Prune When?? Become a Weather Watcher

By Sandy Lundberg

(From The Charleston Rose, January-February, 1999)

You must become a weather watcher. You must let Mother Nature, rather than the calendar, tell you when t o prune. Since 1995 when I began writing this column, I have advocated this pruning principle.

In the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC), we normally prune at the end of February. But in recent years the weather, with its unpredictable nature, has sprung unwelcome surprises on us. Last year, 1998, we were hit with two nights of 20-degree hard freezes the second week of March, which is extremely unusual. Last fall, the weather stayed hot until well into November. And now, in early January 1999, we have had near record lows.

Time Your Pruning

What does this mean for you and your roses? It's anybody's guess as to whether

our weather will be typical at pruning time. The best advice I have is to study the long-range weather forecasts and let the plants tell you when to prune. It is time to prune

when the bud eyes become red and slightly swollen. Pruning too early, coupled with an unexpected cold snap, can result in short stems, blind shoots, and rosette type growth.

Why Prune?

Pruning produces strong growth in healthy canes, and encourages new ones to grow -- new, healthy, vigorous basal breaks. Remove the older canes and leave the one or two-year old canes when possible.

Needed Equipment

Pruning Basics

Pruning Minis and Floribundas

Miniature roses may be pruned, depending on the size and age of the bush, to a height of 10 to 12 inches.

Floribundas that produce sprays should not be pruned as heavily as hybrid teas. A finished floribunda should look similar to a tree with some branching evident.

Pruning Grafted Fortuniana Bushes

Rose bushes grafted to fortuniana understock should not be pruned as low as the typical hybrid tea bush. Diann Giles (of the Giles Nursery) recommends a height of 16 inches.