by Doc Stalker, El Paso Master Gardener
Some authors declare Valentine’s Day as the traditional date for starting to prune roses in most of Texas. Others contend that all rose pruning must be over by February 14th. And yet another group of writers recommend rose pruning should always start three or four weeks before the average date of the last killing frost – which in El Paso means waiting to begin pruning your rose until the last week of February.
The truth is, Mother Nature has her own schedule for the start of rose pruning, and she frequently changes that official start date from one year to the next. Dormant roses require only a few weeks of cold weather before they may show signs of being ready to start new growth. A cold December followed by a warm period in January can result in new bud eyes and perhaps even a few young shoots popping out on local rose bushes weeks before Valentine’s Day.
Almost all writers and experts say the emergence of small bud eyes on rose canes signals the time for homeowners to start their annual rose pruning chores. So let your rose bush tell you when it’s time to do their spring pruning and cleanup. But also keep in mind that late-winter and early-spring cold snaps can damage or kill new rose shoots. The Weather Service has recorded freezing temperatures in El Paso as late as May 2nd, so be prepared to protect any new growth should our weather turn cold again.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should hold off winter pruning a rose for the first two or three years after planting to give the new bush time to become established. You can still deadhead spent blossoms and remove any diseased, damaged, or dead canes. After the rose is fully established, giving it a good, thorough pruning each year helps to keep it healthy and vigorous.