You’re smarter than you think if you’re considering pruning your roses. Left unpruned, your roses will definitely be less productive… and why grow roses if you aren’t going to enjoy an abundance of gorgeous flowers!
When to Prune Roses
To get started be steps ahead of your rose. Be prepared to take on pruning before new buds burst open with new shoots and foliage. And this will depend on where you live. If you live in a cold winter climate- you’ll probably want to prune in early spring. If you live in a milder climate, like I do, USDA Zone 9, where average minimum temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees…winter is the time. Basically, you want to prune before the buds burst open and the stems are visible. I set my pruning schedule for January in San Francisco and prune religiously every year at this time. You will want to do the same where you live and make it into a fun annual project.
I will say that if you do live in a place with mild winters, your roses won’t necessarily have bare naked stems in the winter when they are ready for pruning. They might even be blooming. Don’t stress! Carry on with your annual rose pruning. I prune back all kinds of rose, regardless of how leafy or floriferous the roses are when it comes time for their January haircut.
If the rose plants have leaves on them, I defoliate, which means that I strip off all of the leaves before I prune. The exception to the rule for me, are climbing roses, whereby the overall framework has already been established.
In this case, I still strip off all of the leaves by pruning leaves to ⅛” of where they attach to the stem. (This is the appropriate technique, and a safer way than hand stripping, which can potentially damage buds.)
However, I save myself time by shortening long laterals and shoots that I know I want to remove. Then… I strip the leaves. As for other types of roses, I defoliate first. This is important because I can see and survey the overall rose plant, making it easier to determine where to prune. Of equal to greater importance– defoliating the leaves helps you get rid of pests and disease that may be overwintering in the foliage.
How to Prune Roses?
A good clean pruning cut is very important. Make cuts at a 45 degree angle, about ¼ inch above swelling or a newly breaking bud.
In the case of bush roses and hybrid teas, you typically want to prune to an outer facing bud or node.
Rose Pruning Made Easy
- Prune out weak, small growth that won’t support the weight of a flower blossom.
- Remember The 3 D’s- DEAD, DISEASED, DYING. Remove dead, diseased and dying canes, or prune back to healthy wood and buds (depending on the situation.) How can you distinguish dead wood? It won’t have buds.
- Prune old leggy canes. These produce fewer and fewer flowers. How can you recognize them? They usually have discolored and cracked bark at the base. Prune them to the ground.
- Open up the center of the plant. Air circulation is key. Remove cluttered canes and prune out any canes that cross each other.
- How hard to prune? First determine what you’re pruning. For example, many rosarians recommend pruning modern shrub roses lower. Heavily pruned plants will produce stronger growth and develop good basal breaks (the strong canes from the base of the plant that produce the best flowers).