Stopping deadheading doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your Grateful Dead records. It means if you live in a climate that gets a real winter, it’s time to stop snipping off the old blooms to encourage new ones.
The last thing we want going into winter is tender young growth on the roses. Instead we want them to harden off their canes and go to sleep. You’ve likely noticed during the times you didn’t deadhead because your child’s soccer team made the playoffs the roses grew hips. Hips are the bright “berries” that form where the bloom was.
They are actually seed pods. They are also a rich source of vitamin C and sailors used to carry them on long voyages all those centuries ago to prevent scurvy. As recently as the middle of the last century they were grown in Victory Gardens during World War Two because it was hard to get citrus fruit. They are also a very valuable food source for birds during winter.
More importantly they play a key part in the rose’s normal seasonal growth pattern. A plant’s natural instinct is to reproduce; in the case of roses by seed via rose hips. When you deadhead and cut off the old bloom before the rose sets seed, the rose instinctively produces another bloom to try again. This is why deadheading encourages new blooms.
But with winter coming on it’s time to let the rose fulfill its reproductive job so it can shut down and go to sleep. That is why you need to stop deadheading.
So put away the rose pruners and let roses fulfill their destiny. And feel free to go to You Tube and dial up that “Touch of Gray” video!
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