It’s that time again. Hard to believe that January has arrived and time to get the loppers and pruning shears sharpened and ready to go.
After the holidays, I am ready to brave the weather in January and get started on pruning my roses. Having around 150 bushes I try to do 15 to 20 at a time. If the weather cooperates, I am usually finished by mid-February. Many of our members do not need a refresher on pruning as they have been doing it longer than I, but for the novices, just a short run down will follow.
I have found that if I do a mini pruning job in November and December when January arrives, I have gotten rid of 1/3 of the clippings by pruning long canes and shortening others. Even though some are still in bloom in our climate it is important that we help our roses go through a dormant period.
Start your pruning by looking at the plant and selecting which canes are to stay, 3 or more healthy ones is desirable. Prune out any dead wood, growth that is smaller than a pencil and canes that grow toward the center. Remaining canes should be pruned to about knee high with the bud eye facing outward. This is a good rule of thumb for hybrid teas and floribundas. Any remaining leaves on the bush should be removed and it is important to clean up debris from the ground surrounding your roses. Do not prune one-time bloomers at this time of the year. They should be pruned after blooming.
I have several roses in pots. Last year I decided that some of them needed help. Any rose that has been in the same pot for 3 years or more should be carefully assessed. If the rose is not producing as well or looks a little sad, it’s time to rejuvenate it. This is the best time to repot. Prune the plant as you normally would. It will be easier to work with as all excess branches and leaves will be gone. Remove it from the pot and wash off all of the soil. Examine the roots and if they are too large to go back into the same pot shorten them to fit comfortably. Do not cut the feeder roots at the top. Clean the pot and add new potting soil, compost, a handful of super phosphate and slow-release fertilizer. Your roses will thank you.
By Florence Taylor, Master Rosarian Emeritus
Edited for the website by Nanette Londeree, December 2020