How to Prune and Care for Roses

03/02/2023 | Ken Davis In the Garden, Roses

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Audible Stories Provided by
Rose Gardener Michael

March is when roses get excited about spring. Prune, clean up and fertilize your roses, and 45 days later, they will show fragrant appreciation.

March is the start of rose planting season that culminates in June. The newest varieties are found early in March. Plant them while available.

Visit my local guide: How to Plant Roses.

Six rose types are planted locally: Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, Grandiflora, Climbing, Carpet, and Shrub roses. March is when each is pruned, cleaned, and fertilized. Several columns are dedicated to cover each variety. This issue is dedicated to the hardiest of roses. . .shrubs.

Shrub roses are the easiest to care for and bloom the longest with minor disease and insect issues. The newest varieties of ‘Easy Elegant’ and Knock-out roses have large, fragrant flowers. At first glance, they resemble a long stem Hybrid tea rose.

Grown in pots, raised beds, or directly planted in the garden, this new variety likes growing locally, and March is the best season. The benefit of planting a shrub rose is the ease of care. They self-prune spent flowers and rebloom automatically for non-stop fragrance from May through October.

Upright shrub roses make bold statements in a garden due to their blooms and sprawling growth habit. However, these large shrub roses can be somewhat wild and ill-behaved in their growth and must be tamed through pruning that focuses on shaping them. Pruning is a simple process.

Start by removing any broken or diseased portion of the bush. Shrub roses should be pruned by cutting stems back to a healthy bud. After the cut, look for healthy white wood in the cut. If brown, continue to cut until you reach white wood. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4″ inch above a bud. The goal is to remove all dead or broken canes, creating a pleasing shape that opens the interior to light and air.

Top Tips for Pruning Shrub Roses

  • Prune in March when new shoots begin forming on the canes.
  • Cut to about one-third of the desired final size. They typically triple in size after pruning.
  • Remove dead or damaged wood as you see it.
  • Remove one-third of old growth every two or three years to rejuvenate the shrub.
  • Rake all fallen leaves, twigs, and branches away for your bush.

Deadhead the flowers: all roses benefit from deadheading or pinching spent flowers. This extends the bloom period significantly.

Rose Food – roses are heavy feeders and need several fertilizer applications during the growing season. We created a fantastic food that roses love called Watters ‘All Purpose Plant Food.‘ Feed at least three times annually in spring, again in summer, and a final application in the fall (March, July, and October). Water thoroughly after each feeding.

Watering – Roses need water and appreciate being on a drip system. Remember how deep you planted the rose? Water must reach that level to get to the roots and keep the plant healthy and blooming. Water thoroughly twice a week if there is no rainfall. Set a watering schedule and adjust as dictated by the weather. Even though you may see fewer flowers during the summer, cooler weather will bring more flowers, so keep up the watering schedule. To discourage black spots and mildew, water in the morning and avoid moisture on the leaves.

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Free Garden Classes offered by Watters Garden Center

We go deep into growing better. Check out this spring’s class selection offered every Saturday @ 9:30 am.

March 4Spring To-Do List for Better Gardens

March 112023 New Plant Introductions

March 18 Healthy Evergreen and Bark Beetles

March 25– Ideal Plant Technique for Mountain Landscape

Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners grow roses here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at or