Winter gardening, storm cleanup tips

January 9, 2008 5:17:58 PM PST
Take care of your roses this winter regardless of the weather outside.

Don't let our winter weather keep you out of the garden. There are lots of things you can do now to make sure your plants blossom in the spring. Leigh Glaser met with the San Jose Mercury News' gardening expert who shows us how a little rose pruning now can add up to lots of color in the spring.

Rose Pruning Tools:

  • Deerskin gloves, $19.99 from Orchard Supply Hardware.
  • Felco pruners, about $50 from high-end garden centers or online at
  • Corona loppers, about $25 from Wal Mart, Orchard Supply and other retailers.

    Roses have a reputation for being fussy and difficult to grow. But they can be a carefree addition to any garden if you select disease-resistant varieties and give them what they want: 6-8 hours of full sun, excellent drainage (roses don't like to have their feet wet) and regular water applied to the root zone and not from overhead. They will reward you with armfuls of blooms.

    Winter is when roses are dormant, and that's when you want to give them a nice pruning to encourage robust spring growth. Here are the basics:

    1. Make sure your tools are clean and sharp. You will need hand pruners, loppers for the larger canes and maybe a pruning saw if the canes are really big. Using the proper tools helps you avoid wrist and other injuries. Wear sturdy gloves made of leather or thick canvas.
    2. For hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses, remove all of the remaining foliage (leaves). This will allow you to see the structure of the plant and plan your pruning cuts.
    3. Aim for a classic vase shape. Remove canes that are crossing through the center of the plant. One of the goals of pruning is to improve air circulation in the center of the plant.
    4. Look for an outward-facing swelling or node on each cane. Make your angled pruning cut about a quarter-inch above these swellings. This is where a new cane will grow. Roses bloom on new canes, or wood, and you want to maximize the amount of new wood the plant will produce.
    5. Your goal should be to take the plant down one-half to one-third of its height. More than that, and you will stress the plant. Remember: you can always cut off more, but you can't replace what you've cut!
    6. Clean up the area when you are finished pruning. Last season's leaves or canes may harbor disease that can carry over to this winter in your garden and cause problems this year. Be extra diligent about this if your roses had the classic rose diseases, such as black spot or rust.
    7. At this point, you can spray your roses with an organic fungicide that will help the plants stave off those diseases in 2008.
    8. Enjoy your roses!