How to prune your roses in Central Florida for best results in the New Year

How to prune your roses in Central Florida for best results in the New Year - Mark Govan, Host of “Florida Gardening” heard on 970WFLA

Roses are one of the most beautiful plants we can grow in the landscape. Their lovely flowers have inspired works of art, and many cultivars have been named for movie actors and celebrities. In fact, the rose was named as our National Flower and Floral Emblem of the United States in 1986. The one thing all roses have in common is they need to be pruned back to improve performance and to keep the plant healthy. In this article, I will try to help walk you through the pruning process of these different types of roses. Let’s get started.   

Identifying the type of rose you are growing will help you make the proper decision on when and how to prune your plants. If you do not know what variety of rose you are growing, then contact the Tampa Rose Society on Facebook and show them photos of your plants to identify them. This group also meets in Tampa on the third Tuesday of every month at 5800 N. Central Ave, at the Seminole Garden Center. Meetings start at 7 pm, and all are welcome. Having a local source to help you with your plants can be rewarding and will give you a much better understanding on how to care for your plants.  

Although all roses will need pruning, you must let them establish themselves in the garden for at least two to three years before you prune them. Roses need to mature before the first pruning cycle to develop a strong root system with sturdy canes. The canes are the stems of a rose plant. When you do need to prune, make sure you use sharp pruning shears or loppers, which will prevent damage to your roses. Tea roses are among the largest of the roses, and we will start our pruning discussion with them.

Tea Roses need an open crown to produce healthy canes. Prune your tea rose back to waist height and limit the number of canes to about five or six. Next, you can remove all the side growth along the canes, including the leaves. All diseased, broken, yellow, or crisscrossing canes should be removed at the base of the plant. If you notice any growth emanating from the rootstock, then you need to break this “sucker” growth off. Breaking the sucker growth off rather than trimming it will discourage regrowth. Hard pruning needs to be performed only one-time a year, during the second week of February. After pruning, spray the plant with Kocide fungicide and fertilize.

Some “Old Garden” roses, which are grown on their own rootstock, and the single blooming Climbing roses only flower once a year. Prune these varieties the same as the repeat bloomers below, but only after the bloom cycle. Even though these large growers look great, not too many people grow them anymore as most people prefer the “climbers” that repeat blooming.

Repeat blooming “Old Garden” roses should be “dead-headed” after each bloom cycle. Dead-Heading is the process of removing about twelve to fifteen-inches of the stem behind the spent blossoms to promote the next crop of flowers. Pruning cuts should be made within the plant to hide the cut ends from view. Because these plants are prolific growers, you can also trim the front, sides, and top to make way for the next season’s blooms. Some avid gardeners will seal the cut ends of the vine with Elmer’s Glue, after the cut has dried, to prevent cane borers from entering. Some Old Garden repeat bloomers you may want to try are the “David Auston” or “Sally Holmes” cultivars.

During the spring, climbing roses like “Don Juan” and “Louis Philippe,” produce long canes that can reach a height of eight feet or more. These canes need to be bent, horizontally over a trellis or arbor to promote blooming. Lightly tie the canes to the trellis being careful not to break them. Do this for each of the new canes that has been produced taking care to space them over the trellis to fill in open areas. Bending the canes horizontally will break the apical dominance causing a flower stem to be produced along the cane every few inches. This will help you to promote masses of flowers on each stem. Last year’s canes can be removed to make way for the crop of flowers your new stems will produce. The varieties I mentioned above are highly recommended, and you should seek out these plants from your local rose grower. Only purchase roses grafted on Fortuniana or Dr. Huey rootstocks.  

Bush roses, mini floribunda roses, and the grandifloras should all be trimmed by giving the plant a simple “haircut.” Cut the plant back by no more than one-third and remove any diseased stems and all the leaves on the plant. Removing the leaves eliminates any insect problems and forces the plant to produce new canes. This should be performed in the second week of February. Use canvas or leather gloves to aid you in the pruning process and prevent you from being cut by the thorns. Spray your plants to the point of runoff with Kocide fungicide following pruning. You should also apply a light application of an 8-10-10 granular fertilizer to aid the plant in producing new canes.

Throughout the year, you also need to remove the spent blossoms and rose hips after blooming. Rose-hips are the seed pods of roses and are formed after the flower has bloomed. Remove these hips by seeking out a five-lobed leaf beneath the old flower. Cut the stem just above the five-lobed leaf to encourage the next flower to form. If you cut below the five-lobed leaf, then you will cut off the new flower bud. Follow this routine every time you trim your plants to initiate additional blooms.

 Roses are magnificent, and every landscape should grow at least one rose. Identify what varieties of plants you grow and how to prune them properly. Seek out help from the professionals when you do not know the answer. Use sharp pruning shears and spray your plants with a fungicide after pruning. Fertilize your plants regularly and enjoy the fruit of your labor, blossoms! Enjoy your rose garden and remember that without plants, we would not be here! 

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