Now is the Time to Prune Roses
Many rose enthusiasts ask every season? When do I prune my roses? The general recommendation is February 15th. If that recommendation is followed it’s usually not harmful, though climate can be very different from the coast to the state line . Therefore, my typical answer is to advise gardeners to prune roses when the Azaleas are in bloom. Typically, Azaleas are in full bloom or have finished blooming by the beginning of March. In many areas of the Florida Panhandle this year, they have not started due to late season freezes.
March 1st it is time to prune repeat blooming roses regardless of the condition of the Azaleas, so that gardeners will enjoy a few spring bloom cycles before the heat sets in.
When pruning roses there are several factors that need to be considered. First is the type. Is the rose a Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, Old Garden Rose, Shrub or Climber? Is it once blooming or repeat blooming? Once blooming roses and many repeat blooming climbers perform best if pruned after the spring display. This ensures the largest amount of bloom possible.
Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and their ilk are usually pruned back at least by half, keeping the strongest 4-8 canes and removing old, diseased, damage or non productive wood near the base or juncture of a large cane.
Old garden roses are seldom pruned hard. The best method in pruning old garden roses is to remove dead, old or unproductive wood, and eliminate crossing branches and excessive inward growth. This opens up the plant and allows for increased airflow, which reduces disease incidence. Once the plant has been “opened up” it may be pruned back by 1/3 to 1/2. Pruning back Old Garden Roses by 1/3 to 1/2 is not necessary but is often done for space considerations.
Many Shrub Roses, such as Knockout, and various Old Garden Roses are trimmed several times a year with hedge trimmers. This is often the only pruning done except for the annual removal of dead or non-productive wood.
Additionally, roses benefit from the removal and disposal of any remaining leaves after the completion of late winter pruning. This helps reduce disease carry over from the previous year and induces a short dormant period.
Along with pruning it is often advantageous to spray with a dormant fungicide spray, such as Lime-Sulfur. This can be found at farm supply stores or nurseries and must be applied according to label directions. It is especially important to cover the skin when using this product, since the sulfur component is caustic to skin in its concentrated form. It will also burn any new growth, so it can only be used during the dormant season.