In my region of South Central Pennsylvania (zone 6b – at the time of this writing), the weather has been most bizarre! One day it will feel like Spring while the next is bitter cold. Usually, this area gets an average of 25 inches of snow the entire winter. But this winter we barely got a dusting until the Blizzard of 2016. On that historic date, 28 inches of snow fell in my yard in just one day! Prior to that, it was 65 degrees in late December. In fact, my rose bushes were still blooming in January! Never in my life, or should I say zone, have I seen roses bloom in JANUARY.
Whether (no pun intended) it’s climate change or other factors, it’s always difficult to discern when to prune and when to patiently wait. Ideally, you want to wait to till any hints of freezing temperatures in your area are no longer a threat. Pruning wakes up your sleeping beauties and encourages them to get busy blooming. If this process begins and then a freeze stuns them, your rose bushes are at risk of dying or being exposed to other issues. Although, if you have an established rose bush, it will probably recover just fine, but ones younger than a year or two in the ground, I would recommend holding off on pruning. Better safe than sorry! Personally, I find it always tempting on Spring-like days to get out there and clip away, but the lows at night, not to mention a last minute snow fall, could seriously damper the fruits of my labor.
With all that said, when is it safe to prune? Some say wait till you see bud eyes swelling or little red leafs popping out. Mine are doing that now, but snow is in the forecast for later this week, so pruning now could prove dangerous to my blooming beauties. Patience is a virtue.
Probably the most reliable indication of when to prune your roses, at least for colder climates such as mine, is to wait on the Forsythias to bloom. When you see those sprawling bushes bursting in glorious yellow, know that it’s time to pull out the pruners!
In the meantime, since you are probably like me anxious to assist your rose darlings before Spring officially begins, you can start clearing away debris and dead leaves that may have collected in your garden beds. You can also sharpen your pruners and loppers in advance, stock up on soil, pots, fertilizer, and other gardening supplies. I also call around to see who has the best deals on mulch. Others in warmer climates, may have already been able to prune (lucky you!). As for me and my garden, nestled here in chilly Pennsylvania, we’ll wait on the Forsythia Factor!