February = time to prune roses

Want to know how to properly prune roses? Learn a few tips to maximize the bloom and plant quality of your rose bush.

The easiest way to remember when to prune your roses

is this: February is the month of Valentine’s Day, which makes most people think about roses. (Although I’m hoping to change that by offering a local floral option! It doesn’t have to be red roses!).

The end of winter, start of spring means that roses have lost much of their foliage and are ready for new growth, which means pruning time. Here are some guidelines for pruning roses:

  • First, start with clean, sharp shears. I prefer long handled trimmers for major cut backs and hand held clippers for light shaping. (And wear protective clothing!)
  • For young roses (1-2 years), only trim lightly, taking no more than a third of the plant. Young plants should only need a few clips on branches that have grown out of proportion, so that the shrub maintains a nice overall shape.
  • For roses 3 years or older, cuts can be made more heavily as long as at least a third of the plant is left.
  • Roses are very hardy growers and can be cut anywhere–you don’t have to be a professional to trim roses. (Really, you can cut anywhere!)
  • Since roses can suffer from disease and fungus, cleaning your clippers after each shrub is very important. Wipe your clippers with rubbing alcohol or sanitizing solution after each shrub.
  • David Austin roses have a great saying for remembering what should be removed, so I’m going to borrow it. The “four D’s” – dead, dying, damaged and diseased stems.
  • Remove all foliage.
  • Trash or burn all leaves and clippings from roses. Do NOT compost rose clippings.

Now that your roses are pruned, here are a few other tips:

  • Feed roses just before they bloom. If you’ve pruned in February, fertilize in March. Follow the instructions on your fertilizer of choice. I prefer organic granular fertilizer. Do NOT over fertilize. (This one is hard for me because I don’t like to measure. I’d prefer to guess-timate. But it is important to feed just the right amount.)
  • Fertilize again on repeat bloomers after the first wave of flowers pass. (This will probably be early summer). Knock out roses and lady Banks roses don’t need additional fertilizer.
  • Dead head any spent blooms. Or better yet, cut blooms and bring them inside to enjoy! Just don’t cut too heavily until the rose plant is well established–usually after 3 years.
  • Stay on top of any fungal problems, especially if you are experiencing a wet and humid spring. Keep a bottle of fungicide on hand. (Again, I prefer to use an organic spray, following the instructions on the package).

Roses are worth the effort

I’ll be honest, for years I didn’t really get the rose thing. They seemed like a lot of work and too many finicky details. They were something that my grandmother fussed over. But then I grew a few David Austin heirloom roses. The incredible fragrance and colors and shapes! I am now a HUGE rose fan. I hope these tips help you enjoy your roses. It may be oversaid, but it’s true. Stop and smell the roses. 😉

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