Pruning Roses

It’s hard to believe it’s already tax time. However, what does tax time have to do with gardening? Tax time means rose pruning time for northern Nevadans. We don’t prune any earlier and we don’t prune in the fall. The reason for this is our wildly fluctuating temperatures prior to April and our dry winters.

Usually by tax time, April 15, the weather no longer drops into the teens at night and the days may hover between 50 and 70 degrees. The freezes that do happen are less severe, although we can easily have snow into June. If you have lived here awhile, you are familiar with the saying about Nevada weather “Wait five minutes…it will change.”

Unfortunately, for residents of northern Nevada, most rose pruning literature tells people to prune at the wrong time of year for our crazy climate. Before you follow rose pruning advice, check what part of country the information is written for. Too often, you are reading materials where there are moist, humid winters and roses won’t dry out. Their skies may be dreary for months, sheltering plants from the sun. Here, we generally have sun and wind in the winter, with little moisture. Rose canes and crowns may die back easily in the face of drought and desiccating winds.

We prune to shape a bush, to cut back dead growth and to remove crossing or damaged stems. However, pruning also stimulates new growth. New growth on roses is extremely tender and dies easily when a cold snap hits. This dieback weakens the plant and allows canker disease to develop in the canes. The disease kills off more of the stems, which you then have to prune back even further. Often people prune their roses to the exact size and shape they desire, not leaving any extra length on the canes. When more dieback occurs after early pruning, there’s nothing left to prune out and you often lose the rose. Waiting until mid-April to prune can reduce the incidence and severity of canker disease.

If you need rose pruning advice, call me at 887-2252 or email me at

Speaking of crazy weather, have you ever dreamed of having a hoop house to protect your veggies? Learn how to build an affordable hoop house on April 28, 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at our free workshop in Carson City. Call me for details and to hold a spot for you.