Roses forum→Rose Pruning Advice

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Jan 6, 2019 2:11 PM CST
I live in coastal SC - zone 8b. It has been very warm all Fall and early Winter. The roses have started to bud. I expect frost and possible freezing into March. Should I go ahead and prune now or wait until late March or early April when I normally prune? Thank You.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Jan 6, 2019 4:38 PM CST
It is usually wise to wait until you no longer expect killing freezes.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
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Jan 6, 2019 5:03 PM CST
Stick with your usual time frame. Pruning now will only encourage more growth and you don't want that if you're are still expecting more frost and freeze. You're going to lose what ever is starting now so let winter take that and save any new growth for when it can really grow. The rose only has so much energy stored to start with in spring and you want to save that for when it counts.
Name: Ken Wilkinson
N.E. GA. (Cornelia) (Zone 7b)
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Jan 6, 2019 9:02 PM CST
It's a rose!!! It has nothing to do with life and death.
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
Jan 6, 2019 11:14 PM CST
I would say that it depends on the roses you're growing. When you say that they're starting to bud, that tells me that you probably have roses of the Hybrid Tea and Floribunda persuasion, and/or shrubs with a lot of that ancestry. Or maybe you also have some of the older Chinas, Teas, Noisettes, and Polyanthas, which behave similarly. These will take after their Tea and China ancestry and start to grow when it isn't too cold to stop them, and they're getting plenty of water. I'm a bit north of you, but I suspect I'm getting about the same amount of rain, and temperatures here have been a bit warmer than usual, so I'm seeing buds swelling on roses with significant Tea and China ancestry as well. But, being as I like the old roses, I also have quite a few other types with little or no Tea or China or other warm-climate rose ancestry. And they behave differently, so, I prune them differently.

We're only in the beginning of Winter, and our typical period for the coldest temperatures has yet to occur. Even if we remain ten degrees Farenheit above average, that still means temperatures cold enough to do damage to new growth are still on the horizon. Roses which are quick to awaken will likely lose their new growth to that cold, and that new growth seems more advanced at the tips. If I prune them now, the new growth will proceed faster at the new tips -- just below the points at which I pruned them. That will mean I'll have to prune them again to remove what got damaged. So I don't start on those roses until early April -- for you, that might mean early to mid March.

I mentioned that the type of rose matters because I've found that my Gallicas, Damasks and Damask Perpetuals, Mosses, and some of the miscellaneous others, are slow to awaken, and pretty much start at the same time every year, even if we're having a mild Winter. These I know I can start earlier, just to give myself a head-start. If I had some of the cold-hardy shrubs like Rugosas, I'd do them at that time as well. After them, I'll do the Bourbons, Hybrid Perpetuals, Austins, and Polyanthas. I have a few climbers of various types -- a Multiflora Rambler, a Setigera Rambler, a Hybrid Musk with Poly-Tea ancestry and another with Tea-Noisette ancestry, a reblooming Multiflora, two Hybrid Chinas, and a Large-Flowered Climber of Hybrid Tea type -- and do them next. Aside from the two Hybrid Musks, they're pretty hardy, but I just hate having to go back again on them to remove late-freeze damage once I got them how I want them. The last ones I do are the Chinas, 'Perle d'Or' which is a Poly-Tea, and my one remaining Tea, since they can get rather far along in waking-up, then get hit hard by a late freeze. I'd rather sacrifice their terminal-growth to that than prune them early and lose entire canes.

If all this seems overwhelming to learn, please realize that I didn't study each type and draw up some plan based on their ancestry. I've come up with the plan after observing how they grow for me here. When I started realizing that some roses tried to wake up earlier and faster than others, I noted what they had in common -- significant China, Tea, or other warm-climate type of rose ancestry. After doing it wrong the first year or two -- which meant having to go back again and prune off damage -- I learned what works for me here. You'll get that sense as well.


Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 7, 2019 12:17 PM CST
I essentially do not prune my roses, but I found this discussion very interesting - things I had never thought of before.
Zone 9, Sunset Zone 9 (Zone 9b)
Jan 8, 2019 9:08 AM CST
Yes, very interesting! Thank you Chris. I am pruning right now but it is the only way for my roses to take a break and go dormant for a short period of time before new growth comes out in the spring. We are a low chill area and grow lots and lots of citrus here so hard freezes are uncommon. Of course, we had them last week and the possibility of having them to mid March. However, they are not the norm here. Yes, my roses are still putting out buds and blooms. I tend to grow Floribundas as they deal with the heat during the summer here better than other varieties.

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