This past winter wreaked havoc on my 45 rose bushes – mostly hybrid teas, some floribundas, and some Old English climbers. Except for the climbers, I had to prune the others severely. At that time, I did not put anything on the cuts as some suggest (like white glue). Is it too late to put something on them, even though that part of the bush is dead and brown? For the most part, the roses looked pretty good this summer, although I would have liked them to have thicker, stronger canes. What is the best fertilizer I can use now to help them through the upcoming winter? Is there still hope that these roses will do better next year?
It was a hard time for many plants that have enjoyed several mild Michigan winters. At this point there is no reason to put anything on the prune cuts. The plant has already healed over. Trim out excess dead wood to just above the green portion. Leaving it over winter could cause bacteria to hibernate. Continue to deadhead and use preventative sprays against pests and diseases. The best fertilizer I have found is fish emulsion. Generally Labor Day is the cut off for fertilizing, as it overstimulates the plant to produce new growth before cold temperatures start. It’s better to water and mulch well with compost prior to bedding them down for winter. Take extra precautions against a hard winter by using rose cones (which can be unsightly and tricky to use properly), or surrounding your hybrid teas and floribundas with wire cages filled with leaves. The latter prevents winter desiccation and sunburn, as well as preventing animals from gnawing the canes.
As far as your climbing roses go, when the temperatures drop below zero, take your climber canes off their supports and secure them to the ground with crossed stakes. You can cover them with mounded soil or wrap them in burlap and leaves for protection. With a little extra care in winter preparation, your roses should be stunning once again.