Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pruning Roses: Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, and Floribundas

Rose bed in the front yard in the beginning of the New Year in need for pruning.
January is the month where you prune the roses in Southern California and that is what I have been doing the last fourteen days. There are many different opinions out there about how to prune roses if you read rose books, rose internet sides,  rose blogs and the like. You will find some very fancy techniques how you can prune and train a rose. I think the Brits are masters in this and they really brought it up almost to the level of an art form.

I for myself though try to keep my rose pruning as simply as possible  because I have limited time to take care of my roses due to my job. I prune all my roses, but I don't train any of them to a wall or another climbing structure like you could do very well with climbers or for example some Hybrid Perpetuals. So far I grow all my roses as free standing shrubs, even the climbers.

Our Lady of Guadalupe (Floribunda) after pruning.

I hope that it might be interesting for you when I share some of my pruning rules in my today's post. First of all I agree with the "experts" out there that roses need to be pruned. All rose classes benefit greatly from pruning in comparison to if you "just let them go". You get more and bigger blooms, the rose bushes have a better form, they are encouraged to produce new growth from the base, and you prevent disease through pruning just to name a few reasons why pruning is a helpful horticultural practice. 

So my first rule is I prune all my roses. The exception from this rule is when the rose is very young. I do not prune roses that I got as bands in the first year at all. Maybe very lightly in their second year, but with some I wait until they are three years old and have reached some maturity before I tough them with the pruners.

The second rule that I really find is helpful to follow is taking in consideration the rose class (Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Tea roses, Old Garden Roses etc.) that the rose in front of you belongs to. This is so important because different rose classes need different types of pruning.

Iceberg (Floribunda) after pruning.

Today I would like to explain and show you how I prune some of my Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda roses.

First I take off one third of the height of the rose bush. Then before the pruning can continue I have to de-leave the bush, which is actually much more work than the pruning itself. Here in Southern California most of my roses don't shed all of their leaves in winter by themselves. Some of them stay actually quite green. Since these are old leaves from last year they don't look that great anymore and also there are often fungal diseases (mainly rust in my garden) affecting the rose leaves at this time of the year. So as arduous as it is at this point I take all the remaining leaves off by hand. De-leaving makes sense besides getting rid of diseased leaves because I also find it almost impossible to prune a rose with leaves still clinging on to the canes. You simply can't properly see the structure of the rose bush and it is very hard to decide where to cut what.

Now before I do any further pruning I take a good look at the roses bush. I take in the shape, search for diseased, damaged, non-productive canes (canes that didn't produce flowers anymore last year or just a very few small ones) and thin and spindly growth. Then I start taking all these canes out or at least shorten them.

After that I open the bush in the center, which means I cut out the part of the canes that are growing across the center of the rose bush. This helps the air circulate better through the plant and therefore reduces the chance that the roses suffer from fungal diseases like e.g. powdery mildew, which at certain times of the year can be quite a problem in my garden. After that sometimes I take down the height of  rose bush somewhat more, when I have to reduce the size of the rose to keep it in bounds. 

From the left to the right: Sweetness (Grandiflora), Burgundy Iceberg (Floribunda) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Floribunda).
Same rose bed as above after pruning

One thing that I found out over time, which is very relieving to me, is that even though you make a pruning mistake roses are pretty forgiving. You observe the rose how it responds to your pruning, you learn from what you see and next year you get a second chance and this time you know how to do it right!

See you in the garden!



  1. It is a nice post, Christina. A lot of work must have gone into it. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Very interesting photos and text, Christina. I have to do this, too, very soon.

  3. How short should I prune my climbers? I'm in North Florida zone 8-8b..We usually prune on Valentine's Day....any help and or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  4. Masha, thanks I am glad you liked my post. In fact your are right it took me a while to put it together.

    Sherry, thank you for your nice comment. I am still pruning my roses, wishing you luck with yours!

    Darla, here is in short how I usually prune my repeat-flowering climbers. I take out dead, diseased, damaged, and non-productive canes (canes that didn't flower well last year). I shorten the tips of last years canes maybe about three to five buds and then I shorten all the laterals (side branches that are growing along a cane) back to two to three bud eyes. This will encourage the climber to bloom all along the canes. Hope that helps!
    I may put up another post about pruning climbers. Just stay tuned!

  5. Excellent post. Love the before and after shots.

  6. Thanks Redneck Rosarian, I am glad that you appreciate the before and after shots!

  7. My floribunda blooms all winter--it's blooming now in January. should I prune it when it's in bloom? I have been in past but always wonder if I should wait until dead summer when it doesn't bloom.

  8. Martha, welcome to my blog! I am by no means an rose expert and can only say what works for me and in my climate. Even though a lot of my roses are also still blooming by now, the foliage is usually pretty ratty and I like when the roses start out fresh in spring :-). Pruning them now seems to simply help them to rejuvenate for a great spring flush. My blooms are also mostly not a very good quality anymore, so it isn't too difficult to prune them. The ones that are still pretty I cut and bring indoors to enjoy in a vase. If you have doubts about what is the right pruning time I would get in contact with your local rose society. They know your climate and should be able to help you!