Prune soon, and your roses will thank you come spring

Prune soon, and your roses will thank you come spring

Prune soon, and your roses will thank you come spring
Begin at the base of the rose, making cuts at a 45° angle, so new growth will grow away from the center. (HGTV photo)

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlIt is almost time to prune your rose bushes, groundcover roses and rose trees.

At the nursery, we prune roses between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day. Some folks’ weekly maintenance workers have already pruned 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 to the bottom of the plant. Do not worry about all the buds, blooms or leaves still left on the bush.

A well-pruned hybrid tea, grandiflora or floribunda rose should have three to five straight, clean canes without any leaves. The object of pruning is to remove most of the past year’s growth, plus all the crossing canes and lateral branches. Remove 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.

Angle the cuts

Make all cuts at a slight angle, right before a swelling of growth. 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.

I do not tell people how many inches of cane to leave, because it 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.

Rose trees should be pruned the same way as the floribunda, hybrid tea or grandiflora. Remove old canes, crossing branches and lateral branches. With rose trees, leave more canes so they will 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. 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. We have been sharing this recipe for more than a decade. It can be used for established ground-grown hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda or tree-shaped roses.

Each rose should receive:

  • ½ c. 16-16-16 fertilizer
  • ½ c. bone meal
  • 2 T. Epsom salt
  • ½ c. granular iron
  • ½ c. alfalfa meal

After pruning, work into soil along drip line and top-dress with an inch layer of chicken manure and water in.

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

Do not premix a batch of products. There is a reason for each ingredient and the quantity.

The 16-16-16 is a multi-purpose fertilizer. The bone meal is a source of phosphorus, encouraging bloom. Granular iron keeps rose leaves green and free of chlorosis. Alfalfa meal will stimulate new cane growth. Epsom salt intensifies flower color.

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

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden.

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