TEXAS CERTIFIED EXPERT GARDENER — Rose maintenance help for hybrid, floribundas and grandifloras

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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Many of us will be celebrating Valentine’s Day by providing a “special someone” in our lives with a gift.

We often bestow gifts on loved ones as an expression of caring for them, choosing items which don’t require too much ‘effort’ and are ‘easily’ accessible. Gifts of flowers, chocolates, cards, or a meal are thoughtful expressions but are a bit lackluster and certainly not unique.

It is my opinion that time is the most important and valuable gift we can bestow on a loved one. Each of us is time-constrained, “making” time available for someone is an extraordinary gift, especially if you assign a specific task to your available time (read this as choosing to help the gardener you love).

In addition, or in place of a material gift, offer your time and watch their expression as I’m certain you will be the subject conversations (in a positive way…for a change).

Spring is not too far away, formally arriving March 19th according to the Farmer’s Almanac. We have more than a month to go before our last ‘anticipated’ frost date somewhere between the end of February to mid-March.

Now is a good time to focus on pruning roses, which provides for optimal growth while maximizing blooms.


Too many gardeners fear pruning roses (as I did), believing incorrect pruning will damage or worse, kill the plant.

Let me state upfront it is almost impossible to kill a rose with excessive pruning (though I’ve managed to kill a few through numerous other means), they are resilient.

Pruning roses is straight forward, though it’s important to prune at the right time of year depending upon rose type. By following one simple pruning rule, anyone can achieve professional results and grow healthy plants.

Rose canes must be cut at a 45-degree angle, at least ¼- to ½-inch above an outward-facing bud. This is the “Golden rule” for pruning roses and following this rule encourages outward growth, improves circulation, increases sunlight exposure while minimizing damage from crossed canes.

There are numerous rose cultivars that require little if any pruning. For those that do, it is essential to use the correct tools, with safety in mind due to the “agonizing” thorns.

Using the wrong tools, tools incorrectly or improperly cleaned will damage the rose and allow pathogens to enter creating other plant health issues.


  • For protection against thorns, take my advice and wear two long-sleeved shirts.
  • Safety glasses are imperative for eye protection since canes don’t always go where intended.
  • Use clean & sharp bypass pruners (Do not use anvil style-pruners as they crush rose canes).
  • Utilize lopping shears to remove canes larger than ½” diameter or a cleaned & disinfected pruning saw.
  • Drench tools in isopropyl alcohol (70% assay or greater) to disinfect pruners and loppers before moving on to other plants.
  • Wear heavy-duty leather gloves or rose pruning gloves. Placed removed canes into a large container (wheelbarrow works best) for disposal.

Late winter is the best time for major pruning of most rose types, meaning now is the time to don warm clothing, gather necessary pruning equipment and start pruning roses.

A specific pruning date is not necessary (but to make it easy to remember, I use Valentine’s Day-February 14th). Begin pruning by removing dead, diseased, and damaged canes which are brittle and brown.

Roses which have never been pruned or not for many years require extreme, severe pruning. Cut back the previous year’s growth by ½ or more until healthy, cane center (white) is revealed on each cane.

Pruning by Type

Hybrid and Floribunda 

These rose types need to be cleared of diseased and dead canes before they begin to “green up” and begin branching. Late winter or early spring is the time to remove crossed canes, weak and spindly growth. Consider the rose cultivar and its normal growth habit when pruning, cut back old canes by making a 45-degree angled cut to a bud pointing away from the roses center which encourages outward growth.

Primitive (Shrub & Single Blooming)

These are the hardiest roses-often surviving for decades. They initially bloom on the previous years’ canes in the middle of summer. If the rose variety is a reblooming rose, then blooms repeat throughout the growing season. Remove diseased, broken, and dead canes in early spring, prune lightly after flowering to manage growth, form, and shape the rose.

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses are hardy while most tend to bloom on previous years canes. Do not prune climbing roses until after peak flush of blooms is complete, removing diseased or damaged canes as necessary but yearly pruning should wait until blooming subsides.

Undesirable, spindly, and crossed canes need to be pruned to maintain good air circulation and maximize sunlight penetration throughout its habit. Train new growth to a strong support structure, securing to an arbor, fence or trellis.

Remember, side branches flower more heavily than central cane leaders.

Let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time.

Send Certified Texas Expert Gardener John Green your questions and please continue sending comments to jongreene57@gmail.com.