No one here at the Newton Falls Public Library grows roses, but we do have access to a lot of gardening books. We checked Lewis Hill’s Pruning Made Easy, Rayford Clayton Reddell’s The Rose Bible, and www.heirloomroses.com to find answers for our patron. As it turned out, the subject was more contentious than we expected.
Some gardeners like to prune in the fall so that the rosebushes don’t need to carry the extra wood through the winter. Cutting off spindly canes will prevent them from whipping against their neighbors, and shortening long canes will reduce the likelihood of them being loosened by the winter weather.
However, other gardeners believe that fall pruning makes it more difficult for the rose to survive the winter, because they’re losing food stored in their branches. Also, pruning also tends to jumpstart new growth, which is then killed by the cold. They prefer to prune in spring, clearing away dead and damaged wood from the winter and previous season.
Julie Washington, a writer for the Plain Dealer, interviewed a few of Northeastern Ohio’s rose experts in October 2013, and they were very firm: don’t prune until the spring in Ohio. They also recommend that gardeners clear dead leaves from around their roses, and perhaps treat them with a commercially available dormant oil or spray.