AZ Plant Lady late summer rose pruning

Pruning Roses for Fall Blooms in the Desert Garden

AZ Plant Lady late summer rose pruning
SWG’s Noelle Johnson getting ready to prune her roses.

People often react with surprise to find that roses can grow in the desert Southwest. Horticulturist Noelle Johnson loves roses and has been growing them for more than 25 years in her Phoenix-area garden. Over the years, she’s learned how best to care for roses and how to maximize their blooms.

In the low to intermediate desert garden, roses flower in spring and again in the fall. Because there are two separate times of year for rose blooms, there also is a need for them to be pruned bi-annually. The first time to prune roses is in winter and consists of severely cutting them back.

Using hand pruners to lightly prune roses in the desert garden in early September
Lightly pruning roses in late summer

The second time that roses need pruning is in late summer. In the hot months of summer, roses slow down in their growth and wait patiently (like us) for cooler temperatures. They may have a few small blooms, but let’s be honest – your roses don’t enjoy summer in the desert.

In early September, lightly prune roses, which stimulates new growth and gets them ready to produce a flush of flowers through fall.

Because this is light pruning, all you need is a pair of hand pruners and of course, gloves. The way you do it is basically the same as when you deadhead your roses, cutting back to an outward-facing bud. A good guideline for how much to prune is to reduce the size of the bush by removing approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the outer growth.

rose bush lightly pruned
Rose bush after being lightly pruned in early September

This light hair-cut does wonders for the rose bush as it removes sun-burned foliage and crispy blooms. Now it’s ready to produce a gorgeous display for fall. Finally, it’s important to fertilize the roses at this time as well. Use a rose fertilizer and water deeply afterward.

shrub rose Darcey Bussell
‘Darcey Bussell’ David Austin shrub rose in Noelle’s garden

In just a few weeks, your rose bush will respond to its light pruning with a beautiful floral display.

So, grab your pruners and give your roses a little love this month – you will be richly rewarded!

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