Spring…it’s stopped and started a few times here in Dallas. But that’s pretty normal. If roses have enticed you into keeping them in your garden (they’re are crafty creatures), then it’s time to get to pruning them before it’s too late.
Traditionally, Valentine’s day is our target for getting the roses pruned. It can be earlier if things warm up in January, as it often does. I typically prune my roses about the third week of January each year, but it just depends on exactly where you live and your particular micro-climate. If you’re further north in the Metroplex, then you can usually get away with pruning after Valentine’s Day.
This year my pruning schedule was derailed by a pesky trip to Peru. I returned yesterday to find my roses fully budded out. It’s a horticultural nightmare! Ok, not really, but if your roses look like this, you’d better get those pruners out pronto and get to work.
Ideally, you’ll get your roses pruned before new leaf buds start to break and grow. As you can see in the photo, mine are in full force. Once they’ve put on new growth, you have to be extra careful when pruning, so as not to prune away any of the new growth. Proper pruning of roses can be a complicated and tedious topic. So to keep it short and sweet, you’ll want to prune away old growth from last year that may be damaged or have disease (black spot). Remove these clippings from your garden. You’ll also want to create space within the plant for air to circulate, so prune away branches that too closely cross over one another to help open up the center of the plant.
A basic rule is that the more hybridized the rose, the more pruning it will need. Hybrid Teas and Floribundas can take a heavy pruning…a good 50% of the plant can go. Shrub roses can take less pruning and still flower well, unless you need to keep their size under control, in which case you can prune back as much as you need. Antique roses don’t require as much pruning in order to thrive and bloom heavily. Don’t prune climbing roses now, but rather wait until after they’ve bloomed to prune lateral branches; unless it’s a hybrid tea climber, in which case you can prune lateral branches now. Not sure about your climber? Just wait to prune until it’s finished flowering in late-spring. By the way, use high quality sharp pruners, or else you’ll shred the stems.
Sidenote: Come early March, you’ll find the best selection of roses at the local garden centers that you’ll find all year, so be sure to hit their spring rose events to pick up hard to find varieties.