Nicole Hackett, Garden Girl

A rose by any other name still needs pruning

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlCLAYTON, CA (Jan. 25, 2023) — It is almost time to prune your rose bushes, groundcover roses and rose trees.

We prune roses at the nursery between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day. Some folk’s weekly maintenance workers have already pruned down the roses. If that is the case, check on the job they did and fine-tune if needed.

Rose pruning is easy. An annually pruned rose should take less than five minutes to prune.

As you approach a rose to prune, look at the bottom of the plant. Do not worry about all the buds, blooms or leaves still left on the bush – begin at the bottom.

Remove most of the past year’s growth, all the crossing canes, lateral branches and all gray canes.

You may have to use a cordless saw to get through thick wood. Do not worry how thick the canes are, you will not hurt the rose at all.

The right cut

A well-pruned hybrid tea, grandiflora or floribunda rose should have three to five straight, clean canes without any leaves.

If you look closely at a rose cane before you make the cut, you will see a seam with a swell. This is where the rose wants to grow. Make all your cuts at a slight angle, right before a swelling of growth.

I do not tell people how many inches of cane to leave on a rose. It really depends on the amount of room you have for your rose to grow. If you have limited space, then cut each cane further. If you like your roses tall, then do not cut down as far.

Prune rose trees the same way as the floribunda, hybrid tea or grandiflora. Remove old canes, crossing branches and lateral branches but leave more canes on the plant so they look fuller.

Groundcover roses such as drift, carpet roses or meidiland style do not need the same amount of attention. Reshape groundcover roses, bringing them down and in. But if the groundcover style roses are out of control, prune severally. With a newer installation, the pruning will be lighter.


Fertilizing roses is especially important after your winter prune. This recipe is for established ground-grown hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda or tree-shaped roses.

After you prune, each rose is to receive:

½ c. 16-16-16 multi-purpose fertilizer
one half cup bone meal
½ c. granular iron
½ c. alfalfa meal

Work into soil along dripline and top-dress with an inch layer of chicken manure and water.

This sounds like a lot of products, but imagine how deep the roots of your roses are.

There is a reason for each ingredient and the quantity. The 16-16-16 is a multi-purpose fertilizer, which acts like a balanced meal. The bone meal is a source of phosphorus and will encourage bloom. Granular iron keeps your rose leaves green and free of chlorosis. Alfalfa meal will stimulate new cane growth.

Container roses get half a dose of each product. Only give groundcover roses the multi-purpose fertilizer and iron.

Contact Nicole with ­questions or comments by email at

Nicole Hackett
Nicole Hackett

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at