30508thumb++Winter is no excuse to be less diligent in the garden. It would seem that gardening would be less demanding because there is less going on, and so many plants are dormant. However, dormancy is precisely why there is so much to do through winter. Bare root plants and bulbs are planted because they are dormant. Fruit trees get pruned because they are dormant. Now it is time for roses.

Just like fruit trees, modern roses were intensively bred for enhanced production. Their flowers are too big and abundant for overgrown plants to sustain. Consequently, aggressive specialized pruning is necessary to concentrate resources and promote vigorous growth. Rather than producing an abundance of inferior blooms, well pruned canes produce fewer blooms of superior quality.

Also like deciduous fruit trees, roses should be pruned while dormant, preferably after defoliated, and before new buds swell. This sounds easier than it really is. Some roses might still be trying to bloom on canes from last year. Others might be trying to generate new foliage for this year. Fortunately, they are tougher than they look. Besides, early or late pruning is better than no pruning.

Hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses need the same sort of pruning. They all should be pruned back to only a few canes that grew last year. Older canes should be pruned out completely, unless there are not enough new canes that grew last year. Hybrid tea and floribunda roses need only three to six canes, only about two feet tall. Floribunda roses might have a few more canes. Tree roses should be pruned just like shrub roses, as if the upper graft union is at ground level. The canes can be pruned shorter.

Suckers from below the swollen graft union (from where canes emerge) should be removed completely. If possible, they should be pulled or peeled off instead of cut. This seems harsh, but leaves less of a stub from which more suckers might develop later. Because fungal spores and bacterial diseases overwinter in decomposing foliage, fallen leaves should be raked from around roses.IMG_20140331_112633

31 thoughts on “Roses Get Pruned In Winter

    1. It is difficult to not appreciate roses, even the older types that need so much maintenance. I dislike the modern types that are too easy to grow, but do not make good stems for cutting.


      1. Here’s what I learned about it: “This big producer developed by Luther Burbank bears sweet plums that are delicious when eaten fresh, cooked or canned. The tree is vigorous and easy-to-grow. Originates from Santa Rosa, California in 1906. Heat-tolerant. Clingstone. Ripens in mid-July. Self-pollinating.”

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      2. Canned? I think it is too soft for that. I have juiced it and canned the juice, but it is no substitute for prune juice. I only canned it because there is more fruit than can be used all at once. It is the mot popular plum here because it is so reliable and has such excellent flavor. Satsuma is more variable. It can be reliable in the right situations, but can be rather weak if not adequately accommodated.


    1. Those pictures were taken a few summers ago, although it is good rose weather right now. It was in the mid 70s today, and will be quite warm for quite a while. We are getting concerned about the fruit trees. They will be blooming any time now, and might get their flowers and fruit knocked off if the rain ever resumes.

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  1. Hi Tony, in our area I was told we should wait to prune until we know which canes have survived or died back. That’s not accurate? One rose I have, which will be heavily pruned, will be a Rosa rugosa, which has become leggy and invasive. I did not realize it was a nuisance when I bought it from a reputable shop. I was going to experiment and cut the whole shrub to the ground and see what happens. What do you think?

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    1. I do not know why you should wait, unless some canes get killed by frost over winter. That is not a concern for us, and I do not know of roses doing that even in cooler climates. The sorts of roses that I grow are grafted, so can not be cut back to the ground without removing the graft union. However, if your rugosa rose is not grafted, all the canes that come up around it are the same, so could be cut back to the ground.


    2. I prefer to prune roses more aggressively than less aggressively. That is one of their main problems. Most people do not prune them aggressively enough. Pruning stimulates more vigorous new growth, and eliminates much of the unsightly junk. Diseases overwinter in the ‘junk’. If your rugosa rose is spreading laterally, you may also want to dig up some of the outer canes. ‘If’ you like, you can share rooted canes with neighbors . . . If they are made aware of how vigorous it gets.

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    1. Parts of New Zealand have a climate similar to ours; or our climate is similar to that of New Zealand. Roses do very well in San Jose, which has a climate like that of Adelaide. It is really one of the best places in the world for the modern roses (which are not so modern now) that are so sensitive to mildew and black spot. Portland really has no business being the ‘Rose City’. Roses do not like the damp spring weather. The pictures were from a client’s rose garden. Sadly, most of the garden has been landscaped.

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      1. That is all relative. Everyone thinks that San Diego has such excellent weather, but I think it is boring. I like how San Jose (and probably Adelaide) have just enough chill in winter for all the deciduous fruit trees and roses.

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  2. How do I kmow how much pruning is too aggressive? I dont have roses but bourgainvilla. I notice they like to be pruned but I want to be cautious. I noticed with my adenium. I need to be aggressive to the stub.

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    1. Bougainvillea does not get pruned like roses, and should NOT be pruned in winter. It can get pruned after frost, although severe pruning will delay bloom a bit. They are very resilient, so can tolerate severe pruning if necessary, but probably look beter with less pruning. I like to prune out old canes as they are replaced by newer canes, but it is really a matter of preference. Just do not shear them.


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