With the cold blast, snow, and ice storm that we have just had, many gardeners have probably missed the annual President’s Day rose pruning day. While President’s Day, February 15, is the traditional time to prune roses, I don’t think roses actually know what day it is. Mid-February thru mid-March is an ideal time to prune roses for those of us living in western Oregon and Washington.
Remember that we are generally pruning roses for our benefit and not necessarily for the benefit of the plant. We prune our roses so we have fairly compact plants with flowers at approximately eye level At the end of one growing season, many roses will have canes of 6 feet or more and most of us do not want the flowers at that height or higher.
Until we had this recent cold blast, our winter has been quite mild with temperatures rarely going much below freezing. In my own garden, the buds on some of the roses have begun to swell and some have even opened and sent out new leaves. Do not let the fact that your roses have new growth prevent you from pruning them. For modern roses: hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas, this is the time to prune.
I always recommend wearing a pair of safety glasses to protect the eyes and having a pair of high-quality pruning shears is essential. The Felco brand is generally considered a premium pruning shear and Wilco has a good selection, as well as extra blades and springs if replacement parts are needed. Keep your pruning shears well-oiled and sharp. Wilco carries Zenport Pocket Sharpener to maintain continuous sharpness for your pruner blades. For some thick rose canes, a pair of loppers may be necessary. Finally, a pair of leather gloves with gauntlet should be worn when pruning roses. Wilco has the Kinco puncture-resistant rose handler glove with gauntlet. I wear a long sleeve padded shirt or jacket to protect my arms when I am pruning roses.
While your roses will not look exactly like the above diagrams, this should give you an idea of before and after. For hybrid tea and grandiflora roses, first remove any canes that are dead and then thin the bush by removing weak canes and those that are crossing over another. Remove any leaves remaining on the bush. It may sound and look drastic but generally leaving 5-6 strong canes and pruning these canes to about 18 inches in height will result in a very productive rose bush this coming spring/summer.
When cutting the canes that are to be left on the plant, the cut surface should be cream colored or almost white. If it is brown, cut lower until it is the desired cream or almost white color. The final cut on the canes to be left should be just above a bud. This then, is where the plant will begin sending out new growth.
Pruning roses is not difficult and there is no need to make it appear so. Rose bushes are quite forgiving, don’t make it a stressful project. Pruning now will provide you with bountiful flowers later this year.