Prune roses in early February

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.

For Release On Or After 02/05/10

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Early February is an excellent time to cut back roses growing in your landscape. Hybrid tea and grandiflora roses, in particular, should be pruned around this time every year. Otherwise, these roses tend to become leggy, less vigorous and unattractive and do not bloom as well.

Other types of roses – such as floribunda, polyantha, landscape and everblooming old garden roses – generally require less-drastic pruning. But they still benefit from pruning to improve their shape or control their size when necessary.

If you have purchased or intend to purchase new rose bushes, you don’t have to worry about pruning them. Newly purchased roses already have been pruned and require no further pruning.

When you prune roses, use sharp, by-pass-type, hand pruners that make clean cuts and minimize damage to the stems when they cut. You always should wear a sturdy pair of leather gloves and long sleeves because no matter how careful you are, thorny roses can painfully puncture or scratch your hands and arms. If you need to cut canes larger than one-half inch in diameter, use loppers.

Pruning hybrid tea and grandiflora roses

When pruning hybrid tea and grandiflora roses, first prune out all diseased or dead canes, cutting them back to their point of origin. Weak, spindly canes the diameter of a pencil or less also should be removed in the same way. A good rose bush should have four to eight strong, healthy canes the diameter of your finger or larger after this first step.

The next step is to cut the remaining canes back to about 18 to 24 inches from ground level. When you prune back a cane, make the cut about one-quarter inch above a dormant bud or newly sprouted side shoot. Try to cut back to buds that face outward, away from the center of the bush. The new shoot produced by the bud will grow outward, opening up the bush for light, air and orderly growth. This may seem picky, but it really does make a difference.

Pruning other types of roses

Everblooming old garden roses, floribunda roses, polyantha roses and landscape roses may be pruned now. These roses, in general, have more pleasing shapes without severe pruning. They are only lightly shaped under most circumstances unless there is a need to control their size.

If you need to control the size, first cut especially tall, vigorous canes back to about half the height of the rest of the bush. Then, cut back or trim less-vigorous growth to shape and reduce the overall size of the bush. Don’t forget to prune out any dead or badly diseased canes as well.

A simpler method is often used, particularly on the popular Knock Out rose and it’s many variations. Cut these roses back about one-third in normal circumstances. Where size control is needed – these shrubs can easily reach 6 feet tall and wide – cut the bushes back about two-thirds. But don’t cut them shorter than 18 inches from the ground.

Pruning once-blooming roses

Any roses that are not everblooming, including many climbing and rambling roses – such as Lady Banks, Dorothy Perkins, Cherokee and Blaze – and some antique cultivars – such as Seven Sisters and Marie Louis – should not be pruned now. These roses produce their flowers in one big gush during late spring and early summer on growth made the previous year. Then they bear few or no flowers the rest of the year. If pruned back hard now, these types will produce few, if any, flowers. If extensive pruning is necessary, it is best done in mid-summer after they have finished flowering.

Pruning climbing roses and ramblers is largely determined by how large you want them to be and what type of structure on which they’re being trained to grow – fence, arbor, trellis, etc. Pruning these types should be more selective and less extensive.

First, prune off any canes that are growing in the wrong way or direction – such as away from the support. This will make it easier to train the remaining canes onto the support you have provided for them. Next, thin out the remaining canes, if needed, cutting back the oldest, woodiest canes to within a foot of the ground. Carefully remove them from the remaining growth. Finally, do any other pruning to shorten, thin out and shape the climbing rose in order to train it attractively on its support. This can be done now for everblooming climbers, but wait until after flowering in mid-summer for those that don’t repeat bloom.

Many nurseries already have their rose bushes in, and February is a good time to plant. Early planting allows rose bushes to become established before they begin to bloom. This increases the number and quality of flowers, and the bush is better-prepared to deal with summer heat when it arrives in May. Always plant roses in sunny, well-prepared beds that have excellent drainage.

Rick Bogren

1/4/2011 1:14:43 AM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture