The cooling evenings of the fall bring reminders that the summer growing season is coming to an end but it doesn’t mean an end to the splendor of your rose garden. In fact September and October can be your best months. The rose bushes will continue to blossom and produce wonderful blooms until the seasonal changes fully take hold, but they will need your help. You should continue to water your rose bushes deeply to help them grow and to give them the fuel they need to continue to produce flowers. During September you can keep applying water-soluble fertilizers but stop fertilizing at the end of October so that the rose bushes will go into their natural hibernating state.
Then as your rose bushes gradually begin to retreat you can start cleaning up your rose garden and begin planning for next spring. To clean up your roses for the winter simply remove all leaves from the ground and any that hang on past the first couple of cold nights. That will take away any gathering places for insects or disease spores that might wish to spend the winter on or near your roses. Some people apply a mixture of dormant oil and lime-sulfur in warm water to the soil around the rose bushes to kill insect eggs and fungus spores. On pruning it is not recommended that you prune your rose bushes in the fall. It is better to do that in the spring.
Many roses such as winter hardy roses like the Canadian Explorer series and rugosas need only slight winter protection. The same is true for hybrid perennials, miniatures, hybrid musks and bourbon roses. A couple of inches of compost or mulch packed around the base will protect the plants and their roots from frost damage. Other roses such as the plentiful classic hybrid tea roses will require more attention to help them get through the winter.
These more fragile roses will need lots of protection. This can be accomplished by purchasing or making a rose collar that surrounds the first foot or so of the plant. Screening is not really effective. These plants need protection from the cool winter winds as well as any frost that may occur. The collar should be placed around the bush and filled with compost or soil to keep it in place. Rose cones are not recommended for mature roses but if you do use one make sure to cut the top off so that the rose canes can protrude through the top.
It is important to wait until winter takes hold before helping your rose bushes to begin their yearly hibernation. If you do it too early you may just be creating a home for unwanted insects and other varmints who will gladly take you up on your kind offer of shelter. Your rose wintering program should take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That gives you plenty of time in the fall to enjoy the autumn splendor of your roses.