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Roses are plants, too!

When Are My Roses Dormant Enough For Some Light Trimming?

I’ve had one freeze already. One more and I can lightly trim these long canes back so they don’t get broken by winter winds.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
I’ve had one freeze already. One more and I can lightly trim these long canes back so they don’t get broken by winter winds.
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses


I’ve mentioned several times in the past that you shouldn’t trim your roses in the fall.  Reason being you run the risk of a late trimming spurring tender new growth that will not be hardened off when the first freeze comes.

If you are like me, however, by this time of year you likely have long out of control canes that are grabbing you when you pass by not to mention the risk of them being broken or ripped off in a winter windstorm.  It would be awfully nice to be able to trim them a little bit for no other reason to be able to get into the garden and get a head start on those winter chores.  You can do some light trimming in early winter and once again Nature itself is the key timing. 

You can start some light trimming on your roses after you’ve had a couple of good freezes.

By freeze I mean temperatures below thirty for at least a couple of nights.  They don’t have to be consecutive.  While you will notice the roses haven’t totally stopped, by and large any light trimming you do will not spur major new growth.  I’ve even had blooms on my roses after a freeze but no new growth when I’ve done a light trim.

Notice I’ve used the word “light” when it comes to describing the kind of trimming you can do this time of year.  NEVER prune at this time.  I live where we can get a warm spell and the last thing I want is for the roses to suddenly wake up and start growing like crazy because I’ve pruned them.

But a light trim is fine.  You can take long canes down by up to half.  You can also cut out dead wood to get a head start on the later season pruning.  Additionally remove spindly, twiggy growth; getting a further head start on later season pruning.

But DO NOT take out old canes, cut mature canes hard or anything severe at this time of year.  That is for later when the Forsythia blooms.

So yes, you can do a light trim this time of year but wait until Nature tells you it’s okay to start.

Happy Roseing



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