OUT IN THE YARD — It’s rose-pruning time!

Published 12:06 am Thursday, February 13, 2020

The sweet scent of cascading roses is a dream of any gardener. On Valentine’s Day, rose venders are on every street corner, so it makes sense that the rule of thumb here in Southeast Texas is to prune your roses on Valentine’s Day. However, pruning them any day in the month of February will insure prolific blooms in spring.

How do you prune a rose? The first step is to gather your tools. You will need hand pruners, loppers and leather gloves. Make sure your tools are clean, so you may want to wash them in a bleach solution a few days ahead of time to prevent contaminating your roses with a disease from another plant.

Next, look at your rose bush and remove any dead canes flush with the bud union or cane from which they grew. If you have climbing rose that blooms only in the spring, STOP! Pruning anything more than dead canes will mean no blooms this year. Wait until after the spring blooms have died, and then prune. For all other roses, continue the pruning process.

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Now you can begin the more severe pruning. If canes are growing from one side of the bush to the other, remove them. Roses need good air circulation, so most of your canes should grow up or out from the center. If you have an old gray cane that only produced spindly growth, cut it off at the bud union so new canes can take its place. Next look for an outward facing dormant bud and cut ¼ inch above it at a 45 degree angle. This encourages new canes to grow outward instead of across the center of the plant. After pruning, The American Rose Society recommends that you seal the large canes with Elmer’s glue to prevent destruction from borers. “How much do I cut off?” is another question people frequently ask. The Texas A&M website (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/roses/prune.html) recommends that hybrid teas be 18 to 24 inches tall after pruning, floribundas be pruned to half their height, and antique roses be pruned to 2/3 their height (1/3 pruned off).

Whew! Now that the pruning is done, there are still more chores to do. Make sure you remove any old foliage from the bush and clean up fallen leaves and pruned canes. Any dead leaves will harbor diseases that can infect your roses later. Finally, fertilize, mulch and wait for the spring show!

Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Melissa Starr at melynstarr@hotmail.com or call the AgriLife Ext. Office at 409-835-8461.