The middle of February is a busy time in the gardening world as it tells us it’s time to plant broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, collards, kale, mustard, onions, parsley, potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips as well as time to prune our rose bushes. Most rose bushes need some type of pruning to eliminate dead wood and to keep them shapely.
Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses require fairly severe annual pruning each year to promote new growth and larger flowers. Begin by removing all dead and diseased wood. Also remove all weak shoots and rubbing branches. On old, thick shrubs, cut out one or two of the oldest canes each year.
Cut back the remaining canes. A rose should be cut according to its normal growth habit and the vigor of each plant. The average pruning height for floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas is about 2 to 3 feet, but taller growing cultivars may be left at 3 to 4 feet. Ideally, cut above a strong outer bud to force growth outward.
There are a number of other types of roses to consider.
Tree roses: A tree rose is generally a hybrid tea, grandiflora, or floribunda budded at the top of a tall trunk. Prune tree roses as for hybrid teas, cutting the branches to within 6 to 12 inches of the crown to encourage compact, rounded and vigorous new growth. Remove any shoots from the main trunk or from below the graft union.
Miniature roses: Miniature roses do not need special pruning; just cut out dead growth and lightly shear them with the hedge clippers to shape them up.
Ramblers: Old-fashioned rambler (“running”) roses have clusters of small flowers. They often produce pliable canes 10 to 15 feet long in one season. Ramblers bloom on last year’s growth so they should be pruned immediately after flowering, not now. Remove dead wood and some of the large old canes entirely. Do not prune the new growth at all.
Large-flowered climbers: The canes of ever-blooming climbing roses are larger and sturdier than those of rambler roses and less vigorous; essentially tall, lanky shrubs. Cut out dead and diseased canes. Then remove one or two of the oldest canes at ground level to make room for new canes. Shorten the laterals, or side shoots, 3 to 6 inches after flowering. If the plant is strong, keep five to eight main canes and tie them to a trellis, fence or other support.
Antique and shrub roses: Ever-blooming old garden roses like teas, Chinas and polyanthas should be given a light shearing with the hedge clippers and have dead wood removed. This applies to shrub roses like Knock Outs and Drifts as well. The goal is to promote busy shrubs with lots of flowers, not large individual cut flowers.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of “Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” “Heirloom Gardening in the South” and “The Rose Rustlers.” You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com) or follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.