Tuesday’s Tips – Winter Pruning Roses #2

Last week our tips focused on pruning hybrid tea and floribunda roses in coastal Southern California. Today we’ll finish up with tips for pruning Old Garden Roses, shrub roses, standard or tree roses, and climbers. Don’t forget to clean and sharpen your tools before you start —  a clean cut is important.

Let’s start with standard or tree roses. If I’d had any sense I would have included this category in last week’s post because the most common type is a hybrid tea or a floribunda grafted on top of a long cane. Growers take a rootstock like Dr. Huey (the rootstock most commonly used on grafted roses) with one strong, straight cane and graft a another rose on top of it.

Prune standards just like you would a regular rose of its type. For a standard that’s been grafted with a hybrid tea, remove the leaves, choose 3 -5 of the strongest canes to keep, prune out crossing, old or diseased canes, and spindly, twiggy growth, always cutting just above an outward-facing budeye. You want to open up the middle and create a vase shape, but keep an eye on the overall shape of the head; it should be rounded. Don’t cut back more than one-third to one-half of the top growth. Whatever you do don’t cut below the graft point except to remove any shoots or suckers growing from the main stem near the ground.

Remove (clip off) leaves, clean up under the plants, and spray with a dormant spray.

Old Garden Roses include Gallica, Damask, Moss, Alba, and Centifolia roses. These roses bloom one time in the spring so they should be pruned right after the bloom period, usually early summer, and not in the winter. Repeat bloomers like Portland, Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual, Perpetual Damask, and Perpetual Moss should be pruned as you would a hybrid tea.

Shrub roses and species roses should be lightly pruned by shortening flowering shoots a few inches. Remove any diseased, damaged, or dead canes.

Climbers are a different story altogether because of how they grow and flower. Climbing roses produce growth hormones in their growing tips. This hormone will inhibit flower formation along the cane unless the tip is horizontal, in which case the cane will flower at each budeye along the cane. So instead of just a cluster of blooms at the tip of an upright cane, a cane that’s been trained into a horizontal position, will produce many, many blossoms.

The goal in pruning climbers is to create a symmetrical shape and to force a dormant period which renews the plants and brings more flowers in the spring. If your climber is young, you may not need to do much, if any, pruning at all. Let it grow and become established, but if some of the growth is very spindly and weak, shorten or remove it.

For established climbers remove spindly, twiggy growth, remove any leafless shoots, and prune out any dead, damaged or diseased growth. Tip prune to the first outer facing bud to encourage lateral growth. I have climbers that are tied to a fence and sometimes a cane or a sucker will grow straight out at a right angle. I take these off at the point of origin throughout the year.

Remove (clip off) all the leaves, clean up under and around the plants and spray with dormant spray to get rid of overwintering pests and diseases. Be sure to spray in the early morning or late afternoon when the bees and other beneficials won’t be affected.

Wait to fertilize until you see the first new growth in the spring (usually in March).

P.S. Don’t prune Lady Banks roses now! These roses (and some other varieties) bloom once in the spring. If you do prune them now, you won’t get any blossoms this year. I learned this the hard way.

If you have a type of rose that isn’t mentioned in this or last week’s post, or if you’re unsure of what you have, ask your local nursery for advice.

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