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We have had temperatures down in the low 20’s to burn rose leaves back and to tell them that winter is approaching and they should go dormant. You can now safely cut them back, generally we are a few weeks later in the season but this year we have had significantly colder weather and it seems winter is approaching a little early.
Before you cut your roses back you need to know what type you have. Hybrid teas are the ones that have long stems with flowers forming singly while floribundas only get about 2 feet tall and have flowers in clusters of 3 or 4 or up to 100 or more. Grandifloras are a cross between hybrid teas and floribundas and grow tall like hybrid teas but bare flowers in clusters. Shrub roses such as the knock out series and the English roses grow into large shrubs with flowers generally in groups of 2 or 3. Climbers or ramblers grow long canes up to 12 feet and need staking or tying up to keep them from lying over or breaking off. Then there are the miniatures and polyanthus which are generally shorter than 2 feet when fully grown and bare flowers in clusters.
Now that I have thoroughly confused you I may as well tell you how to cut your roses back. Hybrid teas and grandifloras should be cut back to around 8 inches or so from the ground, they actually need this to grow more canes from the bud union next spring. Floribundas, miniatures, polyanthus, and shrub roses should be cut back by 1/3rd. Ramblers and climbers should only be cut back if they are overgrown or they have dead ends. If any of your roses bloomed only in the spring last year remember that anything you cut off this fall will mean fewer flowers next year.
Once you have decided what type of roses you have and the hair cut has taken place then you are ready to actually put them to bed. If your roses are grafted they will usually need about 8 inches or so of mulch or soil piled over the bud union. This is the round area at the soil surface where the canes all come from. This area must be protected. If it freezes out your rose will come back from the rootstock which will only bloom once in the spring and probably will have dark red flowers. Roses that are not grafted such as most of the knockouts generally don’t need covering. If killed to the ground they will grow back from the root system. With knockouts this probably won’t happen in Kentucky since they are hardy to 20 below zero!
One thing to remember is to clean all rose leaves out of the bed before you cover them. These leaves will over winter insects and diseases. Also, give your roses one last spray over the canes with a fungicide and insecticide before covering. If you have any questions about caring for roses call me at 859-336-7741. Happy gardening!