Cutting Back:  When and Why?


It is important to cut back your roses before the winter weather starts.  Generally in central North Carolina we cut back in early December.  We cut back like a hedge to "waist height" before the snow, ice, and cold winter winds begin.  There are a couple reasons why we find this to be very important for your roses.

  1. Winter Weather - If your rose bushes are 6 or 7 feet tall when the ice and snow hit, it is very likely that all that weight up high on the plant will topple it over and pull the roots right out of the ground.  Even if you don't get any ice or snow with the cold and dry winter air blowing across those high canes you will probably lose them anyway.  It is advised to cut them off before any damage occurs.
  2. Bed Time - As the winter weather approaches your bushes need to go dormant.  Roses are semi-deciduous and will naturally lose some leaves in the fall.  They will still be trying to go about their business of growing and blooming though.  When you cut your bushes back to "waist height" you will remove much of the top foliage and this, combined with the cold nights, will help to push your roses into dormancy.  A long winters nap is exactly what they need so that they can wake up in the spring and beautify your world with dozens and dozens of roses.

Take a look at the picture below.  This is how we cut back our roses.  Please note that we understand that "waist high" is not a great unit of measure because not everyone's waist is the same height.  We find it to be a good way to underscore the fact that the cut back height does not have to be exact.  Anywhere between 3 and 4 1/2 feet should be just fine.