It’s time to start thinking about winter rose pruning

Don’t mistake winter rose pruning in Las Vegas with the way they do it in colder climates. We don’t need severe pruning to remove frozen canes. We fine tune pruning to maximize spring growth and bloom.

The purpose of pruning is to encourage plant growth, which in turn produces prettier flowers. Prune before Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22).

Pruning tools: You need bypass pruners, loppers and a pruning saw.

Pruning recipe: Remove the top third to half of a bush, like you are giving it a crew cut. To further rejuvenate your roses, prune them back to eight inches to stimulate more basal shoots.

Clean out dead, diseased and damaged canes, making cuts back in healthy wood.

Remove nonproductive gray canes back down at the crown.

Remove canes thinner than a pencil, because they won’t hold up blooms for display. Thicker canes result in more blooms.

Eliminate crisscrossing canes passing through the bush so sunlight can generate more blooms.

Remove all little nubbins along the canes.

Eradicate sucker growth below the crown. If you don’t, the plant reverts to an undesirable wild rose.

Finally, select a bud eye, which reminds me of pimples festering on my face during my younger days. Make cuts 1/4-inch above the bud eye, slanting at a 45-degree angle away from bud. A new cane will develop outward from the plant with blooms in 45 to 55 days.

Ideally, when finished pruning, you want four to eight canes coming from the crown in a vase shape.

Cleanup: Remove all leaves from the plants to induce dormancy. Clean up the debris and discard, because pests can survive on it. Spray dormant oil on plants until they’re dripping wet to eradicate overwintering pests.

Dab glue: Cover all pruning cuts larger than the thickness of a pencil with Elmer’s Glue; it prevents borers from entering and damaging the cane. The rose is the only plant you’ll apply a sealant to in order to prevent borer entrance. The glue is nontoxic and environmentally safe.

Over time, properly pruned roses become very large and wide. Keep this in mind when planting new bushes. Allow for a minimum of three feet per bush.

Feed roses: Roses are heavy feeders, but it’s key to large blooms. Here’s a rose society recipe for each bush: Irrigate plants before feeding; add an all-purpose rose food found at nurseries; apply 3/4 cup of bone meal; a cup of soil sulfur; 1/3 cup of magnesium sulfate; and 3/4 cup of cottonseed meal or fish meal. Distribute nutrients evenly around the bush and lightly scratch into the soil. Irrigate again to move nutrients to the plant. If you planted new roses, do not fertilize them until they bloom, then follow directions for established roses.

Mulch roses: Using mulch such as wood chips around roses helps conserve moisture, keeps soil cool, retards weed growth and improves bloom quality.

Bare root roses: You’ll find bare root roses available in an array of colors. If you are going to plant some, do it before Valentine’s Day. This allows time for roots to develop before the top growth starts.

If you’re planting roses for the first time, plant only three or four bushes. You’ll soon know if you have time and want to expend the effort to support a larger rose garden. Follow the directions found on the container to ensure success.


The South Valley Rose Society will cover all the finer points of pruning, feeding and caring for roses Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Rose Dominican Hospitals’ Healing Gardens on its Sienna Campus in Henderson, at St. Rose Parkway and Eastern Avenue. For more information, call 435-8923.


Treat your plants to a new look. Learn the whats, whens, wheres, whys and hows of pruning. In this workshop, you will learn the elemental techniques to bring out the beauty in your roses, trees, shrubs and ornamentals. That is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Call 822-7786 for details.


Bring in your sick plant, a photo or description of what ails your garden: I am Dr. Green Thumb and will focus on your pressing gardening questions and offer advice and tips on what to do in your garden during February. The free class will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ or call him at 822-7754.

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