What To Do In January

There are two major areas to attend to in January — pruning and planting.

We recommend pruning your roses in mid to late January. Prune your hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, old garden roses and mini roses at this time for a spectacular spring bloom typically in early April.

Proper Equipment: There are several tools that you will use that are vital in the quest for proper pruning. 

High Quality Pruning Shears: The ideal pruning shears to purchase are bypass pruners which work similar to scissors. The Cadillac of pruning shears is the No. 2 Felco model which will run you over $50. But a similar pruning shear from A.M. Leonard called the Leonard Traditional Bypass Pruner with a 1 inch cutting capacity is equally as good at a much lower cost, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. You can purchase either one at: www.amleo.com

  • Loppers For Cutting Big Canes: There are a number of excellent choices. We suggest you look at the different brands at A.M. Leonard as well if you don’t have a quality cutting instrument. Make sure they have scissor action in the cut as with high quality pruning shears.

  • Sharpen Your Pruning Shears & Loppers: Using dull, dirty shears can damage the delicate tissue of rose canes and cause dieback. Make sure they are razor sharp and properly maintained for the best cuts possible. 

  • Gloves: Make sure you purchase a good pair of leather or goat skin work gloves. You will be dealing with thorns that can puncture your skin at any moment. For a great price with a big selection, go to one of the Harbor Freight Tool stores in Tucson.

  • Arm Protection: The best protection for your arms are 18 inch split leather welding sleeves which cost under $10 at Harbor Freight in Tucson. Call ahead to make sure they are in stock. You can also order them on their web site at www.harborfreight.com

  • One Final Bit Of Protection: Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date. Some rose growers have been punctured by thorns and received serious infections that required surgery. This is precisely why we advise all rose growers to be heavily armed with protection on their hands and arms from rose thorns.

Now On To Pruning Your Roses!
We recommend the removal of 1/2 to 2/3 of your rose bushes that have been in the ground or pots two years or more. That typically is 2-4 feet in height.

  • Remove any dead canes and small, twiggy growth.
  • Also remove any canes that are crossing through the middle of the bush or rubbing against other. Make your cuts about 1/4 inch above a bud eye that is facing out from the center of the bush.
  • Strip all leaves from the canes.
  • Once you’re done pruning, clean up all the old, dead leaves and throw them in the trash, not your compost pile. Dead leaves can harbor mildew spores and other diseases along with overwintering problem insects (such as thrips, aphids, spider mites and scale) that can create problems in the Spring.
  • Once you are finished cleaning up cut canes and old leaves on the soil, we highly recommend a cleanup spray of Brandt Indicate 5, Acephate 97 UP and Propiconazole 14.3 %. To read more about these products, where to buy them and how to spray safely, go to the information provided for October rose care by CLICKING HERE. 
  • Make sure you not only coat all canes well with your spray. But also hit the soil surface to combat diseases and unwanted overwintering insects.
  • If you are still unsure of yourself when it comes to pruning, make sure you attend the January Rose Society of Tucson meeting (see date and time of meeting on front page of web site). 

Video On Pruning
Below is a terrific video from Heirloom Roses on the basics of pruning roses that will show how simple the procedure actually is. In Tucson’s climate as a general rule (not including climbers and other giant growing roses) you should prune roses two years old or more to 2-4 feet tall — not quite as low as the video shows.


  • Purchase and plant bare root roses by the end of January. Be sure to purchase high quality No. 1 roses at local nurseries, Home Depot and Lowes or by mail order. Standard roses need holes a minimum of 18 inches wide and deep, 24 inches is preferable. Prepare your soil using 1/2 original soil and 1/2 organic material such as peat moss or compost.

  • For roses in pots, we suggest a soil mix of 4 parts Kelloggs Patio Plus potting soil, one part Peat Moss and 1 part perlite mixed well together.

  • Now is a good time to purchase and plant miniature roses also. This gives them plenty of time to get established before the summer heat. Miniature roses need holes a minimum of 12 inches wide and deep. If you are planting them in pots, plastic pots at least 12 inches in diameter are great to start with.

Re-potting: Check your roses in pots to see if they need to be re-potted. How low is the soil in the pot? If it is lower than 3 inches below the rim, it is probable that the soil has become too compacted and the tiny hair roots can’t get the oxygen they need. So pull the plant out carefully and put it in a larger pot with high quality potting soil with the mix we suggested earlier.

Should I Fertilize In January?

  • Do NOT fertilize your roses this month.

  • Continue to water your roses once or twice a week depending on the daytime temperatures. Be sure you are deep watering to a depth of 18 to 24 inches.

  • Roses in pots typically need to be watered more often than roses in the ground.