Pruning in the Desert Rose Garden…

Snow covered rose

For those of us who endeavor to grow roses in the desert, this has been an exasperating year.

Summer came too early, stayed too long and gave birth to a profound, bone-chilling winter overnight. Thus, be away 2015 and let us rejoice for 2016 is here!

For we desert dwellers, the most serious task of the year is pruning, real pruning in contrast to the trimming we do at the end of summer (late September into early October) to clean up summer’s  scorching madness.

Because much is made of it, pruning can seem an intimidating task. Yet, it is simple and the essential difference between a few good blossoms and a pedestrian stopping rose garden. Not unlike most achievements, skill is developed with education, practice and the knowledge that most mistakes will grow out quickly and ‘tis better to prune than not.

Why Do We Prune Roses?

Pruning serves to revive the plant, encouraging the growth of strong canes capable of producing, and supporting the maximum number of blooms, which for most of us is why we grow roses.

How is this Accomplished?

The information below is general, and applies fundamentally to hybrid tea roses. Nevertheless, I have never seen anything in print as successful in practice as seeing a pruning demonstration in person or an online video. There are excellent videos online covering every type of rose in your garden, I suggest you view in addition to these general instructions.

  1. Remove broken, dying, dead, diseased wood and any appearing dry, shriveled or dark. Cut down each cane until the inside is white and fresh. Furthermore, retire all old wood. Many roses bloom best on new wood and tend to have reduced blooms on those advanced in years.
  1. Make your cuts at a 45°angle, about ¼ inch above a bud facing toward the outside of the plant. Your cuts must be clean, and not ragged or splintered.
  2. Allow to remain 3 to 8 of the strongest canes for the new season. Reduce the overall height to 18 to 24 inches, approximately ½ to 2/3 of the plant’s height. Consider, the shorter you prune, the fewer blooms will appear, however, the flowers will be larger. Pruning making the cut from Heirloom RosesPruning Finishing the cut Heirloom Roses

4. Prune away weak or twiggy branches thinner than the diameter of a pencil (hybrid teas, grandifloras, shrubs and climbers). Pruning canes smaller than a pencil







Pruning congested canes - need air circulation

Congested Canes – Needing  air circulation.

Pruning canes opened to air circulation

Pruned canes allowing air circulation.

5. Prune to open the center of the plant to allow light penetration and air circulation. A congested plant invites dampness to remain on both the plant and ground, which can promote fungal diseases like powdery mildew and blackspot on the plant. On the ground, humid conditions tempt insects like slugs and spider mites to appear, making your plant their home and food supply.
6. Remove interior and crossing branches, which will further allow optimum air circulation through the center of the plant. Pruning crossed canesRemove any remaining leaves to encourage the growth of new leaves.

8. Remove sucker growth below the graft.





Tools You Will Need:

  1. By-Pass pruners – never anvil type, they can crush your canes. Classice Pruner


  1. By-Pass long handled loppers.
  2. Corona LoppersShort folding saw. Folding Saw
  3. Thick gloves in both long and short lengths. glove


When pruning you may want to consider the time it takes to redress your naked ladies with new growth and blossoms by pruning the plants that take the longest grow-back time first. This means pruning your climbers (I include my English Roses) first, then grandifloras, hybrid teas, floribundas and minis – as if the minis ever stop blooming! ________________________________________

After pruning simply follow these guidelines, and you will be back in bloom in from six (6) to eight (8) weeks or sooner depending on the types of roses you are growing and how hard you prune:

  • Sanitize the beds by removing all the debris (cuttings, dead leaves, and weeds) to the appropriate disposal container. Composting this debris is ill advised due to the potential for retaining insects and disease and spreading them throughout your garden.
  • Wait to fertilize until about one-inch of growth appears unless you are using organics, then immediately after pruning is appropriate.
  • Replace support stakes and ties, repair trellis, and estimate your future needs while the plants are low and easy to navigate around.
  • Check, clean, repair, and replace sprinkler heads.
  • Check your supply of fertilizers, planting mix, potting mix, organic meals, Superthrive, super phosphate, iron, sprays, insecticidal soap, plant ties, and the condition of your gloves. These things sell out quickly in paradise, especially the organics.
  • Check any roses growing in pots for soil shrinkage and supply additional soil to both the top and bottom of the pot. This is critical now as our spring growing season approaches. I find it hard to believe how much disappears over summer.
  • Replace mulch to two to four inches high around each plant and add soil amendments.
  • Find new places to grow roses. It is best to order and or/buy early as the selection gets smaller every year.

Photo Credits:

Gloria Breashears (rose)

Heirloom Roses (pruning canes)

File (tools)


Until next time, from my garden to yours –

Think Rosy Thoughts,