Roses are best pruned before they begin growing but after winter dormancy, typically between January and March depending on location, said Brent Pemberton, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist, Overton.
“Valentine’s Day passed, and that’s typically a good reminder that it’s time to prune,” he said. “Many plants still have buds or even flowers because of the mild winter. But if you want to prune, now is the time.”
Pruning promotes new growth and thins the plant to allow airflow and sunlight in, Pemberton said. It also encourages new breaks to come from the base of the plant.
“People sometimes ask me, ‘Why prune?’” he said. “There are two objectives – first to control height and shape and second for health. The first is obvious. But in hybrid teas and especially hedge plants there’s a lot of twiggy stems that turn to deadwood. Cutting that out opens up the plant for more air and sunlight, which rejuvenates it and makes it bushier.”
Two types of roses
There are two types of roses – hybrid teas, which grow upright, and landscape roses, which have a bushy appearance. Hybrid tea roses grow flowers fewer in number but are much bigger and better for cutting and floral arrangements. Landscape roses present many flowers and make a better floral display within landscapes.
“Hybrid teas are all about the size and quality of the individual roses, while hedge roses produce a lot of smaller flowers and are best for that pop of color in a homeowner’s landscape,” Pemberton said.
Two rose pruning theories
Pemberton said pruning “hard,” both height and density, or “light” in both hybrid teas or hedge types deliver distinct results, especially when it comes to flowers.
Cutting back hard will deliver fewer stems, but they will be longer and produce bigger flowers. This method is good for pruners who would like cut roses for display.
Light pruning on the other hand will deliver more stems that will be shorter with small flowers, which means more floral color in landscapes, he said.
“So, the pruning theory will depend somewhat on the plant, but mainly the desired result for the individual,” he said.
The nation’s flower and an industry cornerstone
The rose is the national flower, Pemberton said. Roses are the most economically important ornamental plant in the U.S.
They contribute substantially to the ornamental horticulture sector, which is the fastest-growing segment of U.S. agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Garden roses account for approximately $400 million of wholesale, domestic bare-root and container production and form a cornerstone of the multi-billion-dollar landscape and shrub industry.
Rose growers created $777 million in direct economic contributions to the U.S. economy in 2014.
In Texas, Tyler is a center for rose plant cold storage, processing and container production with additional container growers near all major population centers in the state.
Interested in planting roses that have proved to do well in Texas? Check out AgriLife’s Earth-Kind roses.