February, being at the end of the dormant season and when growth buds begin to swell, is the recommended time to prune our roses. Of course, roses are shaped during the growing season, but pruned significantly in February around Valentine’s Day. Pruning promotes a shower of flowers in the spring from new growth.
Pruning requires tools that are sharp, clean, and sanitized for best results. Contamination can occur when tools used come in contact with fungi, bacteria, virus, and micro organisms that can cause disease. Between pruning plants, it is always wise to dip the pruning shears blades in a solution of bleach and water which disinfects the tool.
A good pair of bypass style hand pruners, a sharp pruning saw, and a large pair of loppers for the hard to reach canes are necessary. A heavy pair of leather gloves is suggested in order to prevent injury to your hands and arms from rose thorns.
The first step is to remove canes that are dead or dying and gray in color. Making the cut one inch below the area stimulates new growth. Branches that rub or touch each other usually require removal and if not removed, could lead to a less attractive rose. The cut should be smooth in order to promote faster healing. Prune at a 45 degree angle upward from the inner part of the rose bush near an outside bud; this pushes the growth outward. Keeping the center of the bush clear and open into a “V” type shape, promotes good air circulation. Every plant has a natural shape and pruning promotes new growth which produces more roses. Remove all twiggy growth on the remaining canes to further promote growth.
Keep in mind that most roses can be pruned to 18″ – 24″ height with some pruned slightly higher due to age.
Once your pruning is done, enjoy your roses soon after and the remainder of the growing season.
Sharon Reiland, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service