Plan to Prune & Plant Roses in February

Yes, you can grow roses in the Southwest. In fact, the Southwest is ideal for roses in many ways. We have ample sun, long days, and a dry climate that reduces that the chance of mildew and fungus problems. Roses aren’t exactly a low-water plant but they are more drought-tolerant than you might expect. Indeed, they can be over-watered and drown.

Plan for Roses

Roses are often relegated to “rose beds,” but no need to do that.  Roses can be easily grown throughout the landscape – especially the durable heirlooms and miniature roses which can be tucked in many corners of the landscape. Add roses to your winter planning palette. Order plants now so that they will arrive in time for planting in your zone.

Planting Times

If you live in low desert (USDA Zone 10), February is the time to plant.
Middle desert (zone 9), plant bare-root or container grown around mid-February.
High desert (zone 8), plant bare-root around March first, container grown after mid-March.
Cool Plateau (zone 7, 6), plant bare-root after April first, container grown after May first.
High Mountains (zones 5, 4), plant bare-root in late April, container grown in late May.

Losing Roses

I have somewhere around 15 rosebushes in my landscape at any given time. Note the imprecise number of listed. I have moved a number of times and don’t dig up all my roses (just a few favorites). Javalina have gotten in the yard and seem to think rose bushes are the best thing since sliced bread. Well, compared to prickly pear thorns, I guess they might have a point (sorry about that pun).

As I have mentioned before, even the best gardeners lose plants. It happens to all of us. It is just part of life.  Note that roses do not live for ever.  Life expectancy varies with type of rose.  Hybrid roses, especially some of the newer varieties, and many of the grafted ones, only live for around ten years.  Lady Banks rose may live for centuries.

This piece of art shows cutting some roses for a vase. Pruning occurs when plants are not flowering.

When to Prune

Most rose bushes bloom on new wood.  This means that if you want roses, you will need to prune.  The ideal time is in late winter to early spring.

Most climbing roses bloom on old and new wood.  They get pruned earlier, mid- to late winter while fully dormant.

How to Prune – that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother post – but basically be a hungry deer and prune those shrubs to nubs.


More monthly gardening tips in my book on the topic: Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the non-profit Horticulture Therapy Program, Tierra del Sol may get a few pennies.

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