The Q&A Archives: Pruning Roses

Question: I have some rose bushes, though I'm not sure what varieties they are. They provide red, yellow and yellow, white, pink multicolored roses. They can get quite tall if left on their own. I live in Southern California and was wondering when the best month would be for pruning the rose bushes down for the winter. Also, could you please tell me how far down I should cut them.

Answer: Rose pruning is done in the winter months, when the plants are dormant. In your gardening region, because your winter weather is so mild, it's possible for the plants to retain their leaves and continue to grow all year long.

Prune your plants in January to late February, just prior to the new flush of spring growth. If your plants are healthy, just leave them alone for now. If the leaves are diseased, you can pull them off in December to remove the disease pathogens from the immediate area, and will stop diseased plant parts from infecting healthy new spring growth.

Pruning can be done in the following manner: remove any obviously diseased or dead canes, and any old non-productive canes. Cut back growth produced during the previous year, making cuts above an outward-facing bud. As a general rule, remove one-third to one-half the length of the previous season's growth. The ideal result is a V-shaped bush with a relatively open center.

If any suckers are growing from below the grafted part of the rose, pull them off with a downward motion, to help remove any growth buds that might result in additional sucker growth.

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