Pruning and Spring Care

The best time to prune roses is in the Spring when the weather has cleared and freezing temps are in the past. Depending on your zone, this may be February, or it could be April, so be aware of your zone. Pruning in the fall is okay, but has been known to push more growth upwards instead of into the roots for hibernation. Allowing the rose to hip in the fall and go dormant will give it a much better chance of making it through the winter.
Prior to pruning, you'll want to consider a few questions about each rose in your garden:
  • What type of rose is it?
  • How big does the rose typically grow?
  • How big are the flowers and how strong will the canes need to be to support them?
When you've answered those questions and are taking a look at your rose, note how far down the rose has been killed back. Make your initial cut just below where the cane has turned black or brown. Sometimes in colder climates this means the whole cane right down to the ground, and in warmer climates, you may not have any die back at all!
*It is important to note that bypass pruners are the best to use in pruning as they make a clean cut and don't crush the cane.
After you have removed all of the dead canes and cleared the root crown, you want to prune back all of the canes to an appropriate and uniform height for the rose, and if you see new growth, cut just above that. Typically the height should be to where the canes are about the thickness of a pencil, some roses will naturally have thinner or thicker canes so use your best judgement. For Floribunda's, the magic number seems to be about 10" to 24" and Hybrid Tea's tend to do best at about 24" to 36".
Next you want to remove any canes that grow inward through the center of the rose or that cover the root crown. This maximizes the amount of sunlight and airflow hitting the root crown which is highly beneficial in growth and minimizes fungal issues like black spot and powdery mildew.
When you've finished, your rose should look clean and tidy, uniform and contained. Pruning lets your rose know it's time to wake up and put on some good spring growth! You should notice an almost immediate return on your hard work.