When to Prune Roses in Coastal California

5 years ago

If you live in coastal California and are wondering when to prune your roses, just remember this: After the start of the new year is the best time to prune.

Experts say when it comes to pruning, January is the most favorable month in which to do it. That’s because it needs to be done before new growth starts popping out. If you prune too late, you may end up stunting the rose’s growth and hurting its chances to bloom.

It’s a delicate balance in coastal California, because roses often never completely go dormant, as they do in colder parts of the country. Our temperatures rarely dip below 30 degrees. Sometimes roses don’t appear as though they’ve entered dormancy at all.

Nevertheless, if you prune, January is probably your safest bet. This is usually when coastal California will get its coldest temperatures of the year. The weather often starts warming in February and new growth can be quite rapid at that point.

And yes, most roses do better after being pruned. Cutting away the dead growth and excess canes will enhance the beauty of the plant as well as its health. Pruning encourages strong new growth as well as improving air circulation throughout the plant, which can help curtail the fungal diseases that some roses are subject to.

Gardeners should arm themselves with a pair of long, thick garden gloves, a bypass pruner and a long-handled lopper or hand saw. The gloves are to prevent thorn pricks, while the lopper or hand saw will help you with stubborn canes. The bypass pruner is for more precise work. Also handy are a small rake to clean up debris.

Your tools should be sharp and clean for efficient cutting. If you go to buy a new tool, check for ergonomic features such as padded handles that will make the chore easier on your hands.

Modern roses like hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas should be cut back by about half their height. Cuts should be made at a 45-degree angle just above a bud whenever possible.

Also, pay attention to the shape of the rosebush. Unless it is trained into a tree, you will want to make it into an open vase shape, cutting out any canes in the center or those that are crossing. Also eliminate any dead, broken, weak or diseased stems or leaves.

Your rose will look a bit bare when you are finished, but rest assured, it will grow quite quickly given a few warm days.

Other rose varieties need more specialized care. Old rose varieties don’t need to be pruned, except for shaping. Ramblers, climbers, repeat bloomers, Bourbons and Portlands should be pruned lightly to remove dead wood and can be pruned more thoroughly after their first bloom.

Be sure to pick up what you’ve cut off and dispose of it appropriately. This removes any source of potential disease, as well as dangerous thorns.

If you have a question about pruning or what should be done to your particular roses, contact your local nursery professional or rose society chapter.


Personal experience