Whether rose pruning is best done in the fall or spring is a matter of preference. I usually leave it for spring, for some reason I feel the plants will fare better over the winter if they keep the growth from the previous year. If you do choose to prune before winter, do so, keeping in mind that you’ll have to go back to them in spring and clean out any canes that had suffered winter damage.
For the roses which need regular pruning, which do not include most of the once blooming roses and the climbers, keep three or four canes, that are sturdy enough but steel green and not woody, and trim them down to one third of their length. Leave enough room between the canes so that there is good air movement and the canes don’t rub against each other.
Trim once blooming roses and climbers only to keep them looking healthy and help their growth habit. Remember that these roses bloom on old wood and by pruning them you will remove all the flower buds for the following year.
If you want to try your hand at rose propagation, fall is a good time to start. Trim a healthy green cane, about the thickness of a pencil, cut it diagonally to a length of five to six inches, and make sure it has a stem with five leaves. Bruise or slit one end, dip it in growth hormone (which can be found at most plant nurseries) and plant it firmly into the ground, making sure it does not move. Place a glass jar on top of it, in such a way that the leaves don’t touch the glass, to prevent mold, and don’t disturb it until spring. Don’t judge the success by the way the cane looks, some keep their leaves green forever but don’t develop any roots, and others look past help while they are doing all their work underneath the soil. Come spring, lift the jar and tug gently at the stem. If it offers resistance, that’s a good sign that its roots have begun developing. Be patient with the young rose, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful own root rose.
If you have an established rose that needs winter protection, trim it in the fall and cover it with a cone, or mound dirt as high up as you can around it, being particularly careful to bury the graft bud, if the rose is grafted, otherwise, come spring you’ll end up with Dr. Huey. I have quite a few myself, not that they are not lovely.
If you have tree roses, all of which need winter protection, you have to dig them up and bury them sideways in a trench until spring, when you have to dig them up again and replant them vertically. Personally, I find that to be way too much work.