with Ed Bradley

A month-to-month guide to growing roses in South Texas)


The arrival of February means our vacation is over!!  February is a pretty busy month in the rose garden.  We begin to anticipate the Spring season with optimism and enthusiasm – a time when gardeners and gardens really come alive.  February is an extremely important month for laying the foundation for an exciting and successful Spring rose season.

February is pruning month.  Regardless of the type roses you grow, you will need to do some fairly heavy pruning of your rose bushes.  Pruning is one of the most important practices in growing healthy bushes and beautiful roses.  Pruning is the way to rejuvenate the rose bush, get rid of the dead and old canes, and encourage new, strong growth, which produces rose blooms.  Please refer to pages 9 – 10 in our little blue book “How To Grow Roses” for detailed illustrations and descriptions of the proper pruning techniques.

If you don’t have a copy of our little blue book, you need to buy one – only $3 and available at our meetings, or $4 from our web site. A couple of points need to be emphasized:

·         Spring pruning is typically done during the last two weeks of February.

·         Spring pruning is usually quite severe, generally removing as much as one-half of the bush.

·         Scissor-type (by-pass) shears make the cleanest cut.

·         When removing a dead or dying cane, cut it smoothly at the bud-union.  A new cane will often emerge.

·         Climbers and Old Garden Roses are pruned somewhat differently.  Please refer to the “little blue book” or ask a Consulting Rosarian.

Basal Breaks are new canes emerging from the bud-union.  They are usually growing very vigorously, but are not yet strongly attached to the bud-union.  Be careful working around these – you do not want to break them off.  These new canes will extend the life of your rose bush.

Spring Clean-up Spray:  As you are pruning, remove all of the old foliage, since it may likely harbor insects, mites, or fungus spores.  To provide a clean environment for the new growth, the newly pruned bush and the bed area should be “doused” with a clean-up spray, containing both a fungicide and an insecticide.  For example, mix a combination of Ortho Rose Pride Disease Control (formerly Funginex) and the Ortho Insect Killer (acephate/orthene),or Malathion, or the organic Safer Soaps/Insecticides and Fungicides.  (There are other brands.)  Also use a Manzate product (Maneb or Mancozeb) which will kill any fungus spores that may already be in your garden. 

Special Note:  Since the bush is dormant and void of any foliage, this would be a great time to spray with an oil-based substance such as Rose Defense or Neem Oil.  These oil products will generally take care of any fungus, insects, mites, and scale that might be lingering on your bushes, and there is no risk of damage to the foliage since the bush is bare.  (See the special comments by Jackie Clark on the next page.)

Jackie Clark, who keeps one of the cleanest gardens in town, has contributed the following comments on garden clean-up, which is excellent and timely advice.

“The use of dormant spray is intended to eradicate disease spores that over-winter and to control certain insects by suffocation.  In recent years, however, the use of such sprays has not been a part of Winter rose care in most of our gardens.

It may now be time to re-adopt the practice.  Scale insects have been appearing in area rose gardens in recent years, spores of downy mildew arrive on bare root rose bushes, and spider mites over-winter undisturbed.

“Dormant Spray” in this part of the country is usually a “horticultural oil” which is typically of lighter viscosity than in the past and is formulated for year round use – the dose rate is usually doubled when used in the dormant season.

Products which are readily available at local nurseries and garden centers are:  Volck Oil, Neem Oil (aka Rose Defense), Horticultural Oil, Sunspray (Ultrafine Oil).  I personally prefer the Neem Oil as “clean-up spray” for use after completion of Spring pruning.  It is a combination Fungicide, Insecticide and Miticide and leaves a “waxy” coating on the canes.

Spray host plants such as hollies, evergreens, fruit trees, etc.  These products should generally be used when the temperatures range from 45 to around 80 and combination with insecticides and fungicides is sometimes recommended.  Always follow label directions for dilution rates, spray intervals for roses, compatibility with companion plants, and any other specific warnings – in fact, it may not be a bad idea to read the instructions twice!”

Next Month:  Feeding, Water & Mulch, and specific pest control practices.


Disclaimer: While the advice and information contained in this web page is believed to be true and correct, neither the authors nor committee members can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The San Antonio Rose Society makes no warranty, expressed or implied with respect to the material contained herein. 

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