Winter Pruning

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.

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News article for January 21, 2019:

January can bring about some of the coldest days of the year, but there are still plenty of winter chores to accomplish when the opportunities to work outside allow.

I noticed shrub roses blooming in my yard. The rains this past year have allowed landscape roses to grow and flower in abundance. Seeing those flowers reminds me that we are entering the time when fast growing shrub roses can be brought back into control.


Back in September we talked about pruning roses lightly. Late January to early February is the time to prune roses more severely if necessary. Shrub roses, which you may know by names such as Knock Out, Home Run and Carefree, can be pruned back in the dormancy of winter by as much as two-thirds if needed. This should give you a lot of freedom to get the plants back to their intended space. Even in the winter your shrub roses might be blooming when you are ready to prune. Do not be deterred, prune as needed and then cut off the fresh flowers and fill your vase.

Hybrid tea and grandiflora style roses will also benefit from winter pruning. If left alone these roses tend to get too leggy and do not bloom as abundantly. Select 4 to 8 healthy canes that are about the diameter as your finger or larger to be the foundation of your bush. Remove all weak canes that are the diameter of a pencil or less. Remove all dead and diseased canes also.


Cut the healthy canes that you have selected back to about 24 inches from the ground. Make your cuts about one-fourth of an inch above a dormant bud or new sprout. You would like for the bud to be facing to the outside of the plant. Selecting a bud that is toward the inside of the plant would allow the new shoot to grow across the plant which will distract from the attractiveness of the plant plus hinder the needed air flow and sunlight to combat diseases.

Climbing roses are different. Most climbing roses, such as Seven Sisters, will only bloom once during the summer and should not be pruned now.Actually they do not need to be pruned annually and should not be pruned unless they are outside of their intended space. You should wait until climbing roses have completed their bloom cycle in the summer, usually May, and cut them back immediately after they have stopped blooming. Pruning climbing roses now would cut off all the flower buds and result in no blooms this summer.

Sometimes we inherit roses left by previous property owners or we are given gifts and do not have proper identification. For the purposes of pruning, just watch the blooming patterns. If you are only getting one bloom cycle in the summer then prune after that bloom and you should be safe.

It is going to be too early to fertilize just after you prune. Wait until the weather starts to break in early March and fertilize your roses. This should produce a good spring bloom. Slow release fertilizers work really well for producing roses. Rates of application vary with the length of nutrient release and analysis so just follow the directions on the package.

Add 2 to 3 inches of fresh pine straw to mulch roses. Mulching will reduce weeds and conserve moisture.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

1/18/2019 2:05:53 PM
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