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Summer-Pruning Roses in Warmer Zones

For those who live in a nondormant climate, it’s best to prune roses at a nontraditional time

pruning roses
It seems a shame to prune a rose when it's at peak bloom. And in the case of those who garden in a hot climate, that may be winter! Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

I’ve written a lot about pruning in a climate where you have a true winter—one where the roses go fully dormant. In this locale you need to worry about not pruning too early because it risks pushing new growth that could be harmed in a freeze. When the forsythia are in bloom, it’s generally safe to prune.

But when should you prune if you live a climate with no dormant season, particularly in a season with a hot summer and no winter to speak of?

In warmer climes, prune roses in summer

When I lived and gardened in Los Angeles, we used to prune our roses in late December to late January. While the roses didn’t go dormant, the shorter days did slow them down, and Los Angeles would get some cool nights. So when asked by gardeners who live in a nondormant climate when they should prune their roses, I generally said December or January and figured it applied to everyone. Recently I was in Tampa at a convention of the Deep South District of the American Rose Society, and the subject came up. Several of the attendees who were from Florida had a different take on the “when” of pruning roses in a hot climate. They prune in summer!

That’s right, summer. Here’s why. For them, the best rose season is actually “winter”—the months of October through April or so. The days are cooler, the roses grow well, the blooms are larger, and the colors are deeper. To them, it seemed a real shame to prune in December or January just when the roses were at peak season. Plus, how nice to have roses over the holidays!

Instead, they felt it would be best to prune their roses in late summer when the heat shuts the roses down and they don’t look their best. A few of them tried this with great success, and the idea is catching on. I’ll admit it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it really did make a lot of sense.

Be sure you understand what the definition of a “hot spot” is

I think this will work well if you live in a climate with hot summers and winters that rarely get down into the forties (5°C or so) even at night. Another way you can determine if this works for you is to observe your roses over the next month. If they are growing well, pumping out blooms and generally seem happy, then think about waiting to prune until the dog days of July/August. If your roses are out of control and need some trimming right now because this is when you normally prune, do a light shaping now and save the “pruning” for the summer.

I bet some of those blooms will look great on the Christmas tree!


Previous: Say Goodbye to Rose Pruning Season Next: When to Prune a Young Rose
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