Time to Prune Roses …

'Livin' Easy' Rose

‘Livin’ Easy’ Rose

In this area (zone 8b) it is time to prune roses around Valentine’s Day. I did not prune last year so I’ve got some overgrown roses. All of my roses are “heirloom” or “antique” or “old garden” roses — I do not have grafted roses because they do not survive as well as the heirlooms and there are so many beautiful heirlooms now that it is easy to find a rose you like that will grow in your garden.

Before you start, identify the blooming pattern of the rose.

  • single blooming roses should NOT be pruned now (roses come from old growth). [Prune them after flowering, then you will have more growth added this year that will produce more blooms next year.]
  • repeat bloomers can be pruned (it will mean more roses than if not pruned).

You will need:

  • a sharp pruning tool
  • wipes with bleach — to clean pruning tool after each rose and avoid spreading disease between roses
  • rose gloves — leather and long enough to protect most of the area between your hand and elbow

Basic pruning steps (can be adapted for your purposes)

  1. Always use angled cuts (to keep water from pooling on the end and encouraging fungi or bacteria to infect the rose).
  2. Remove stems smaller than the size of an old fashioned wooden pencil. Exception to the rule — new roses with few (if any) stems larger than a pencil.
  3. Remove any dead or damage stem wood. (use a rose saw if the damaged wood has a diameter larger than about 3/4 to 1 inch).
  4. Remove branches that are growing towards the center of the plant (keeping the center somewhat open allows air flow and that helps control plant pathogenic fungi — like the one that causes blackspot of rose).
  5. Remove stems that have damage from rubbing together due to wind or animals. Cut about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the damage and you should see a healthy white color inside the stem. If you see brown in the cut stem, continue to cut down until you see the healthy white color.
  6. Remove damaged stems — we had the roof replaced last summer, so there was some damage from falling materials. Find those damaged stems and cut beneath the damage until healthy tissue is observed in the stem cross section (white color inside, healthy green outer layer on the outside of the stem).

The rose pictured below is Livin’ Easy — before and after pruning. This rose has ferocious thorns but it is disease resistant (not disease proof) and produces beautiful orange flowers with soft purple/pink accents (like a sunrise/sunset). Additionally, it flowers from March through November/December —depending on the coldness of winter–so it’s a long-term plant in my garden.

Because the heat is so intense here, the rose flowers will decrease in size and number over the course of summer, but it will continue to bloom.

Before Rose Pruning

Before Rose Pruning

After Rose Pruning

After Rose Pruning

Reasons for pruning roses:

  • new growth means more roses (remember—prune repeat bloomers about Feb. 14, and single bloomers after the roses fade)
  • increased air flow within the shrub keeps leaves drier and reduces plant disease (bacteria and fungi do NOT like dry plants!)
  • keeps roses (especially thorny roses)  from invading the space of other plants and humans
  • gardening fun when Spring is near!

2 thoughts on “Time to Prune Roses …

  1. Pingback: Rose Gardening

  2. Pingback: Gardens in Bloom! | The Art & Science of Gardening

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