September signals the end of summer, and it is an important month in the gardening world. It’s time to turn off the water sprinklers, plant cool-season fall vegetables and prune your roses for a more spectacular fall bloom. Most roses need some type of pruning to eliminate dead wood, keep them shapely and promote larger flowers.
Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses require moderate annual pruning around Labor Day and again around Valentine’s Day. Begin by removing all dead and diseased wood. Cut back the remaining canes. A rose should be cut according to the normal growth habit of the particular cultivar and the vigor of each plant. The average pruning height for floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas for the fall is about 3 feet, but taller growing cultivars may be left at 4 feet. Others suggest pruning off one-third of the growth in the fall and one-half in the spring. Still yet, some say prune to waist high in the fall and knee high in the spring. Cut at a 45-degree angle above a strong outer bud.
There are a number of other types of roses to consider.
Standard or tree roses: A tree rose is a hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda or even polyantha budded at the top of a tall trunk of a more vigorous understock. Prune tree roses as for hybrid teas, cutting the branches to within 12 inches of the bud union to encourage compact, rounded and vigorous new growth.
Miniature roses: Miniature roses grow 1 to 2 feet tall with tiny blooms and foliage. They do not need special pruning; just cut out dead growth and lightly shear them with the hedge clippers to shape them up.
Polyantha roses: These cluster flowered, small leafed roses should be sheared lightly and shaped as with trimming a hedge.
Shrub roses: Bushy roses like Knockouts and Drifts should also be sheared lightly with hedge trimmers and shaped to a natural form.
Ramblers: Old-fashioned rambler roses (such as “Peggy Martin”) have clusters of small flowers in the spring. They often produce pliable canes 10 to 15 feet long in one season. Ramblers bloom best on last year’s growth, so other than removing any dead canes they should not be pruned at all in the fall.
Large-flowering climbers: Climbing roses have larger flowers borne on wood at least 2 years old. The canes of 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 shorten the laterals, or side shoots, 3 to 6 inches.
Antique roses: Ever-blooming old garden or antique roses like teas, Chinas and polyanthas should be given a light shearing with the hedge clippers. Then remove any dead branches. That’s it. The goal is to promote busy shrubs with lots of flowers, not large individual cut flowers. Old garden roses that only bloom in the spring should have been pruned immediately after spring bloom and not at all in the fall.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of “Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening” and co-author of “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 gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and aggieturf.tamu.edu.