Pruning too low?

Tuggy3(9b NorCal)February 7, 2013

I usually prune my HT's to about 2' and the floribundas to about 2.5. Now I am reading here that this is way too low. Last year I pruned higher, about hip high, and they got very tall. I try to keep them from completely covering the windows in some areas. Many still go to 6'. My rose friends that prune higher have hybrid teas that are all around 8.' They have huge yards so I guess the long distance view is in balance. I don't want them way over my head in a smaller yard. We have a very long hot/warm growing season. My roses start blooming in mid March and don't stop until December. Am I harming my bushes? Maybe I should lighten up and start doing more summer size reductions. Any thoughts? Mary

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Are you in the Houston area? The Houston Rose Society is having its annual pruning meeting on the 14th at the Hermann Park Garden Center.

If yours are on their own roots, this isn't too far back. And it sounds like they're growing pretty large after that pruning.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:44AM
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Those of us in winter climates normally can't protect more than 2 feet of cane. With many varieties, this doesn't matter--they grow just fine. There are a few varieties, notably Peace, that prefers not to be cut back so much. If they bloom well after pruning, I wouldn't worry about it.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:26AM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

I'm in California about an hour north of Sacramento. Very long dry hot summers and mild winters. I also prune the canes to the same height. I guess I need to rethink that practice also. I do tend to clear out the centers and reduce down to about nine canes. The advice we get from one of our rosarians about our hybrid teas is to prune them hard but it's not worth damaging the plants. Many of my roses are Meillands and a majority of those are on own roots- total mix of 50 50 budded. I don't seem to get quite as many blooms as people down the hill from me but I thought it was probably my rocky soil. I dig huge trenches and amend when I plant but I don't have that beautiful farm soil in the valley. Mary

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 4:05PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Rather than hard pruning early in the year I "hard deadhead" throughout the growing season, taking off a foot (sometimes more) instead of 3 or 4" of stem when deadheading when the plans start to become too tall. Seems to not reduce productivity that much while keeping the heights reasonable.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:44PM
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mzstitch(Zone 7b South Carolina)

Hoovb, do you mean you "hard deadhead the entire plant at once, or just those stems that need to be deadheaded at that time?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:02PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I think Hoov's advice is good. I do something similar here. In the early spring I only cut back what is winter damaged and leave as much cane as possible. But during the growing season as I deadhead I cut deep to keep the shape and size I want. And you can cut back any canes that haven't bloomed and don't show signs of setting new blooms at the same time to try and encourage them to set some blooms.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:58PM
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Mary, if you don't get a hard freeze, giving all your floribundas and HTs a thigh-high haircut is probably doing more winter pruning than your climate requires. I second (or third, actually) Hoov's wise counsel about being more assertive as you prune during the bloom season in order to manage the height of your plants.
That said, roses are like people. We don't all look good with the same haircut. Even within a given class of roses, not all floribundas should be pruned the same way; ditto for hybrid teas. What I have learned from others on this forum is to take a look at each individual plant, structurally, and prune it -- or not prune it -- according to its needs.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:12AM
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mustbnuts zone 9 sunset 9

Thank you Tuggy for posting this. After looking at the video on the pruning of the rose garden in San Jose, CA, I thought man--I am pruning way too much for my roses! I am about 3 hours south of Sacto so I know all about long hot summers. I was pretty hard on my climbers this year and probably won't be so harsh on them next year. The rest, I prune accordingly as to how I was taught on a different rose board a long time ago. The person there grew hundreds of mostly tea roses and hated my David Austins or any DA roses. That is mostly what I grow. I think next year, I won't be so heavy handed with them and see how they do.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 8:02AM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

I do owe my roses an apology this year. I think the reductions during the bloom season will be a much better way to go. It's going to be a late bloom this year. When I started growing roses 10 years ago I didn't realize that putting HT's in front of windows was not a good idea. Probably time to do some relocating. Thanks so much for all the input. Mary

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 5:15PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

If we are talking about pruning Austins, I'd advise against pruning them back very much at all. Some of them really resent heavy pruning. I say, just cut out dead stuff and maybe at most give the bush a very light overall trim.

Hybrid teas? I've always grown them where winters are cold--which means some years, winter kills the canes back to just a couple inches from the ground! But let spring come around, those couple inches start growing like crazy and soon you have a full-blooming HT there--maybe not quite as tall as those towering-over-your-head hts, but a perfectly healthy 3-4 ft tall HT. Given that winters here naturally do that, I can't see that heavy pruning of your HTS should be a problem.

Just my opinion.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:14PM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

I shorten my one Austin just a little and take out the dead stuff. I plan to do next to nothing with my chinas and teas when they mature.

Do winter hardy HT's grown in very cold zones and cut low out of necessity have shorter lifespans then those grown in warmer climates and pruned higher? I suppose rootstock and other variables also come into play.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:55PM
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Campanula UK Z8

yes, I do the same as Hoovb - when deadheading, I often cut back quite far down the cane......but, I prune whenever I need to, which, for some roses such as Madame Alfred Carriere, means at least twice during the summer. We prune for various reasons, and one of them is to keep plants to particular sizes. Obviously, this works to a point - no use trying to fit a quart into a pint pot and all, but I generally wield my secateurs when a cane gets in my way. My only consideration concerns flowering wood (I was cutting back various clematis (large flowered, group 2) for years without seeing much of a bloom before it dawned on me that they need to keep their old wood as nothing blooms on the new season's growth. Some roses are like this too - in which case, best to prune immediately after the first flowering flush so the the new wood gets plenty of growing time to ripen for the following year. I do not have HTs, but my understanding is that they do not need old wood for their cut away when you like.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 7:26AM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

Hi Tuggy

In response to your question about the lifespan of winter hardy HTs in cold zones, I don't think the height of pruning has much to do with the winter survival of HTs in our zone. Once they've made it through the winter, I've experimented with pruning HTs high (when there's enough surviving cane) as well as low, and the only difference is the size of the rose at spring flush and the need for the kind of periodic deeper cuts at deadheading as Hoovb describes. More often in my experience, the HTs that die to the ground and don't come roaring back but limp through spring after pruning are the ones that are actually marginally hardy in my zone, and they don't have enough time in our shorter growing seasons to build strong root systems in between the freezing times. More or less cane left in spring isn't going to help those kinds of roses one way or the other.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:31PM
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dan_keil_cr Keil(Illinois z5)

I live in Central Illinois and Mother Nature always prunes my roses very low. In fact when it's pruning time I will cut back to the ground. We are having a screwey winter. 9 degrees one day and two days later 65. That kills roses! I have ht's minis and minifloras and floribundas. The shrubs don't need pruning much. My roses will jump out of the ground with a lot of growth. Last year I didn't cut more than 3" off the tops. I should have cut them half ! back!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

I really like the idea of reducing them bit by bit in the summer and paying more attention to their growth on an individual basis. Hats off to those of you bringing so many roses through such hard winters. Encouraging that they spring back.

Thanks for all the great input. Mary

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:07AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Walking around our area, I see MANY roses pruned down to 1- to 2-ft.

We have NO winter chill, most years, so there's no logical reason to do that here -- but they do it year after year. And many of those roses just get smaller, and smaller. And then they die, or are removed.

I've concluded that people do this because they came here to 'La-La Land' from harsher climates -- so they think that's how it should be done.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 11:49PM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

Jeri I think I get that. I hate to say this but I pruned much lower this year because I went to a pruning demo and they pruned low. Afterward I followed suit with my own roses. I am one of those that doesn't care much about exhibiting. I just want a flush garden.

The next step is to move a couple of HT's out from in front of the windows. Mary

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 1:37AM
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I live a bit west of Sacramento. I have been growing and pruning roses for over 10 years. My best method is pruning to about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. I don't think I could prune my roses too short. On occasion, I cut almost back to the ground, thinking I was going to SP them. I didn't get them out and they did better than ever. The one season I tried leaving some roses taller, I was not happy with the results. IMHO, you can not prune back too much in this area. However, everyone has their own experiences. Why don't you try doing half lower and half higher one year and then deciding.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

Thanks Kathy,
This zone is monster growing climate. We are surrounded by farms and orchards. After the third year of living here we had to tear out half the landscape because stuff got so big and was way too close together. Who knew?

I was two thirds finished when I began to wonder about my pruning. I have some roses pruned higher, and that's a good idea about pruning low and high. It will be interesting to see how the blooms and growth are this year. High and low might remove the concern about shortening their lifespan. Mary

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 2:36PM
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