GARDEN FANATIC:Prune today; bloom tomorrow

“My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ‘til a more convenient season.” -- Mary Todd Lincoln

“The crown of roses is also a crown of thorns.” -- G.K. Chesterton

Timing, as Catharine always tells me, is very important... and one of the thornier issues gardeners must deal with each year is when to prune the roses.

While pruning should be completed in concert with locale and temperature, for those of us who live in Laguna, your roses may be pruned anytime from now until the end of February.


The fear of rose pruning is simply unnecessary stress. Armed with Felco secateurs (or another pair of sharp hand shears) and goatskin gloves, this annual ritual will transform a crown of thorns into a crown of rose petals.

Roses are one of the most forgiving of plants and will endure a beginner’s uncertain cuts. Over time, gardeners develop pruning skills and discover it is difficult to prune a rose incorrectly.

We prune for the health of the rose — selected pruning shapes the bush and prepares the rose for the anticipated blooming that follows quickly.

Hybrid teas and floribundas are the most popular of roses and don’t require heavy pruning in Laguna. Keep in mind that about a third of the plant will be trimmed.


The first step is to remove any dead wood. Next, cut out all weak stems and growth that are growing toward the center of the rose. The ideal structure is an open bush, with 5 to 10 remaining canes growing in an outward direction.

Sealing major cuts with pruning paint, nail polish, or white glue can prevent insects and diseases from entering the plant and the loss of vital sap. Any cut over ½" in diameter should be sealed whenever it is made.

In practice, the location on a cane for your cut should be above a bud eye (the site where new growth appears) that is pointing upward and outward.

The cut should be made 1/4 " above the eye and angled at 45 degrees down and away. The new stem will then grow toward sunlight and fresh air. If you can’t find a bud eye, follow the strategy of cutting one-third of the cane back.

Climbers require different pruning — many of them will flower only on second-year laterals. If these canes are removed, there will be no flowers that year.

I follow and recommend stripping all of the leaves and pruning back only growth that has extended beyond intended confines; any damaged or dead canes should be removed.

Follow these instructions, and climbers will provide a good display of flowers each year.

I believe many of us live our lives putting off all that can be put off — but only to keep up with yesterday. Don’t put off pruning your roses, volunteering for community service (think twice before considering the Design Review Board), or reminding your life partner that they are special.


Live and love for today. See you next time.


  • Steve Kawaratani is happily married to award-winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or email to