The Q&A Archives: Pruning Roses in the Desert

Question: I live in Tucson, Arizona and it is hot. But my roses are doing beautifully. I need to know when to prune them and how far back to prune them. Some people say prune them all the way to the stump, some say just cut back the long stems. Now, like I said it is October and still 101 degrees outside during the day. So when and how far back do I prune my roses?

Answer: Major rose pruning is done in January here, to prepare for the peak boom period in April-May. Another lighter pruning is done in mid-September to prepare for the second bloom period in fall.

Different types of roses have different pruning requirements, if you have hybrid teas, here are the basics: Cut back only about 1/3 of the bush at a time. In the spring, remove the dead and damaged canes as far back as necessary. Then, remove any suckers that arise from below the graft union, if there is one (the swelling near the base of the plant). Next, select the healthiest canes (thicker and bright green) and cut off the rest. If your roses are just a couple of years old, save about 3-5 canes. Save more on older plants. Lastly, cut the flowering canes back by one-third to one-half. Make your cuts about 1/4" above an outward-facing bud.

In the fall, usually a lighter pruning is done to just clean up the plant. Try to find a local rose garden club in your area. They often give rose pruning demonstrations. It's really helpful to see it done if you've never pruned before. Good luck!

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