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By Frank Brines
ARS Master Consulting Rosarian 

Learn all about pruning for next month


Last updated 1/14/2019 at 2:25pm

There is no specific timeline for winter rose care, but there are general guidelines. For the area, spring pruning should be completed around mid-February. I will provide details on that major pruning in my February column. I will be at Rose Haven Heritage Garden in Temecula Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10 a.m. to noon, to give a hands-on pruning demonstration. Those who are interested can see the end of this column for what to bring with them if they attend.

Don’t jump the gun on this pruning. Next week’s weather forecast is for wet, low temperatures in the 30s. Many gardeners mistakenly think that doing their “spring” pruning in December or early January will give them a head start on flower production, but that thought is a delusion. First, consider that even if January brings exceptionally warm air temperatures, the soil will still be quite cold, so the roots and stems will not be “revved up” for much active growth – the head start won’t amount to much. And more importantly, if early pruning is followed by a hard frost gardeners will probably lose the tender young growth and have to prune again. Will the remaining canes be long enough and have enough stored energy for vigorous spring growth? Will there be enough outward-facing buds? Probably not. Simply stated, pruning too early will set back stem growth and flower production and can ruin the chances of strong, well-formed plants.

So before picking up those pruners and launching out into the chilly January air, contemplate the odds of another frost or freeze. The frost dates for the Temecula Valley are mid-November through late March, but the region can get damaging frost as late as April. Time pruning more closely to when the soil begins to warm, the air temperatures moderate and the threat of frost is likely past. Pruning in mid-January at the earliest to mid-February usually strikes a balance between potential frost damage and time to get two or three good bloom cycles in before the brutal summer. New growth will usually appear two to three weeks after the spring pruning, and new blooms 8 to 12 weeks from pruning, if a cold spell doesn’t interrupt them.

January and February are excellent months for planting new roses in the Temecula Valley and environs. Still, gardeners can usually wait until March to plant and still expect the roots to form relationships with beneficial soil fungi and become showstoppers as early as May, which is well ahead of the summer heat. Potted rose bushes will be optimal for these late plantings.

For now, be thinking about adding one or two new roses to the garden in spring. Roses offered for sale are rated by quality. You want only No. 1 roses as they are the surest guarantee of success, with all horticultural methods employed to provide satisfaction. Don’t waste time and money on anything lower. Higher-quality plants have a higher chance of success, require less effort and acclimate faster. Also, the cost of any rose is a small fraction of what gardeners will eventually invest in that plant over the years in water, fertilizer, pest control and effort, so why not start with a first-quality plant?

Roses may come as “bare root,” potted or packaged. Bare root plants are just that, usually packed in wood chips to keep the roots damp and viable. They are the slowest to thrive, and it is best to get them early and planted immediately so they have the maximum amount of time to become established. When acquiring a bare root rose, be sure to soak its roots in water for 24 hours and plant promptly. Potted roses make the quickest and most successful transition to the garden, but they also tend to be more expensive and not as plentiful in selection, but as I said, the initial cost will pale against what gardeners will put into the plant in the years to come.

Rose plants are beginning to be stocked at nurseries and retailers. Gardeners might find some good values. There are many sources: local nurseries and reputable online retailers who specialize in roses. New stock will begin appearing in nurseries this month, and online suppliers usually ship in mid-January. Does that tell gardeners anything? But be sure to shop early for the best selection and be sure to consult the American Rose Society Buyer’s Guide, which gardeners can receive with their annual ARS membership or renewal. I received my ARS 2019 Rose Annual edition a month or two ago, and in my opinion, it is one of the best issues published so far. It is full of rose info and tips and new rose varieties.

As I said earlier, I will provide guidance on that all-important annual spring pruning in the February column. Also, check local newspapers and nursery websites for schedules of hands-on pruning classes at different locations and check the Temecula Valley Rose Society website for their pruning schedule at Rose Haven Heritage Garden, 30592 Jedediah Smith Road, in Temecula. Those attending my spring pruning demonstration, Jan. 26, should bring clean, sharp, bypass pruners in good working condition and be prepared to learn and to lend a hand pruning under experienced direction. It will be a great opportunity to get any questions answered, hone skills and boost pruning confidence.

I would like to add to the many comments I have received that there is no specific date on which all rose care is done. There are many elements that more or less determine the proper timing. Weather is the primary element as it involves not only air temperature but ground temperature as well. I offer what is a generalization of timing for rose care. Unlike holidays, gardeners can’t fool Mother Nature and make a specific date on which things in the garden are to be done.

Visit for information on future programs and events in the garden. And spread the joy of roses.


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