Time is nigh for pruning roses.

'Love and Peace' is a gorgeous hybrid tea rose which can be the reward for thoughtful rose pruning and care

Generally modern roses are best pruned in January when they are as dormant as they will likely get in California. I always think of New Year’s Day as the time to start. The timing and amount of material removed depends on which roses you have in your garden. There is no reason to be anxious about pruning roses. It is not easy to kill a rose, especially by pruning and often gardeners don’t prune as severely as may be desirable. Learning to prune roses is best done with a hands-on approach with an instructor to guide you, but that isn’t always possible, so I will do my best to be an instructor from afar.

Before starting, it is useful to understand some history and terms. Remontane is another term for repeat blooming. Remontane roses were created from a Chinese rose, Rosa chinensis that was imported to Europe from China in 1759. Before this date all European roses only bloomed once. Modern Roses were developed after the first hybrid tea, ‘La France’, was created in 1867.

The bud union is the point from which new canes grow and is the part of the plant grafted to the rootstock. Suckers are canes that come from rootstock below the bud union.  However, some roses are now propagated on their own rootstocks. The shank is the area of the root stock between the bud union and the roots. The bud eye is the bud that lies just above each leaf origin. Prickles are those thorn-like parts that we avoid by wearing gauntlet gloves when pruning. They are prickles not thorns though even rosarians often call them thorns. For more rose glossary terms and a useful rosarian website see: http://temeculavalleyrosesociety.org/rose-glossary.html#onceblooming.

Pruning Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, Grandiflora Roses and MiniaturesThese are all modern roses, repeat bloomers and have similar pruning methods. Miniature roses are basically miniature versions of hybrid tea roses and can be pruned similarly. Roses may have only 2 to 4 canes when purchased. However, as they grow they develop more canes and the younger canes should be left, provided they are large and robust. Older canes in decline with little new, strong growth in the past year should be removed.

 

There is no set number of canes to leave—it depends on the vigor of the rose. Pruning a rose increases its vigor so if your rose has a lot of vigor, prune leaving more canes and longer canes; if less vigorous, prune harder. Canes will also need to be shortened by half of their length and to 3/8 inch above an outside facing bud eye to keep the center open and vase- like.

It is also important to examine the cane bark for damage from disease and remove parts so damaged; also if the canes’ centers are brown and dead looking then remove segments until healthy tissue is evident. Also remove any suckers coming up from the rootstock as they will take away resources from your grafted rose and eventually take over. Any wimpy growth less than pencil size should also be removed.

Shrub Roses, Old Garden Roses do not need to be pruned as severely as the above roses. Height may be reduced and older declining canes should be removed using the “one-third” method. Each year a third of the older canes are removed as well as dead or diseased canes. If the old garden roses are once blooming types, such as Galica, Centifolia, Alba, Moss or Damask, a majority of pruning is done after bloom.

Climbers: Climbers have their own pruning needs. Roses that bloom only once a season are pruned just after the bloom period ends; strong new growth produced after bloom will bear flowers the following spring. Lady Bank’s (Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’), a climbing rose, is an example of this type.

Many climbing roses bloom twice, first on the older branches and then on the growth of the current season. In the winter, remove

Goatskin gauntlet gloves were a gift to me that I cherish as they provide vital protection for rose pruning

diseased, injured, crossing or spindly branches, cutting them away flush with the cane from which they emerge. Older, woody canes can be removed as well and canes that have outgrown their support should be trimmed to put them back inbounds.

Climbing roses will need to be fastened to a fence, wall or trellis or support with tape or ties. Select the best canes and trim back sufficiently to allow for new growth to be supported. Lateral shoots are shortened to 2 to 5 buds by cutting at 3/8 inch above the highest bud. Climbing roses will produce more flowers if the canes are positioned somewhat horizontally to the extent possible.

For more information on rose pruning see: http://farmerfred.com/rosepruning.htm and for videos on pruning roses Fine Gardening has several at: https://www.finegardening.com/article/pruning-climbing-roses.  Here’s to a good start on next year’s roses—happy pruning.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:  http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/

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