Not only is supplying our residents with high quality organic produce a major task here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in Poway CA, but maintaining an eye-appealing 32 acres of landscape is imperative.

This leads to my topic this month- Pruning Roses.

We have a Memorial Rose Garden by our greenhouse, that when in bloom supplies gorgeous cut roses to all of our homes.  December and January are the prime months for probably the most important chore of the season on roses.  That would be the task of pruning.  This brings out the creative juices to sculpt your rose bush into the prolific bloomer you desire.  There are many web-sites out there to learn the basics, but until you are out there with pruning shears, loppers and gloves- it’s all just theory.  But allow me to boggle your mind with some important basic tips.

Wait until your roses are dormant– This is rather misleading because in our area of San Diego County and on the coast, roses really escape true dormant conditions.  We have had a few light frosts and dropped a few leaves, but pruning is still essential to get a full blooming plant.  Now is the time!

Clean all debris away from the plants- Clear away all weeds and dead leaves that might be a source of bacterial, fungal and insect infection and infestation.  Rust, powdery mildew, downy mildew, black spot and botrytis are ever-lurking.

Remove old dead diseased wood- Dead wood, diseased canes and canes showing deep furrows must be cut out.  Remove very thin canes and branches that cross through and rub in the center of the bush.  You are striving for nice green healthy canes.

Get rid of green canes on old wood- Keep only new green canes emerging from the bud union. The bud union is the place on the grafted plant where the rootstock and scion meet. Typically the bud union can be found near the base of the plant and should be just above ground level.

Make flush cuts- Don’t leave stubs above the bud unions as you remove entire canes. You may need your pruning saw at this point and as you open up the plant. Remember to clear out the debris.

Cut to a leaf bud- Strive to make cuts ¼” above outward-facing leaf bud eyes. This will keep your blooms on the outside of your plant and free up the center for more effective air circulation making for healthier roses.  Always prune to a healthy bud and at a 45 degree angle away from the bud.  Make sure your cuts are clean to avoid possible infection.

Cut surfaces should be white and not brown- The plant tissue should look white and healthy.  If not, cut back further.

Remove suckers- Suckers are long slender canes emerging from below the bud union.  Pull it down and off the plant.  Just cutting it off might result in more suckers in the future.

Try to obtain a vase shape- The goal is to obtain a bush with an opened center. Do the best you can with what the plant gives you.  You want to end up with only healthy canes with an open center.

Prune to final height- Go for a moderate prune, cut back one third of what’s left of the stem’s length.

Spray!!- This must be done immediately after pruning to ensure the destruction of all insects and fungi.  Waiting too long to spray could damage some of the developing eyes.  The organic based dormant spray of choice is lime sulfur, but this one is hard to find these days.  Check with your local garden center and online.  If you strike out-use a copper-based product.

There are as many fertilizer recommendations as there are rosarians in the world. Many say to wait until March to start feeding your roses. I ask, “WHY WAIT? You have just worked hard on your roses and you are right there. Check your irrigation and give them some food!

Talk to your local garden center expert in your area, and tweak their advice to suit your fancy.  Something high in nitrogen to stimulate green growth at first and something high in potash later will give you big healthy blooms. I recommend starting with Gro-Power plus 5-3-1 and alternating every month up through September or October with Gro-Power Flower n Bloom 3-12-12. Twice a year I apply some “Ada Perry’s Magic Formula”. One cup per plant at pruning and again in June.

There are probably opportunities in your community, where demonstrations on rose pruning will give you on-the-job training. Annually, I attend a hands-on workshop sponsored by the San Diego Rose Society at Balboa Park in San Diego.  This opportunity is held at the Inez Parker Rose Garden.  Dozens of volunteers get together to help the Rose Society prune the hundreds of roses they have in the garden. Expert rosarians are there to show you how to prune correctly.

Now hold your hats!! 

We here at Sunshine Care in Poway CA, offer free garden lectures and workshops the third Saturday of every month at 10:30 am.  We will be kicking off 2016 with a talk on “ROSES- America’s Favorite Flower” led by two UCCE Master Gardeners, Francie Murphy and Maria Mata on January 16th. I’ll even save a few plants to show you how to prune your roses properly.

For more information, check our website

Kindly RSVP – Roy Wilburn, Horticulture Manager, 858-472-6059,

We are located at 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway Ca, 92064.  Follow the signs to the end of the cul-de-sac and we will shuttle you to the site.



Happy Gardening!

Farmer Roy

Categories: Horticulture

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