Would I Be Crazy To Prune My Roses

crixieFebruary 3, 2008

I was doing some clean up today and noticed that my six hybrid teas are all swelling; one of them is clearly showing signs of buds (if that's the right term).

I really don't know what to do -- I mean it's going to be 70 degrees on Wednesday. Should I just leave things be until March? Or pay attention to what's happening?

These warm winters have gotten me into a tizzy.

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I live in the Princeton area. I pruned one of my large shrub roses last weekend because it was already starting to grow - not just swell but actually put out new growth! (granted, its a Pink Knockout, so you probably couldn't kill that thing if you tried...) I plan to prune all my roses (shrubs and rugosas) by the end of this month. I would be pruning them this weekend but I have other shrubs and trees that I want to prune first. Rose guru Stephen Scanniello in his excellent book "A Year of Roses" talks about pruning hardy roses in February. So no, its not crazy to be out there pruning at this time of year!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 5:09PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Leave them until the forsythia blooms. Honestly, our temp swings are so bad, you don't want to risk it. We have had brutally hard freezes in March and you risk opening up the ends of the canes to moisture. I've got plants that are leafed out. I ususally have some plants that are fully leafed out by the time I prune (sometimes as early as mid-March, sometimes as late as mid-April). I don't let what the plants think they want to do make that decision for me.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 4:02PM
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greensingh(z6b south jersey)

Most of my outdoor roses are still dormant, thankfully. But I had brought in a few first year container roses inside to the unheated garage. A couple of knockouts out of these never went dormant and the rest started to leaf out like crazy. I have put them outside now in a sheltered spot and mulched them with oak leaves. I will never bring in container plants inside again.

Diane, I follow your posts quite keenly on the rose forum, especially about the new jersey climate, though I don't post much. Somewhere you had mentioned about a nursery selling roses on multiflora rootstock in new jersey. Can you share the details please.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 1:17PM
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I was glad to come across this thread, as I've been wondering about this myself. My roses don't seem to have gone into full dormancy, either. They dropped most, but not all, their leaves and some of the new leaf buds have been opening. Most are Austins, and they're holding out quite well, but the healthy, green foliage on the Gourmet Popcorn is amazing for February!

How does this affect application of a dormant oil spray?


    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 6:05PM
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greensingh(z6b south jersey)

agsom, the dormant spray application at dormant strength should be fine. Any new growth which may be potentially damaged by the spray will be taken out by the spring pruning anyways. Problem comes if you have pruned and your roses are leafing out in which case you may spray at a reduced strength which may be less effective. You may also want to check out the effects of dormant spray on the class of roses you are growing. Check out the rose forum, there were a couple of recent threads on this topic.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 5:32PM
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When it is warm enough for you, prune, prune, prune your roses. The rose will only grow when conditions are correct for the plant. If it changes and becomes colder (like this weekend at 10 degrees) the rose will cease to grow. Mother Nature takes care of its own.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 6:41PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a


I must have been woozy if I said some nursery in NJ sold plants grafted on multiflora. That isn't true. There are 4 vendors that I know of who sell on multiflora, Palatine (fabulous bareroots), Pickering, Hortico (all in Canada, but ship to the US with no problems; Hortico also has plants on other rootstocks, best to ask) and Wisconsin Roses.

I have one cane on Lagerfeld that has leafed out. A couple of others look close. I'm not even thinking about pruning in February, except to get out my tools and get them sharpened.

I've got some small plants in the garage. My garage gets warm (the stove fan vents into the garage), and they never go dormant. It is more to keep them out of the wind so that they don't dehydrate.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 3:12PM
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greensingh(z6b south jersey)

Its okay if you don't want to share j/k :)
I have never grown one on Multiflora. Moved to a new house so this year will prepare the beds and order bareroots for next spring.
I couldn't bear to see the sickly white shoots coming up on the garage kept container plants and moved them out. I will find out soon if that was a wise move.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 5:59PM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Naw, now I would tell you if I knew of one! ;-))

Those "ghost" canes are kind of creepy! I still have a few on the porch that never made it into the garage, they look pretty good, but we won't know for another couple of months. I seem to do better with them outdoors, but I have a couple that are no longer in commerce, so they are in the garage.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 3:06PM
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