True Confessions – I Am A Stripper

Yes, its true. Hard to believe maybe, but true. Come winter. Come that dormant chilling winter air, I must strip all my roses bushes of their leaves in anticipation of spring….. Some call me crazy. Some ask why. To me, it’s just good rose culture.

It’s also preventive medicine. Mold spores that cause blackspot and other rose maladies will over winter in your garden awaiting spring. If not taken care of, they will surprise you with a full show of trouble when the weather breaks. I use two methods to try and rid myself of this problem while my roses are dormant.

  • Stripping the Canes: I strip every leaf off of every cane of every rose I have. With over 125 roses under cultivation, this task is not accomplished in a day. I strip about 10 shrubs a day until finished. I gather all the stripped leaves and any fallen leaves from around the roses and remove them completely from the garden. 

  • Apply Dormant Spray: Once all leaves are stripped, I apply a dormant spray such as lime sulfur to my leafless shrubs. I also spray the ground all around each rose. This will kill any mold spores on contact. As with any dormant sprays, only use them while your roses are dormant. Using during the growing season, can cause the death of your plant.  (RIP, ‘Just Joey’)

Some say overkill. Perhaps. But, I can tell you I have far less disease problems in spring and summer by completing these two tasks in winter. I would say 75% less. I think its well worth it for blooms like this:

Counting down the days till spring pruning!


About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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28 Responses to True Confessions – I Am A Stripper

  1. Pingback: True Confessions – I Am A Stripper | Natural Soil Nutrients |

  2. Pingback: True Confessions – I Am A Stripper | Garden Roses |

  3. Chris, I try to be open-minded, so if you must strip, strip you must, by all means continue. When such a confession yields such beauty, how can you not. Just don’t tell the garden club, you know how they like to gossip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rainyleaf says:

    Thanks for this great tip, as scandalous as it is!


  5. This seems like a good idea. I may go over and clean up the roses in the gardens I work in.In one garden I have 6 grossly overgrown Knock outs the owner wants pruned. Have you any suggestions how low I should prune?


  6. Chris, I’m in danger of being labeled a prude, but I don’t strip in my rose garden (too much work for an old man!) and haven’t noticed a rampant disease problem. Maybe just the difference in our two climates and effects on the roses.


  7. Chris, I am going to give this advice a try this winter season and I’ll keep you informed. I did have some blackspot this past season and would like to get rid of it. Sounds like a bit of pre-treatment might be just the right answer.


  8. elenawill says:

    Great headline!!! I wait until pruning time and general clean up to deal with the few leaves and leaflets that remain. I have heard Dr. Gary Ritchie say that if you strip the stipule from the cane you could cause a wound that might allow disease organisms into the cane. Many seem to fall off naturally with time.


  9. Holleygarden says:

    haha – Made me look! Be careful stripping around those thorns!


  10. roseman7stan says:

    Hi Chris. I used to strip my roses down after they had gotten bitten hard by Jack Frost. But I so not do so anymore. I do prune my tall rosebushes down to half their height for the winter and thus alot of foliage goes with that pruning. I also spray my rosebushes down well with Banner Maxx or Honor Guard at the same time as I prune them down. That has done well at taking care of any carry over disease for me. Come Spring I do my hard pruning and use a small rake or the shop vac to clean up around the rosebushes. Once all cleaned up, I spray the canes and any leaf buds with the fungicide again. Seems to work and with my arthritis getting worse and worse it saves me some on the overall chores. Good article here though and I know this method works very well too.



  11. Pingback: True Confessions – I Am A Stripper | Anything Goes in the Garden |

  12. Chris,
    This is fabulous advice since I too garden in a hot and humid climate. Where do you get your lime sulfur? My nursery doesn’t carry it. Or, do you mix your own recipe? Thanks so much for your post. I guess I need to take up ‘stripping’ lol.


  13. Hello My Friend

    I have nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blog Award – Congratulations! Please visit here: to find out the rules for accepting the award.

    BTW – too darn funny – but really good advice!


  14. bhanu says:

    Oh I remember doing that (being a stripper I guess haha) not as good as you but I did the job well – Mum was happy 🙂 her garden looked great come spring & I loved it even though I ended up with a lot of scars on my hands & arms 😦 , not pretty. Anyway it’s a long time since I touched a single rose bush. A long time since I’ve been back home!
    Your post brought back a food of memories …


  15. Christina says:

    Hi Chris, wow your are stripping 125 roses all by yourself? That is a lot of work, you really must love your roses :-)!
    I garden in Southern California and have stripped my roses each year in the winter time directly before the pruning as well. I didn’t do dormant spray, since I am not spraying in general. Because I am planting more and more roses each year and some of the roses have gotten fairly tall the task of stripping has become very times consuming and sometimes feels truly overwhelming, so this year I will experiment and NOT strip some of my roses and see what happens. I want to find out if stripping is really necessary in my climate or if it is simply work that doesn’t need to be done. I need to see with my own eyes :-)!


  16. Gardengirl says:

    Thanks so much for the great tip! I will definitely try this…if my roses ever go dormant.


  17. So glad you popped by so that I could find your blog! I definitely need some tips! Winter in South Africa is around the corner and I think I will try just that!


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