Are you ready to give your rose garden a little TLC? We can relate. This spring has been slow to start. If you have a rose garden, reviving your bushes from their dormant state in the spring and getting them ready for the upcoming growing season may differ slightly based on your geographical location and the variety of roses you have. In regions without frost, roses may remain evergreen, and preparing them for growth may involve minor pruning and fertilization to stimulate robust growth. However, gardeners in colder areas may need to unearth toppled roses covered in soil during the winter. This post sheds a little light on how to care for your roses in spring.

How To Care For Rose Gardens In Spring

Despite the diversity of approaches, most rose garden aficionados will undertake four primary activities to revive hybrid roses and ready them for summer blossoms. Although roses have a reputation for being challenging to cultivate, they will typically continue to flourish and bloom even if the gardener neglects them. However, taking appropriate steps during the early season minimizes difficulties that arise during the growing season.

Caring for roses in the spring is vital to ensure they grow healthy and produce beautiful blooms throughout the season. Here are some tips on how to care for roses in the spring:

Remove Winter Protections

Once spring arrives and the tulips and daffodils bloom, removing the covering material and any debris used to insulate the ground is time. Covering the rose bush with cages, dried leaves, or straw for gardeners in colder zones is typical. Removing your winter rose protections expose the graft union and allows for identifying growth that sprouts from below, which will not produce the desired blooms. 

Hybrid roses may be over-wintered in frigid zones by trimming and binding up the canes, digging a trench, and covering the entire bush with soil and mulch. When spring comes, the mulch should be raked away, and the roses should be dug up and bent upright, with soil tightly packed around the roots to support the bush, but the graft union should remain exposed.

For rambling and climbing roses, the winterizing process involves:

  • Laying the canes flat on the ground.
  • Pinning them down.
  • Covering them with soil and mulch.

As your roses grow, tie them up to prevent them from becoming top-heavy and falling over. Use garden twine or stakes to support the canes.


The first step in caring for spring roses is to prune them. Trimming and pruning help to remove dead or damaged wood and promote new growth. Prune back the canes to just above a healthy bud, making a clean cut at a 45-degree angle. Hybrid roses in cold-weather growing zones are typically protected during winter to prevent repeated freeze-thaw cycles from damaging the plant tissues. Thus, removing the protection should only be done when the danger of freezing nights has passed and warm days are consistent. Covering roses during winter is not to prevent freezing but to keep them frozen until it is safe to uncover them. If you didn’t trim your roses as part of the winter preparation, you could do it during early spring. Even if you did some pruning in the fall, it’s essential to inspect the bushes again and trim any dead canes that have died back. Pruning before the leaf buds open allows the rose bush to focus its energy on new growth.

Using sharp pruning shears, cut each cane in short sections until all the dead wood is removed and you reach the green, growing wood. The extent of pruning required will depend on the severity of the winter. Even if you have to cut back almost to the level of the root graft, the rose will likely recover.

In warm climates, spring pruning can begin as early as January. For areas with mild winters but still experiencing a prolonged period of cold weather, the type of rose being grown will dictate when to prune.

To start, it’s worth noting that in warm winter areas, such as Florida and Southern California, pruning may not be necessary for roses. However, removing any dead or diseased wood through thinning is still essential. In addition to thinning, another technique suitable for warm areas is to strip all leaves from the rose bushes during spring pruning.

Thinning tricks the plant into a short period of dormancy, allowing it to start anew for the season. After pruning, ensure all debris is raked and removed from the rose bed.

On the other hand, for cold winter areas, it’s best to avoid pruning until approximately April, or else the canes may suffer further winter damage. Once the bush’s leaf buds swell (usually around the same time that forsythia bushes bloom), it is safe to prune your roses.

Feed: Water, Fertilize, and Mulch

Like most plants, roses benefit from healthy feeding in the spring once they start actively growing. You can provide them with their first dose of fertilizer when you prune them. Many high-quality rose foods are available, but a general all-purpose fertilizer will also do the job. Slow-release fertilizers will need to be applied less often than water-soluble fertilizers. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your roses. Mulching will help to retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.

Additionally, some rose gardeners like giving their plants a handful (approximately 1/4 cup) of Epsom salts when fertilizing them. While it has not been scientifically proven that the extra dose of magnesium benefits plants, many experienced gardeners swear by it.

If you prefer to create your own rose food, you can combine the following ingredients:

– 1 cup of cottonseed meal

– 1 cup of bone meal or superphosphate

– 1/2 cup of blood meal

– 1/4 cup of Epsom salts

Sprinkle the mixture around the base of the rose bush at the drip line, gently work it into the soil, and then water it thoroughly.

Spray for Pests and Diseases

Roses are often prone to fungal diseases, making it challenging to prevent all of them, even with disease-resistant varieties suited to the area. As a preventative measure, spring spraying is advisable, even for organically grown roses. Lime sulfur is a practical choice for the initial spray as it can eliminate any fungus spores that may have overwintered, such as black spots. Additionally, horticultural oil is a great solution to smother insect eggs and larvae.

By tackling spring rose care practices such as pruning, fertilizing, and spraying, you can ensure your roses are healthy and thriving for the season. Regularly watering your roses and being vigilant for any signs of issues is also essential. By investing time and effort in your roses during the spring, you will reap the benefits of healthy and beautiful blooms throughout the growing season.

Happy growing!