January is the best time to give your roses a good pruning. This winter pruning helps your roses by cleaning and recharging the rose bush. Pruning your roses forces the rose bush to take a 3 month rest from bloom production, which is important for long term health of the plant. Here are the steps for pruning Hybrid Tea & Grandiflora roses.
1) Remove everything above 3’ from the bud union (where the rose canes meet the rootstock). All blooms & stems must be removed so that you can clearly see the rose’s canes. A rose cane is like a tree branch except that it comes from the base of the rose bush and grows upward, producing rose blooms as it grows.
2) Select 3 to 5 of the best canes that are growing away from the center of the rose bush. The newer canes are preferable because they will produce better roses. The canes that are staying should have good spacing from each other. Don’t pick crossing canes (remove one of them) or canes in the middle of the bush. The canes that are staying should be at least the thickness of your thumb.
3) After you have selected the canes that are staying, remove the other canes at the bud union with either loppers or a small pointed saw. Also removes any dead or broken canes at the bud union. If there are less than 3 good canes, just pick the best ones to keep.
4) After removing the less desirable canes, prune the remaining canes by picking a spot approximately 2’ to 3’ above the bud union. Cut the rose cane about 1 inch above an outward facing budeye (where an old leaf makes a scar on the cane). Make sure to cut the cane at an angle.
5) After pruning the good canes, remove all foliage from the rose bush and make sure to cleanup the fallen leaves on the ground. This is important for removing the bad over wintering insects and spores that can spoil your rose bush in the spring.
If all that seems a bit overwhelming, just remember that the most important aspect of pruning roses is to clear the center of the rose bush of any stems or canes. The finished product should look like a vase.
To see all this in person, come to the San Diego Rose Society's annual rose pruning seminar this Saturday, January 7th at the Balboa Park Rose Garden, 9:30-12noon. It's free and you can show up at any time. Rose Society members will be on hand to answer any question you have about roses.