Roses can be high maintenance or they can be low maintenance. It just depends on what kind of roses you have and how many.
Late February and early March is when serious pruning is done. The general rule of thumb is about the time that Forsythia starts to bloom or Presidents Day.
I prune my hybrid teas back to about two feet high and make my cut just about an inch above an outward facing bud eye. I cut at an angle away from the bud eye so that water will run away from the bud eye instead of over it. Cut all dead canesback to the base of the bush. All canes that are smaller than a pencil in diameter should be removed from the center of the bushfor better air circulation. This will help with control of black spot.
Climbing, running, and old garden roses should only have the dead wood cut out at this time. These roses bloom on last year’s growth, so any pruning to these bushes should be done within a two week period after they finish blooming. Even then I don’t recommend heavy pruning unless it is to contain a bush that has overgrown its spot.
Shrub, miniature, and carpet roses can be pruned at this time also. I like to cut the shrub back to about waist high or in the three foot range. Miniature and carpet roses usually get pruned no more than one third.
Now, you will need to gather all dead, diseased foliage and canes and dispose of it from your garden area help get rid of as much of the black spot fungi as possible. This is a good time to spray with lime sulfur to help control fungi that are hiding in the old mulch and top layer of soil. Be sure and spray all parts of the rose plant as well as the surrounding area. Do not put the pruned canes or the foliage from the roses in your compost pile. The fungi will infect your compost pile and render it useless to put back around your roses.
I spray my hybrid teas once a week with a good fungicide and all the others every two weeks with exception of the Knockout variety. Knockout roses for the most part do not need to be sprayed at all. I spraythem about once a month just for good measure. The fungicides that I use are Daconil, Mancozeb, and Banner Maxx. I also like to rotate these chemicals to keep fungi from building up an immunityto them. If you only have a few roses that are susceptible to disease, you can use a product named “Once and Done” by Bayer. You mix it up and pour it around the base of the bush and you aredone for about 45 to 60 days. If you have a lot of roses you need to break out the spray rig and get busy.
I like to give all my rose bushes a good dose of organic fertilizer this time of year. I use composted leaves, alfalfa meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, bloodmeal, and my favorite, worm castings. The organics are slow release and will better condition the soil for uptake by the plant.
This should get you through till April, when I plan to give you your next installment in rose care.
Happy Gardening and keep digging in the dirt.