the gardeners, and they have their own technique so if you want to read more about gardeners so you can visit the “Palmropes” website, they are doing well in gardening and plants as well so it will helpful to you.

  3. I have a miniature rose bush in a pot. It buds but they fall off before they bloom. What am I doing wrong

  4. Hi Terrall, we don’t have palm trees in Western New York. This sounds like a question you should direct to the extension service in your state. I hope that helps.

  5. Hi, I am fighting palm tree seedings too close to my Rose’s. Should I hard trim so I can kill the palms before they choke my Rose’s out,?

  6. Hi, I have 6 old rose bushes that need pruned because there was a fan palm yree cut down, they let the seeds go everywhere and they are growing too close to the crown and starting to choke out the Rose’s.
    My question is should I go ahead and hard prune so I can kill off the palm trees? Or any suggestions?

  7. Yes, after the ground freezes. This is also better for the soil because if you mulch too soon it lengthens the time it takes the soil to freeze.

  8. If you wait until after the ground freezes to mulch the critters will already have found their homes for the winter. This goes for all fall/winter mulching of plants, not just roses.

  9. I understand about mulch around roses for the winter but there are some mice? moles? voles? that love to winter there and they ate the roots of several gorgeous roses. Any suggestions? Thank you!

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