Roses are usually pruned in our area around Valentine’s Day, several weeks before they begin their spring burst of growth. We are probably ready to get outside after the winter weather. And as you will read roses are tough and should be just fine even if we have more freezing during the month of March.
Pruning a rose bush can be pretty intimidating to the beginning gardener. I easily recall when it made me nervous to just think about pruning a modest bush rose. Start by dressing for the job. Please, wear a heavy denim shirt or something similar that will not tear easily and will protect your arms. Leather gloves are also necessary.
Good, sharp, by-pass (scissor-cut) hand shears and a small pruning saw are the tools needed for rose pruning. If you have some of the KnockOut Roses, you may want an electric hedge trimmer for those. A large drop cloth to collect clippings is also very handy. I buy cheap plastic table cloths, just for that job. It makes it so much easier to get the trimmings into the trash or a compost pile.
Climbing roses are pruned after their big flush of blooms in the spring. At that time, remove dead wood, diseased wood and any limbs that are straying where you don’t want them. You may stop there. Some years, remove an old cane by sawing it at the base. You may also choose to cut some side shoots back to 3 to 6 inches.
Climbing roses don’t require very much pruning. If you must prune a lot, perhaps your climbing rose needs a larger location. You may move it when it is dormant, next winter. Some climbing roses need a very sturdy support, as in heavy beams.
Bush roses may be cut back to 18 to 24 inches in height. That sounds like a lot, but they will reward you with beautiful growth and lots of blooms. First remove dead and diseased wood, cutting at a slant 1 inch below the damaged area. Remove spindly, weak shoots and any branch that rubs another. If some canes are old, remove one or two each year, cutting back to the root graft. Now, cut back the remaining canes by half, making 45 degree angle cuts, above an outer facing bud. This helps to open the interior of the rose bush, allowing more air circulation. Be careful to not leave a stub above the bud or to cut too close to the bud.
You may prune EarthKind Roses the way Bush Roses are pruned — or not. Like not at all or some part of the pruning. These roses are “own root” roses; so when you need to remove an entire old, diseased limb; you will be cutting back to the base of the plant or the ground rather than the root graft. KnockOut Roses are being used so much. They are beautiful, luscious, plants that aren’t much of a pruning challenge when they’ve just been planted.
Roses are long-lived and really require very little care. We don’t have to protect roses from winter cold and they love summer sun. If we dress to protect our arms and hands and have the proper tools; the job of pruning our gorgeous roses, need not make us nervous.
Claudine Young of Cleburne is a Johnson County Master Gardener and Wildbunch writer. She is a volunteer for Texas AgriLife Extension. For information, visit JCMGA.org.