Introduction to Pruning Your Roses in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

(This page is based on a speech given on February 3, 2007, at Buchanan's Native Plants)

Pruning Equipment Needed:

Sharp by-pass pruners, not anvil pruners
Pruning saw
Loppers
Elmerís white glue
Gloves

Climbing Roses:

Climbers should be groomed, not pruned. Cut out dead wood and wayward growing canes. Climbers bloom on old wood. If you prune them in the spring, you will be cutting off the bloom wood. If you have to remover a long cane, it is best to cut the cane up into sections so you donít damage the remaining canes when you are pulling it out.

Miniature Roses:

In Houston, miniature roses are pruned in mid-February. Miniature roses should be cut back to between 8 and 12 inches tall. A guideline is to lower the height no more than fifty percent, keeping the above height guidelines in mind. Remove all dead wood and open the center somewhat to increase air circulation.

Old Garden Roses:

It is best to let a new OGR grow for three years before bringing out the pruners. OGRís do not need to be pruned. Cut them back only for purposes of grooming (to control wayward growth or if they get too big for the space you have allowed) and to remove dead and diseased wood. After three years, you will know the growth habit of the bush. Some OGRís are upright, some are bushy and some are arching. Groom to maintain the natural shape of the bush. Groom OGRís after their big flush of blooms in the spring. If you prune them in February, you will lose your best blooms. In fact, some OGRís (such as Chinaís and Tea roses) will pout if you prune them back too hard. If you just canít resist, try to confine yourself to pruning the tips of the rose.

Hybrid Teas and Floribundas:

In Houston, hybrid teas and floribundas are pruned in mid-February.
1. First, remove all obviously dead canes.
2. Next, remove any crossing cane (a cane that rubs against another cane) by cutting the cane off at the bud union. Use some judgment here on selecting which of the two canes that are rubbing against each other to remove. Usually, one is better off removing the cane with the smaller diameter.
3. Remove all inwardly growing canes to make sure the center of the bush is open.
4. I recommend removing any cane that has a diameter of less than that of a pencil.
5. After removing crossing canes, inwardly-growing canes and narrow canes, cut back 3 to 5 thick canes for hybrid teas. With floribundas, the more canes the better.
6. Prune the remaining canes back by cutting off between one-third and one-half of last year's growth. We are looking to trim hybrid teas and floribundas back to about knee high (21 inches).
7. Exactly where on the cane to make your cut depends on the actual rose cane before you. What we are looking for is a bud eye. Bud eyes are pimple-sized swellings on canes where a new stem will develop. We look for a bud eye on the ďoutsideĒ part of the cane. That will insure that the new cane grows to the outside, not inwardly.
8. We will make a 45 degree angled cut one-fourth inch above the bud eye. The ďtopĒ side of the cut will be on the side with the bud eye and the downward side will be on the part of the cane opposite the bud eye. That way, any water will flow away from the bud eye and not drip over it.
9. Make sure your cut is of green, healthy wood. If the cut shows dead wood (even if only part of the cut has dead wood), you must make a lower cut to green wood. That dead wood is like a cancer, and it will cause die back and kill the cane. Thus, continue cutting back to green wood, even if you cut the particular cane very short. Cutting back to green wood is the only way to save a diseased cane. Go to the next outward-facing bud eye and try again. I would rather have a four inch cane with green wood than a eighteen inch cane with dying wood. The pith of live wood looks light green/white. The pith of diseased canes is either solid brown/tan or brown/tan in patches. We are judging the pith of the cane, not the bark.
10. At your option, you can put Elmerís white glue on the cut with your finger if the cane is especially large in diameter. Most canes will not need anything on the cut.
11. Strip off any leaves with black spot and pick up all fallen leaves around the base of the plant.
12. Established bushes (those in the ground for at least one year) can be fed anytime after pruning. For new bushes, wait until the first rose blooms appear before fertilizing. And donít forget to water.

Dated: February 3, 2007

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