“Roses are Red…” – Pruning Florida Roses
Photo by: University of Florida
Considering it’s Valentine’s Day, I felt an appropriate subject to discuss would be roses. I am not referring to the bouquets that many of you will see couriered to various locations all over town, but the bushes in your yard that we have been strategically neglecting over the winter. Now their time has come; we can pull on our gloves and get to work.
February is the perfect time to prune your rose bushes. Pruning is a step that is required to maintain healthy roses. When you prune your roses you are promoting new growth, removing dead, broken or diseased canes and training your roses to a desired shape. Pruning also encourages flowering, which is ultimately the reason we planted roses to begin with.
Deciding which roses to prune will depend on their variety. Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses are repeat bloomers and need a heavy annual pruning this time of year. However, old-fashioned roses and climbers that bloom only once a year should be pruned immediately after flowering. They set their buds on old wood from the previous year’s growth; therefore, pruning them would deprive you of blooms. An exception to this would be dead, diseased or damaged wood on any rose bush. This should be removed immediately upon notice.
There are certain techniques you should use when pruning any type of rose, no matter the time of year. Any pruning shear, saw or lopper you use should be sharp and sterile. Always wear protective gloves when dealing with roses, unless you don’t mind coming back bloody and mangled.
The first step when pruning any rose is to remove dead, damaged or weak stems leaving only the most vigorous, healthy canes. Try to cut the stems one inch below darkened areas, making sure you are cutting back to green wood. Always make your cut at a 45-degree angle; this will keep water from sitting on top of a stem and causing rot. When pruning try to open up the center of your rose bush. Pruning like this will increase air circulation and help prevent diseases.
Since roses send out new growth from the bud just below a pruning cut, try to make pruning cuts above a leaf bud facing out from the center of the plant. Make your cut about ¼ inch above the bud and at the same angle as the bud. If you notice any rubbing or crossing branches the weakest of those branches should be removed. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, can also be done at this time of year. When deadheading, remove the flower by making a cut just above the next five or seven-leaf branch down on the stem. This will allow for a strong and healthy cane to grow in its place. If no live buds remain, remove the entire cane.
For your modern reblooming roses (hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras) you should prune just as the buds begin to swell, which is around mid to late February. This is considered a hard pruning and you should try to leave about four to eight large, healthy canes the diameter of your finger or larger on the shrub. You should prune your shrubs as discussed earlier and cut them back to about 12 to 24 inches from ground level. Generally, any cane thinner than a pencil should be removed.
If you have recently purchased new roses don’t worry about pruning them. Newly purchased roses have most likely been pruned, and no further cutting is necessary. Hopefully with the help of this article you can make a date to spend some quality time with your roses this season. The price of neglect is overgrown roses that are not nearly as attractive.
Taylor Vandiver is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Leon County. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org